Conflict comes from many sources, but nothing fuels conflict like a misunderstanding.
When you fail to understand people, you experience conflicts, embarrassing social gaffes, and frustrating emotional upheavals.
The skill of understanding people is an important part of being an empathetic person, and it will take you far in every area of life.
In order to help you develop the skill of understanding others, I’ll explain what it really means to understand another person and what tips will help you become more understanding of people.
Understanding People: What Does It Mean?
It can be incredibly difficult to appreciate and accept those who are different from us, but our relationships with others will always be more authentic and fulfilling when we continue understanding others.
But what does this mean, exactly?
Truly understanding people requires mindful listening.
It requires you to give your full attention:
1. To listen not just to what they say, but to watch their body language.
2. To shelve your own assumptions and maintain an open mind.
We as a society have recognized the need to understand the people we disagree with, but few people are skilled at putting this into practice.
Why Do People Struggle To Understand Others?
If you struggle to make sense of your surroundings, it doesn’t mean that you are a highly flawed person.
Everyone experiences mental hurdles that make it difficult to understand people, which is why practice is necessary in order to develop social skills.
Our brains have a tendency to dismiss anything they don’t understand and change others' words into our pre-existing worldview. In order to change, we must practice and dedicate ourselves.
I've learned many valuable and interesting things that help me make sense of the world around me.
But with this knowledge always comes the temptation to make assumptions, and you know what they say about assumptions.
I work regularly at being present, mindful, and attentive in order to keep my skill of understanding others sharp.
8 Tips to Improve The Ability of Understanding People
Understanding others, means mastering certain skills. Here are eight tips to help you develop those skills:
- Put in the effort
Understanding people can be difficult. Like any skill, it takes time and effort to achieve.
Before every interaction, take a moment to ground yourself and remember your desire to understand the other person rather than simply to be understood.
- Never assume anything
The assumptions we make can seem like harmless fillers for the blanks in our knowledge, but they can also obscure our view of reality.
Ask questions to seek more information; it's better to clarify something the other person has said than to wrongly assume a different meaning.
- Keep an eye on body language
Remember to focus closely on whomever you’re talking to and pay attention to their body language.
Watch for clues about their stress level and posture, which can reveal important information about what they are saying.
If someone seems nervous or stressed, ask follow-up questions to get more information.
- Stay present
Our minds wander all the time, but when you’re talking to someone, try to stay present.
If you don’t pay attention, you could miss words or gestures that lead to confusion later on.
Focus on what the other person is saying instead of rehearsing what you’re going to say next.
- Employ mindfulness techniques
Mindfulness is a practice that can help you be more present. Try incorporating meditation into your daily routine to give yourself time each day to slow down and be aware of your body.
You can practice these techniques before important interviews or meetings to ground yourself and make it easier to pay attention.
- Practice civil discourse
The key to understanding is to listen carefully and with an open mind. Civil discourse allows you to have conversations about sensitive topics without losing your cool or shutting down.
When you’re engaged in a conversation about a heated topic, try to set aside your judgment and listen with an open mind.
Refrain from interrupting the other person and try to listen for the content of what they’re saying.
- Understand personality types
People perceive the world in different ways, and the way that you operate may not be the same way that your colleagues operate.
When interacting with someone who is behaving in a way you don’t understand, try to evaluate their personality type. Are they introverted or extroverted? Type A or type B?
If you see their way of doing things as different rather than wrong, this can help you to set aside assumptions of malice or incompetence.
- Cut others some slack
We all make mistakes from time to time. When we’re the ones making the mistake, we know that we didn’t mean any harm.
But when others make mistakes, it’s easy to rush to judgment. We need to forgive others and slow down before rushing to judgment ourselves.
Understanding people is not just a gift for them; it also benefits you. The better you understand other people and their motivations, the more genuine your relationships with them will be and the less likely you are to feel resentment or discord.
If you make an effort to improve your skills at understanding others, then you’ll give yourself the opportunity to grow on a personal level, build more fulfilling relationships with others, and boost your self-esteem.