Discovering how to better understand people is essential in all facets of life. In your personal life, you deal with relationships with your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend, friends, children, and anyone you come in contact with outside the home. In your professional life, it may be bosses, colleagues, clients, etc. How you interact with people and understand a situation can make all the difference in the outcome of our interactions.
Below are 5 tips to help you become better at understanding people. These tips work for both personal and professional dealings.
You can’t get to the bottom of a problem or begin to understand if you don’t take time to ask questions as to why the person feels a certain way. Why are they angry or upset? What caused them to feel this way? If it’s your children, was it something that happened at school? For your spouse, was it something I said or did? (TIP – it’s almost always something you did)
Listening goes hand in hand with questioning. Don’t bother to ask questions if you’re not going to bother to listen to the answers. If someone is taking the time to confide in you, then give them the respect to listen. Let them know you are listening and keep the conversation moving along by saying things like:
- “What happened next?”
Allow for feelings
If people are willing to talk, then many times, understanding the problem is simple. Allow them to express how they’re feeling or ask…
- “How did that make you feel?”
Allow them to be emotional. Everyone gets angry and upset. It’s human nature to feel these types of emotions, so let the person express them.
Once you’ve got the person to open up and are beginning to understand how they are feeling, offer compassion. A good hug (bro-hug or otherwise) will let them know you care. After all, everyone wants to know that someone cares about them. Ask them things like…
- “Is there anything I can do to help?”
- “Do you want me to go beat him up for you?” (that’s aimed at my daughter who recently had a boyfriend break up with her).
Just showing support for the person goes a long way in understanding how they feel and allowing them to open up in the future.
What do you do next?
There is something I learned about many years back that I recalled when writing this article that discusses how to react or how to think before you speak.
There is an old Sufi tradition that advises us to speak only after our words have managed to pass through four “gates.”
- At the first gate, we ask ourselves, “Are these words true?” If so, we let them pass on; if not, back they go.
- At the second gate, we ask; “Are they necessary?”
- At the third gate, we ask; “Are they beneficial?”
- At the fourth gate, we ask, “Are they kind?”
- If the answer to any of these is no, then what you are about to say should be left unsaid.
If you’ve done your job, the mere fact that you listened, offered compassion, and talked them through the situation will go a long way to making them feel better with the outcome.
I’ll also add that to understand others, we need to understand ourselves as well. Often we find people who are great listeners and extremely helpful with other people, but their own lives are a mess. Take time to work on yourself and understand who you are as well — more on that to come.
I hope you use these tips to better understand people regularly at home and work. What do you do to help better understand people? Comment below and sign up for our weekly newsletter.