Sometimes I wish I could read people’s thoughts. I just want to get inside their heads to see what’s going on. If I could do this I would have avoided so many conflicts, misunderstandings and failed relationships! Understanding is the cornerstone of any successful and fruitful communication either with your boss or with your mom.
The art of understanding is rather intricate, it means that you have certain experience both positive and negative. Even though you cannot learn to understand people in one day, you can improve your understanding of people and the quality of your interactions with these simple tips:
1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
This is the most important and most underrated rule of understanding. People tend to think up, imagine and distort facts when they lack information. But if you want to get to know something you can always ask!
People like to be questioned since they see your keen interest and attention. Your sincere interest disposes people to be open and reveal more about themselves.
Those who ask questions are always in more advantageous position than those who keep silent. However, it’s important that you know how to ask right questions. Feel when you should be pointed and vague.
The ability to ask questions will make you a welcome conversationalist. Moreover, asking questions is the sure way to become a more effective worker.
2. Watch non-verbal signs
While words are essential to understand people, non-verbal signs are important as well. In fact, non-verbal communication can give you more information than words if you can read it correctly. Every detail about the person is important: the posture, the distance, the eye contact or hand movements.
You should pay attention even to facial expression and the manner of speaking. For a long time I thought that crossed legs and arms represent confidence, but in reality when people are sitting with their legs or arms crossed, they feel uneasy and try to defend themselves.
On the other hand, people may have no idea about the non-verbal signs they use. But in most cases non-verbal behavior reveals the truth about an individual.
3. Be a careful listener
When you know how to ask questions and read non-verbal behavior, you should learn to be a good listener. Just like Stephen R. Covey said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” This is exactly what most people do.
I had a great difficulty learning to be an attentive and patient listener. Since I’m a bit quick-tempered, I often try to interrupt, make judgments or tune out when the conversation is arid.
But listening skills are critical if you want to understand people around you. Be an active listener.
Even if you murmur “Uh..hmm” at least several times, your opponent will realize that you’re listening to them. Eye contact and rephrasing will also help to maintain a conversation.
4. Try to put yourself into your opponent’s shoes
People can understand perfectly well the things they’ve experienced themselves. However, when they face new situations or patterns of behavior they’re often puzzled.
It’s naturally that you cannot comprehend something unless you get through it. But if you want to understand someone better try to put yourself into this person’s shoes.
It means you should stop judging, jumping to conclusions and condemning. Just analyze. Chances are you’ll grasp the person’s motives and intentions, which will help you gain better understanding.
5. Remember that people’s actions don’t always coincide with their thoughts
This is the major reason of misunderstanding and disagreement between people. Sometimes it happens unintentionally, but what people want to do and what they actually do are two different things.
For example, when a guy is in love and tries to attract a girl, he can do a lot of ridiculous things that will only scare the girl away. Sure, it’s easy to misinterpret the behavior, draw the wrong conclusion and spoil the relationship. And then, think how many times you said ‘Fine’ and ‘It’s okay’ when you felt absolutely opposite.
Such behavior is typical of women, but sometimes men also behave this way. Our pride prevents us from showing our weaknesses, remember that. Sometimes a person needs support and encouragement regardless of what he or she says.
6. Learn to empathize
Very often all we need is a little sympathy and compassion to understand others. People cannot empathize when it comes to their offenders and rivals.
However, it’s important that you understand all the people, even your enemies. Try to put off your anger, resentment, judgments and just sympathize.
Sometimes understanding has nothing in common with actual knowledge of the facts and reasons. Try to switch off your mind and feel it with your heart. You’ll see that it’s much easier to understand people when you show little compassion.
7. Accept the difference
Regardless of the confession, language, race and social status, people still have a lot in common. We love, suffer, hope and laugh in the same way, so why do you think you cannot understand someone?
Often you build a barrier yourself instead of being friendly and open to others. This enlarges the distance between you and the people, and it enlarges misunderstanding and estrangement.
Remember that tolerance is the key to understanding. The ability to tolerate differences will give many opportunities to you. Apart from better understanding of people it’ll give you career prospects, friendship or travel possibilities.
You’ll never be able to read one’s thoughts, but you can still learn to understand people better. The most important thing about understanding is to be keen, attentive and compassionate.
Gradually, you’ll learn to read people’s actions and behavior. Finally, take time to understand yourself; it also promotes better understanding of others.