Understanding Others

Understanding Others: A Critical People Skill to Master

In our lifetime, we will meet all kinds of people, and it is unpredictable to guess which type of personality or moral we will get as collaborators at work and as partners of life;

Most times, if we don’t have the tools, it can be hard to deal with people we just met or build a real relationship with someone we know for a long time.

Because of the different personalities that exist, it is expected at some point, whether at home, at work, at school, in the neighborhood, or in a relationship, we come across difficult people who do not match our opinions and values.

In this article, we will share some valuable points and examples of how specific social skills can be crucial to anyone and situation.

Understanding Others: A Critical People Skill to Master

Understanding others sometimes can be an impossible task; the World is filled with human beings with diverse beliefs, values, and experiences; I had a friend who I later found out has strongly defended the cause of rape. And I believed that women that falsely accused others of sexual abuse should be arrested. 

When she found out about that, we argued because my statement crossed with her belief about rape that defines who she was.

I had to have that experience not to let go of my beliefs because they are mine but so I could reach the empathic place that I could understand the argument has nothing to do with me but with how she saw as a person (personality, beliefs, values, and experiences).

Now, take a look above at 4 Critical Skills that will help you become more Understating to others:

1. Compassion

We can often not understand others because we are looking at a specific experience or insight with our eyes and perspective. “But isn’t the fact that I am different that make a difference?” yes and no, make a difference if we see someone in a situation that needs helps and we do;

No, because if we are asked to help, and we see in it ONLY according to our experiences and values, we might offend the person we are trying to embrace.

“Remember that none of us can be with the people we like all the time, and then, when you’re with people you don’t like, try to focus your mind on good thoughts, even if they look weak, false, or hypocritical. Remember that your reaction to others is merely your interpretation of what they are, and try to put yourself in the shoes of the people who bother you. Remember, they feel as paranoid as you do, and your powerful emotions equally dominate them.” – Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse.

Compassion has to do with the ability to let go from the table past or vivid arguments, beliefs, or not that good experiences, not because we are trying to be ethical but because we feel the need to be there for someone we know or not.


  1. Be altruist

Be good with the people around you, observe their needs and make yourself available as much as you can. For this, the practice of tolerance is fundamental because feeling compassion for those who are receptive and grateful is easy; however, developing it with difficult and ungrateful people will bring us real maturity and personal satisfaction.

  1. Pay attention to details.

Recognize humans as similar to you, with aspirations and needs just like you, which facilitates empathy and rapprochement. It is essential to accustom our minds to this sense of universal altruism, developing a sense of responsibility for all. It is this notion of universality that promotes the desire to help people overcome their problems.

  1. Embrace people’s feelings

Explain and validate the other person’s feelings and perspectives; make the other person feel understood; reduce the other person’s anxiety by being attentively available to listen.

2. Actively Listen

“Attention is the best gift we can give to others. [… ] Our ability to love depends on the quality of our attention.” – Don Laurence Freeman

By having a) internal availability (not judging) and b) external (listening without interruption) to the interlocutor and perceiving motivations, interests, needs, and even values, the other will conclude that we can hear, understand, and feel what he feels thus creating affection. You will be surprised or perplexed by the possibilities of the synergies that will open up for you.

Daniel Goleman frequently speaks in his books about the need to know how to understand each other. Now, let’s highlight one detail: it’s not just about inferring what the person in front of me might be thinking or feeling. It is not enough to become aware of what she may be thinking or whether she is experiencing fear, anxiety, or sadness.

Authentic understanding will never be possible if there is no will and no interest. So mind theory and emotional intelligence are useless if I have my head elsewhere while talking to someone.


  1. Get rid of distractions. 

Tablets, cell phones, even scribbling paper. All this prevents communication from flowing freely; even if one of the people says that they know how to multitask – and they are -, this act can upset the caller, and important messages can stop being displayed – or be incomplete. Moreover, others may understand it as rude or disrespectful.

  1. Interpret the verbal and non-verbal language of the interlocutor

For the person speaking with us to express himself as he wishes, we should maintain visual contact with him and leave him at ease to communicate.

