Friends understand your feelings better than you

Saturday March 21 2020

Even total strangers can be really good at predicting your behaviour. ILLUSTRATION | IGAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP


We all think we understand our own moods. But actually, your friends are probably far better at understanding them than you are.

Sometimes that’s because you misinterpret your feelings. For instance if someone asks you about a new relationship, you’ll generally be too optimistic.

Your friends, on the other hand, will be much more accurate. Even total strangers can be really good at predicting your behaviour. Like the way sales staff know what you’re going to buy before you do. They’ve spotted gestures signalling your intentions before you are aware of them yourself.

That also happens when you’re dating. Only certain people will approach you. It’s as if you’re wearing a label saying what sort of person you find attractive.

These signals are all sent by your subconscious, which isn’t as odd as it sounds. Because most of our choices are actually made as a result of completely unconscious data processing.

And only the result is passed into your conscious thoughts. So that little ‘voice’ in your head is actually justifying your decision rather than making it, because it has no idea how the decision was made. In fact, brain scanners can accurately predict the choice you’re making several seconds before you ‘consciously’ announce it.


For example, deciding what to wear when you go out is usually a completely subconscious decision. And so psychological studies discovered that ovulating women who are going out without their regular partner tend to wear more revealing clothes. But they don’t have any idea that’s what they’re doing!

The people around you react to your unconscious signals despite you being unaware of them, which is why they often have a better idea of what you’re really feeling than you do yourself.


Think how your friends can often see disaster looming in a relationship, for example, long before you do. They’ve spotted the signs that say you’re no longer in love despite what you’re telling yourself.
There are lots of other reasons why we miss the signs that our friends see. Like we pay far more attention to feelings that back up our self image than those that conflict with it. So if you believe that you’re shy, for example, you’ll deny having had a good time at a party.

Our conscious mind also makes up stories to explain why we made a particular decision even though we don’t actually know the real reason why we decided what we did. So for example, people tend to choose candidates whose names appear near the top of a ballot paper, but will always say they selected them for some other reason.

Your subconscious may also be aware of a feeling before you appreciate it consciously. Like two people who are the last to realise they’re falling in love with one another.

So your conscious thoughts really can mislead you. While your friends can often understand your feelings better than you do. So listen to their advise if you’re ever confused.

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