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How to Understand Another Person: A User’s Guide

understandUnderstanding others is basic to healthy relationships, yet misunderstanding and disconnection from others are the norm.

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:

1. Listen without preparing a response.

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.

2. Put yourself in second position.

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.

3. Ask intentional questions.

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.

A personal challenge for you.

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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How to Understand Another Person: A User’s Guide

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2013). How to Understand Another Person: A User’s Guide. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 7, 2020, from


Last updated: 23 Jun 2013
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