So we can listen to what he has to say and at the same time evaluate his non-verbal language by noticing how the body reacts during all stages of dialogue says a lot about how safe and comfortable he might feel in conversation.

  1. Ask questions

At this point, to ask questions, we should try to take the words he said as a starting point to set out his argument or idea.

When you ask questions and still use snippets of what he said, you can make sure that the necessary message is being delivered and assimilated.

In addition, questions work as a way to confirm that you understand the message correctly and as an opportunity to collect even more information.

3. Being comfortable with unknown

As Goethe noted, “people tend to listen only to what they understand”; it is true that, somehow, we only connect with those who are most understandable to us in our eyes, with those who most harmonize with our ideas, values, and thoughts.

However, understanding always requires more significant effort. Sometimes it involves something audacious: discovering, accepting, and connecting with those who don’t think like you.

Facing different realities and insights about a subject that we may be emotionally tightened to can cause in people repel and from there can come the disability to compassionate with others.


  1. You don’t have to always comprehensive, but understanding is crucial

If we wish to know how to understand others authentically, it is necessary to clarify a detail. Comprehending is not the same as understanding. Most of the time, we’re left with the second dimension, which means we’re only dedicated to deciphering what other people want to tell us. 

We are aware of the message and its meaning, nothing more.

  1. Listen without judgments, always choose to be open-minded

Often, we do not understand the behavior of people; we are left without reaction in several situations that end up in certain embarrassment;

 Remember, we cannot entirely comprehend others’ conditions or experiences because we have our baggage, and even though we are trying to understand, we will look with our perspective.

If someone tells us about an exciting experience at first for them but unacceptable for us because of our religion, costumes or personalities, don’t judge them; 

We are there to lift and brainstorm the best way out if it was a problem; if it doesn’t occur, anything good to say, always choose silence.

Our behaviors are based on our experiences; understanding this is a fundamental rule to learn how to deal with difficult people. That doesn’t mean playing along with the situation, but not make it worse.

  1. Feedback 

Significant parts of understanding others come not only from listening and observing people’s behaviors and choices; it also comes from the line we use to give our perspective.

If we want to build an authentic and communicative relationship with a colleague, partner, brother, or whatsoever we should prefer giving constructive critics;

 No one has only negative characteristics; in this sense, seek to see the positive points of the difficult person and the context in which he lives.

Generate questions to the person and make them reflect on their behavior and situations, or if it was an unsolvable problem at their point of view, the brainstorming technique could be used to survey possible solutions (they are recorded, without criticism, and subsequently analyzed, and then discarded, or not).

In addition to making her look at her actions, you also encourage her to change positively.


  1. Reflect before giving feedback

‍This is the first step before giving feedback; after all, no attitude should be carried out without first having a genuine reflection on the subject. A simple phrase said without thinking can generate massive conflicts. 

In this way, reflect questions like:

  • Is the feedback I intend to give true?
  • Is what I have to say productive or lift upper to motivate this person?

If the answers to the above questions are positive, go ahead and give feedback by cumulatively observing the tips below.

  1. Use the SBI approach in constructive feedback.

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) experts, in contribution to the Harvard Business Review, indicate the constructive feedback approach called Situation-Behavior-Consequence (SBI). The model’s objective is to provide transparent, respectful, and professional feedback, describing the employee’s negative behavior in a specific situation and the consequences of this attitude.

  1. Action plan

How to do feedback without outlining an improvement plan? Many people don’t realize that the primary goal of feedback is to point out solutions, not failures or culprits! To do this, you need to align with your collaborator what steps need to be taken to overcome his difficulties at specific points.

Check our in-depth article with 10 tips to receiving and giving feedback effectively and make sure you’re maximizing learning and development whenever you giving and receiving constructive feedback.


To conclude, as we can see, the process that articulates the concept of understanding is more complex than we could imagine. Yet, despite this, we can all put it into practice; the will, in most cases, is everything.

Reference and Further Reading

10 Essential People Skills You Need to Succeed. Science of People.

AcethePresentation. AmadeBai, Emidio. 7 Indicators of Good and Bad Social Skills

Understanding “People” People. Harvard Business Review.

Understanding Other People. Skills You Need.

Similar Posts