Metaperception, communication and your relationship

February 11, 2021

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Are you letting your assumptions about your partner or others in your life go unchecked?

We all make assumptions about others, especially those closest to us.
We spend so much time with those we love, it can be easy to assume we know a LOT about them. We assume we know exactly what they’re thinking, what they’re feeling, and how they’re going to react. 

When we make assumptions about what others are thinking, and then adjust our behaviour because of that…we are using metaperception.

Metaperception is a form of false thinking that is frequently inaccurate.

It is also exceedingly common in our lives and impacting our relationships without us realizing it.  

When we make assumptions about what others are thinking or feeling in relation to us, it can impact how we respond in those relationships. 

In this episode of Mind Over Motherhood (and this blog post), I’m going to dig into the concept of metaperception and show you how to be vigilant for it in your own relationships.

What Is Metaperception?

Simply put, metaperception is your thoughts about what others are thinking. It’s what you believe about other’s thoughts and what they are thinking about you.
Metaperception is always occurring in our lives, but so many people don’t realize what it is.
We assume what our partners are thinking and how they will react. We assume what they like or dislike. Often, what you assume about your partner might be right, but it others it is not.

Metaperception impacts every relationship you have. However, the biggest impact on your closest relationships.


Metaperception: The Four People in Every Relationship

When explaining this concept to my patients, I often talk about the four people in your one relationship and no, I’m not crazy.
Hear me out, in every relationship there are four people:

1. Your true self – this is who you actually are.

2. Your concept of yourself 
 – this refers to how you think others see you and what you believe about how you present yourself to the world.
3. The other person’s true self 
– this is the true characteristics, beliefs and personality traits the other person actually has (not what you assign to them.)
4. Your version of the other person – the values, characteristics, beliefs and emotions that you attribute to them.
The concept of metaperception refers to the fourth person in the relationship. It’s version of your partner (or another person) that you have in your own mind.
In your mind, you likely can think of many characteristics you believe you know about your partner (or another person). For example, it’s likely you assume you know what they like, what they don’t like, what their motivations are, etc. 

You might be right, but you also might be wrong. In fact, more often than not, we have ascribed certain characteristics or beliefs to another person that are not actually true about them.

Think about the last time you assumed you understood the motivation behind how someone behaved, but you were wrong.
Think about the last time you were CERTAIN someone would act a certain way based on how they behaved in the past, and they surprised you.

The reality is that although we feel we “know” what someone is thinking or who they actually “are,” we can be wrong. 

The concept of someone we create in our mind is NOT the same as that actual person.

That means, the things we think they will think, the feelings we think they will have, the reactions we anticipate them to have, are not actually in their true sense.
Despite what you think, what you think might be the total opposite of who your partner is.
Think back to a time in your life when you were certain your partner would behave in a certain way, and they didn’t?
A time when you thought they’d get angry and they didn’t?
Can you think of a time when you thought they really loved something or be super happy and they weren’t?
I suspect you’re like “Oh right, that one time this happened and it was totally opposite than what I expected.”

Here’s the truth: we cannot read minds and despite how “sure” we are about the working of someone’s mind, we cannot truly ever know.

You don’t know everything your partner will do and the version of your partner you have in your mind may not be true.


Why is Metaperception Important?

Metaperception is important to understand and account for in every relationship you have. When you’re communicating with someone, we’re usually communicating with your version of them. Not the version of them they they truly are.
When we do this, we ascribe all sorts of motivations and beliefs to them.
We begin to assume we know why they said something a certain way, we assume why they’re reacting like they are. Why? Because we think that we know what they’re thinking about us or about the situation.

This is metaperception.

When this happens, conversations can get mixed up.
Nonverbal communication is 90% of what goes on in a conversation. Metaperception is a lot of what is going on in our nonverbal communication.
This is important because so many relationship difficulties are caused by metaperception. It happens when we filter our interactions through our metaperception skewing reality and our actions.
When we are mindful of metaperception we’re able to have more honest conversations.


How To Be Mindful Of Metaperception?

When communicating with a loved one, check in. Who are your communicating with?
Are you getting angry at something you “think” your partner thinks?
Are you ascribing a different meaning to something they said based on what you believe?
Next time you’re finding yourself getting riled up in a conversation, practice elevated communication skills, then take time to reflect. Are you communicating with your version of the person? Or are you letting the person be and express as they truly are? Without being filtered through your idea of them.

Discuss Metaperception With Your Partner

Try discussing this concept with your partner, if it feels like it would resonate with them.
Ask them what sorts of characteristics or beliefs that they assign to their version of you. See if you can find any that are not true.
Similarly, reflect on what you believe to be true about your partner and see if they’re true. This is very enlightening and an excellent exercise to improve your communication as a couple.

If you also struggle with anxiety and mood changes, you may want to download my 3 Natural Ways to Improve Your Mood That May Surprise You! free guide. Download it here!



  • The concept of metaperception
  • The 4th person in your relationship
  • How metaperception impacts your relationship and communication. 
  • Why being mindful of metaperception is important 
  • How to discuss your metaperception with your partner and vice versa 

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