This morning, I made coffee for Jenn, but I only poured her half a cup. When I gave the coffee mug to her, she was annoyed. “Why didn’t you pour me a full cup?” she asked.
Why indeed? After a moment of self-reflection, I realized that when I drink coffee, I like to pour myself half a cup. That way, my coffee doesn’t get cold. Once I’m done with my half cup, I refill my mug.
But that’s my preference. Jenn likes a full cup of coffee.
Projection occurs when we “project” or place our desires or feelings on to another person or object. Sometimes this works fine, if the other person’s preferences are similar to yours. But sometimes it doesn’t work out so well. My example wasn’t that big of a deal, but sometimes projection can really get you in trouble.
The key is to improve your ability to engage in perspective taking. Often, we just assume that other people think similarly to us, but this isn’t always the case. It can be helpful to press the pause button and think: “What would the other person prefer in this situation? What would the other person like?” If you can pause long enough to have this conversation with yourself, you will likely experience some new revelations in your relationships.
Sometimes we honestly don’t know what the other person is thinking or wanting. If this is the case, it’s okay to ask. Sometimes people expect their partners to be “mind readers,” but this isn’t realistic. If you want a more satisfying relationship, open up the lines of communication. This is especially important around touchy subjects such as in-laws, money, and sex.
The holidays are coming up, and it’s time to think about buying presents. Instead of getting your partner something you would like, press the pause button and think about what they would enjoy. If you honestly don’t know, have the conversation and ask them.