Want Deeper Understanding of Those Around You? Stop Reading Motives

I'm writing within a context of consent, so please remove abuse, sociopathy, and un-sanity to your reading of this article.  

I have had something on my mind for a while now - a teaching which was offered to me many years ago, and I'm offering it to you here, as a reminder to myself, and because it created a paradigm shift for me.

The concept is quite simple and goes something like this: "read nothing into their motives." Merriam-Webster defines motive as "something (as a need or desire) that causes a person to act". Motives are why we do what we do - they go to intent.

Now, I know some of you who have read my writing on Intent v Rules are thinking to yourselves "but Kayteezee, you're all about intent, aren't you?" Well, yes and no - in the Intent v Rules post, I'm writing about the context of relationships. In this post, I'm writing about the context of interpretation.

Reading motives has to do with you (and me) writing a ‘why’ onto other people's speach and actions, and it isn’t compassionate or useful, in my perspective, because the moment you (and I) decide someone else’s why, you (and I) stop listening to them and start deciding for them.

Reading motives stops the possibility of more deeply understanding someone else, and if you wish to understand people more, I suggest you need to stop reading into their motives.

I personally believe that reading motives is an expression of judgement - positive, negative, or otherwise.

Linguistically, one of the ways you will know you're reading into motive is through the use of 'because', and this can happen explicitly as well as implicitly.

Explicit reading into motives (in your thinking and speech) sounds like 'Amanda doesn't care about my needs, because she didn't do that thing I wanted her to do ', or 'Gary's irresponsible, because he's late'. Note the use of the word 'because'. That's what makes the reading explicit.

Implicit reading into motives (in your thinking and speech) sounds like 'Amanda doesn't care about my needs,' or 'Gary's irresponsible'. The 'because' is still there- it's just not stated, and in that way it's implicit.

Motive-reading can get somewhat insidious. If you say something like 'Gary's late' (which may be factually accurate), and then have the thought 'disrespectful asshole!', guess what? You're reading into motive.

If your mind is anything like mine, it's an expert at generating motive. I am sometimes convinced that drivers are fuck-faced jerks with no regard to anyone around them - most of all me. The motive I'm reading is the "fuck-faced-jerk ness with no regard" in case you're having difficulty tracking this.

I repeat: I am an expert at reading motive.

By the way - so are you.

Have you ever uttered words similar to: 'but they're my partner. They should want to do blah-dee-blah with me,'? OR...  'if they really loved me, they would...'   

How's that working out for you?

How about this one? Your car battery is dead, and you kick the tires and say 'you fucking fuck!'.  Reading into motive. What - are you seriously going to tell me you've never blamed an inanimate object for your upset? Honestly??

Why is reading into motive something of which to be aware? I'm all about personal power; how to cultivate it, how to store it, contexts in which it can be exchanged, etc.. When you focus on the why of another's actions or words, you are disempowered, and PS - you're disempowering them.

Empowered relating to people's behavior comes from neutrality. It comes from being as fully present to what is as possible. Empowered relating


Stuff happens. People say things. People take action. People don't take action. All that happened is that something was (not)said or (not)done.

People don't pressure you - they say and do things, and you read a motive that they are pressuring you, because you feel something in response and make them responsible for your feeling.

People aren't disrespectful - they say and do things, and you read a motive that they are disrespecting you, because you have an idea of what respect should look like, and they aren't playing into your narrative.

People aren't uncaring, because they haven't met your expectation of them. They are simply doing and saying what they are doing and saying.

Gary was late. That's what happened.Amanda didn't do what you hoped she would. That's what happened.

Now, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to get all up in someone else's business, or are you going to be in your power, and see that your reading of the events in your life are your business - and solely yours to change?

You want punctuality? Ask for it. You don't need to make someone disrespectful for it.

You have a need that isn't being met? Say what it is. Simply. You don't need to make someone uncaring because of it.

You need to jump your car battery? Get out your cables, flag someone down and jump the car battery. You don't need to make your car wrong for it.

If you want the world to be other than it is, start being other than you are, because I guarantee you. Nobody is going to do it for you.

In Service,