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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 skyward.

"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 grandson!"

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 occurred!

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 Dysfunction

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 posed.*

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 thereto.
 

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 these days!"

The waiter can choose from three courses of action:

  1. Ignore the slight and run and get more butter immediately.
  2. Say to George, "I take it you'd like more butter. I'll get it for you right away."
  3. 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:

  1. Excuse yourself from an absorbing conversation with the minister about a book you've both found interesting, and take Betty home immediately.
  2. 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 Smith?"
  3. 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 that tipsy."

Among Bertha's choices of action are:

  1. Give her phone number to the intelligent hunk and drive Kenneth home immediately.
  2. Suggest that Kenneth ask another member of the group, who's perhaps unoccupied, to take him home.
  3. 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 Biblical sense.

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?

  1. 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.
  2. Make sure Nestor's all right, and offer to take him to dinner when he's up to it.
  3. 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.


ANSWERS:

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 self-help books.

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 corrections officer.

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