or, "Why Can't You Read My Mind?!"
Let's travel now to Miami Beach, Florida, and re-visit a tale oft told by
comedian Myron Cohen.
Mrs. Goldberg is taking a walk at the water's edge with her
first-born grandson. She's beaming with pride, and pointing out to
friends, acquaintances, and, in fact, the occasional nice-looking
stranger that this fine-looking two-year-old is her grandson. The
weather is splendid, not a cloud in sight. She'd just finished waving to
her friends Ruthie and Celie when all of a sudden a loud clap of thunder
is heard, and a fifteen-foot high wave appears from nowhere and crashes
to the shore, sweeping the little boy out to sea. There's no sight of
the child. Mrs. Goldberg is beside herself with hysteria. A non-swimmer,
she looks helplessly at the ocean. Without thinking about it Mrs.
Goldberg drops to her knees, hands clasped together in prayer, and looks
"I've been a good religious woman all my life. I've rarely missed
Sabbath services, I've kept Kosher, I've been charitable. Besides, each
year I've been on the Temple's Rummage Sale Committee. Dear God, in the
name of all things right and good I humbly beg of you, if you grant
one wish in my lifetime, please let it be the return of my little
The old woman continues to pray in earnest, her knees shuffling about
in the sand, waving her clasped hands up and down.
Just as suddenly as the first time, a clap of thunder is heard. A
twenty-foot wave appears from nowhere and as it washes away reveals the
boy, somewhat shaken and wet, but otherwise unharmed. A miracle has
Mrs. Goldberg kisses the little boy from head to toe, all the time
thanking God for answering her prayers, until at one point she stops
suddenly. She holds the boy at arm's length and looks at him up and
down, a serious look on her face. She returns, reluctantly, to her
knees, hands once again clasped in prayer.
"Uh, er, sir; you, up there? Ahem. Could I please have just one more
moment of you time? Ah, he had a hat."
Deconstructing the Circuitous Communications of Persons at Various Levels of
The humorous anecdote above derives its humor from satirizing the type of
communication, typically a request, which assumes that the person being asked a
question has enough common sense to see beyond the declarative nature of the
communication and deduce the request being made absent an actual question being
Persons who suffer Narcissistic Personality Disorder are most likely to
communicate requests and demands in this roundabout fashion. However, one need
not suffer such a serious disorder to communicate needs via statements. The
degree to which a subject exercises this typically annoying mode of
communication is a direct function of the frequency with which those being
communicated with tolerate such behavior.
Let's investigate "read my mind" statements and appropriate responses
Examples and Choosing A Response
SITUATION 1: George and Sam are dining out. Their salads are served
with a bread basket and a small dish containing three pats of butter. When the
waiter passes the table again, George grabs the waiter's shirtsleeve and
declares, "The price of butter must be as much as filet mignon
The waiter can choose from three courses of action:
- Ignore the slight and run and get more butter immediately.
- Say to George, "I take it you'd like more butter. I'll get it for you
- Disappear for a moment and come back to the table and report "Butter's
only $1.19 a pound. The chef says we pay upwards of $7.50 for steak."
SITUATION 2: Betty is a member of your church. You've volunteered to
take her to the pot-luck supper. The meal has been taken, the dishes cleared and
the crowd is lingering over coffee, dessert and lively conversation. Betty
declares (with a smile) "Oh, boy. It's ten o'clock."
You can choose from three courses of action:
- Excuse yourself from an absorbing conversation with the minister about a
book you've both found interesting, and take Betty home immediately.
- Say to Betty, "I guess it's getting to be past your bedtime. Could you
excuse me for a few moments while I wrap up my conversation with Reverend
- Look at your watch and declare, "I have five minutes past ten. You
really ought to adjust your watch so it's not slow." Then turn your back on
Betty and continue your conversation with Reverend Smith.
SITUATION 3: Bertha's attending a cocktail party for singles, and
she's making headway with a good-looking, well-spoken man. Kenneth, another
member of the group, arrived as a passenger in Nancy's car. Nancy is now so
intoxicated she's slurring her words and using vulgar language. Kenneth
announces to Bertha, "I just don't feel safe being driven home by someone who's
Among Bertha's choices of action are:
- Give her phone number to the intelligent hunk and drive Kenneth home
- Suggest that Kenneth ask another member of the group, who's perhaps
unoccupied, to take him home.
- Tell Kenneth, "Get the bitch a cup of black coffee. She may be drunk,
but you're ugly. And in the morning, she'll be sober." Bertha
then resumes pursuing the guy she'd like to get to know better, in the
BONUS QUESTION: Nestor's wife passed away very recently. Nestor is
your co-worker. It's common knowledge that Nestor's late wife hen-pecked him at
home, and called him at work at least four times a day to remind him of his
after-work errands or chores; often verbally abusing Noreen, Nestor's secretary.
Linda, the office busy-body, stands up in the lunchroom and announces, "The
funeral for Nestor's wife will be tomorrow at 11:00 in the morning."
What do you do?
- Ask Linda for the location of the funeral home and take a half day off
without pay to attend the funeral. Send a $75 flower arrangement.
- Make sure Nestor's all right, and offer to take him to dinner when he's
up to it.
- When Linda's done announcing the funeral, you stand up and do your best
Bette Davis imitation: "My mother always told me to speak good of the
dead. She's dead. That's good."
*If you haven't experienced this already, wait until your parents get older, or your spinster aunt Minerva comes to stay for awhile.
To calculate your score, simply find the sum of the numbers of all of your
answers (i.e., 1=1 point, 2=2 points and so on).
If your score is 4-5 you're a bona fide codependent, have no self-esteem
whatsoever and are the human equivalent of a doormat. Run, don't walk, to the
nearest social worker's office and begin a course of therapy.
If your score is 5-8 you're a kind human being who has a sense of self-worth
yet is willing to make sacrifices on behalf of others on occasion. You're pretty
healthy but could perhaps use the advice contained in one of the more popular
If your score is 8-12 you're the model of a modern, assertive individual who
is completely safe from floundering in the psychological vortex which is the
"dysfunctional dance." You're either a psychologist, psychiatric nurse or