community thoughts

Deeply Understanding Others

Originally written and published for my monthly newsletter.

The conversations I remember from all of elementary and high school on empathy was the difference between “empathy” and “sympathy”. There was nothing to do with how to be empathetic, the importance of understanding other people, collaborating with them, living with them, leading through life building meaningful relationships…. all things I think that are far more important than the semantics between two words. 

When we do talk about developing empathy, or it’s importance – it’s usually in a situational context. Can you understand how someone feels or thinks through x situation? 

But unlocking how someone experiences the world and wants to experience it is where true understanding lays. 

When you can deeply understand the way in which people experience life, and want to experience life, there is rarely need for situational empathy – you get that person. And it forever changes your relationship and ability to truly connect with them.

How do you start to deeply understand people?

  • Seek understanding.
  • Try to really map out the way they view and understand the world, how the inputs of the world turn into outputs of thoughts in their mind, and how they want to live through experiences.
  • Choose listening over hearing.
  • Establish a truth-seeking environment. Don’t doubt the validity of people’s truth if they’ve promised to be honest with you. 
  • Stop interpreting what other people say in terms of your own models. You’re trying to figure it out through *their* models of the world.
  • Cross check your understanding of their explanations. Where are the nuances? Those are important. Dive into those.

Would you add anything else?