Make an effort to understand others

Often we let understanding boil down to a decision whether we agree or not with somebody’s viewpoints. Whether you agree or disagree with somebody is less important than whether you know and understand what you agree or disagree on.

I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize what you heard is not what I meant

Robert McCloskey

Understanding is more than listening alone. It is digging deeper to understand the meaning. Sometimes, the topics not mentioned are the key messages. The only way to get to those unsaid topics is to ask about them and be willing to explore.

Test your understanding

Summarizing is a way to share with somebody else that you listened to them by playing back to them what they have just said in condensed form. However, did you understand them?

Ask yourself “Without using the new word which you have just learned, try to rephrase what you have just learned in your own language.”

Richard Feynman

I love the challenge of Feynman in this quote, which is about the difference between “knowing” and “understanding”. Do you understand the other person, or are you just regurgitating their words to prove you have recorded their messages to your knowledge archive?

Understanding is not about checking if you are right and fits your worldview or recording other people’s statements. It is about exploring where somebody is coming from and being willing to change your mind, or at least keep an open mind and accept that you might be wrong.

Knowing where somebody is with their viewpoints is less than half the story. Willing to explore why somebody is there with their views create the essential pieces to an accurate understanding.

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Be nice

Nobody ever disliked a nice person. Being nice is the most simple skill to build and use in your daily life. Being nice is its own reward most of the time.

One of the most underrated skills in business right now is being nice. Nice sells.

Mark Cuban
  • If you need help, to whom would you instead go? The nice person.
  • If you want advice, to whom would you instead go? The nice person.
  • If you want to catch up, to who would you instead go? The nice person.

People like nice people. Do not confuse being nice with being slimy, with somebody who constantly does lip service, who tells you what you want to hear. None of these things is about being nice. It might look nice and feel nice, though people will see through it and know it is disingenuous. People do not like deceitful people.

Don’t hold back

If you are nice, it doesn’t mean that you need to hold back. You can be nice and honest, nice and direct, nice and open, nice and disagreeable. It is how you behave. It is how much you care about the other. Since if you are just honest but not nice, you are just being mean.

Be nice. It doesn’t cost you anything extra. Niceness might be the best investment in your career. If you can interact with people, give them a good feeling, and resolve conflicts in a manner both parties value, you become an even more precious person.

Over time, your valuation pays out. Unfriendly people only go so far. Niceness has endless longevity. And as with most investments, time in the market beats timing in the market.

Be nice in 2022.