Jeff and Nina were at a Christmas party all of the thirty seconds when Nina whispered in Jeff’s ear, “I think Joan [one of the women in Jeff’s office] is getting divorced.” Jeff thought Nina was nuts, but a week later Joan herself told him that she had separated from her husband. When Jeff asked his mystical wife how she knew, Nina said, “Easy. She looked relaxed, had a great new haircut, and was playing with her wedding ring.”
For centuries, women’s interpersonal discernment has been acknowledged as “women’s intuition.” Now researchers have confirmed females’ superior skill in interpreting gestures, posture, and facial expression from fifth grade through adulthood. Since men in traditionally female professions like teaching and nursing excel in mood reading too, it’s not due to chromosomes but to socialization in pleasing others and practice in adjusting to others’ moods.
When one partner proves less adept at deciphering communication clues, the more intuitive one may falsely assume that the other just doesn’t care. The less intuitive partner tends to complain, “How the heck can I know what she’s feeling? Am I supposed to be a mind reader” By tuning in to each other’s strengths and weaknesses, intuitively mismatched partners can close the mood –reading gap.
Tips for the intuitively impaired
- Intuition is not associated with intelligence. So there’s nothing wrong with your brain, pal. Explain to your partner that reading moods isn’t among your talents.
- Intuition certainly does improve with practice. Start to pay attention to facial expressions, postures, and gestures in the people around you.
- Look at people from distance and form an impression of what mood they might be in.
- Turn down the sound on the TV. Guess what feeling the actors are conveying, then turn up and see if you’re right.
- Take a stab at guessing how your partner might feel. Even if you’re way off, he’ll appreciate the effort.
“You look a little down today.”
“I bet things went well at your meeting today.”
“Something bugging you?”
Note: Expressive people are easier to read, so don’t practice with stone-faced types at first.
And to the intuitively gifted
- Don’t read into every move and expression your partner makes. This over-vigilance will make you a first class pain.
- Don’t assume others can read you as well as you read them. Many people, especially men, need a clear message about your feeling state.
- Avoid testing your mate to see if he notices your mood. It would be nice if he picked up on every nonverbal nuance, but don’t act neglected if that doesn’t happen.
- Use your gift wisely, to understand, not to reprimand.
Don’t Say: “You’re bored again. Can’t you get a hobby?”
Try: “Stumped about what to do again today?”