Understanding People

I get along with most people. Of course there are those I prefer to spend time with and those I avoid. I shoot straight from the hip and expect everyone else to do so as well. So, typically, I take things at face value. Every now and then, though, I find myself pondering human behavior. “Why did he do that?” or “What was she thinking?

I’m thankful that I took a few psychology courses in my youth and have been exposed to several psychologists’ theories in my work. What follows is really a synopsis of those with my own personal views.

Most human behaviour stems from the individual’s psychological needs. The definition of one’s psychological needs varies from expert to expert. One might define them as ‘belonging, power, freedom and fun’ or another might say psychological needs are ‘variety, significance, love, growth certainty and contribution’. In dealing with people every day, it doesn’t really matter how you label them. My point is that people’s words and actions usually have a deep connection to their psychological need. So, the real question one should ask is “What are they really looking for?” Is it to be included or excluded? Is it to have a good time? Is it to feel good about themselves? Is it to be respected? Is it to be in control?

Sometimes, it’s really easy to help others out by providing them with what they seek to satisfy these needs. Spend time with them or leave them alone. Play along with them. Pay them a compliment. Let them take the lead. The caution is to know when to draw the line – especially with someone who needs to be in control.

Learning to get along with everyone involves understanding that people’s communication styles and psychological needs are different; and that understanding cannot include any prejudice. I might enjoy being with people and want to be included, but I appreciate that some people prefer to be alone. I don’t think any less of them.

So, the next time someone does or says something strange to you, explore the root causes and their underlying motivation before reacting. Your world might be happier.

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