We need to learn how to understand another person, specifically.
This simple user’s guide has potential to transform your relationships if you apply it.
Learning how to understand people involves three simple steps. Here they are:
Understanding people is different than making conversation.
During conversation, you typically formulate a response while the other person is talking. This communication multitasking is helpful to keep a dialogue going.
As you know, the multitasking can also get in the way of true understanding, as you are likely to focus more on your response than on what the other is saying.
To understand someone more deeply, simply listen without worrying about how you are going to respond. Give them the stage. Take it in. This kind of listening is the key first step to understanding another person.
In NLP, second position is the perceptual position of the other person. As you listen, begin to imagine what it is like to be the other person. What is she feeling? What must it be like to be her? What is it like to approach life from her position, as you imagine it?
Second position is the source of empathy. The saying goes, “you can’t understand others until you have walked a mile in their shoes.”
Taking second position, based on your listening without preparing a response, gives you an idea of what it is like to be the other person – a huge step toward understanding.
After listening properly and putting yourself in second position, you can clarify and deepen your understanding by asking intentional questions.
Here are some options for asking intentional questions:
To understand another’s internal experience, ask: What do you see in your mind’s eye? What are you feeling? What do you hear inside your mind?
To understand someone’s beliefs ask: Why? Why is this the case? Why did you do it? Why is that important to you?
To understand the details of someone’s context ask: Who? What? When? Where?
Most of all, ask questions that come from genuine curiosity after listening and putting yourself in second position.
Cycle through this process until you understand.
The three steps to understanding another person can be recycled many times. Each time you cycle through them, your level of understanding will deepen.
You have the power to change someone’s life with these tools. Who in your life needs to be understood by you? We are all craving deeper understanding. Can you imagine the powerful gift you have to offer the people in your life by understanding them more fully?
Choose one person in your life and commit to understanding him or her more deeply. It will take your relationship to a whole new level.
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Last reviewed: 23 Jun 2013