Written on
May 14, 2020

The Art of Understanding- Tools You Can Trust

The Art of Understanding

Discovering Patterns

Look for patterns: single traits or characteristics seldom hold the key to someone’s character or emotions. Understanding comes from identifying recurring themes.

Start somewhere: begin by forming a first impression based on a person’s most striking traits. Keep testing and if appropriate modifying, that impression as you acquire more information.

Anything unusual is usually important: watch for extremes and any deviations from a person’s norm.

Do not confuse temporary state of mind for a permanent state of being: whatever someone’s typical character may be everyone has good and bad days. Reserve judgment. Ask yourself, is this trait the result of free choice or fate: elective or voluntary traits, like choice of clothing, reveal who we would like to be or how we would like to be viewed “at the moment”. Non-elective or involuntary traits, like permanent physical characteristics, cut deeper into our psychological makeup, and have a more pervasive and permanent effect on our beliefs and emotions.

All traits are not created equal: someone’s level of compassion, socioeconomic background, and satisfaction with life almost always reveal more about him or her than any other traits. Give special attention to information that sheds light on these three key predictive traits.

First impressions

Scan from head to toe: you never know where you will find the critical clue; hairstyle, watch, shoes, nails, unless you look.

Do not necessarily judge a book by its cover. Our physical appearance, dress and body language always provide clues, but seldom definitive answers about our personalities and character.

It is easy to dress the part. Characteristics which can be consciously adopted, hairstyle, dress and walk, generally have less meaning when viewed in isolation than involuntary actions like a nervous laugh or furtive eyes.

Look for a consistent combination of clues: if you are on the right track, the signs should point in the same direction.

Involuntary body language may be the only signs of negative emotions or traits: we have all learned to disguise dishonesty, resentment, and other socially undesirable traits. Keep alert; their signs will often leek out only through someone’s body language.

Actions that are inappropriate under the circumstances deserve special attention: an isolated lapse of propriety may simply mean someone was caught off guard. But if someone consistently dresses or behaves inappropriately; skirts too short, dress or behavior too casual or too formal, find out why, and you will find a critical key to his or her character.

Watch for anything which is uniquely peculiar or peculiarly unique: whether grooming, clothing or mannerisms, if something stands out it is usually significant.

Hidden Meaning

Always consider why someone is leading you towards or away from the topic. Is this an attempt to dominate, hurt, cover-up, get attention or just coincidental.

Be alert for common ways used to direct the conversation:

Non responsiveness: if there is a pattern it may be significant.

Failure to deny or explain when expected: if they heard you their silence should be of concern.

Short answers: a consistent lack of normal detail should be of concern.

Long answers: often used to disguise the truth by deflection and distraction.

Answering a question with a question: unless actually needing more information, this technique is usually probing for information to tailor a response.

Pregnant pauses: the person has been limitedly derailed, normally by the last thing asked.

Interruptions: used to control attention, excitement or enthusiasm.

Rambling: nervous habit or lack of focus.

Changing subjects.


What a person does: reflects the true values.

Focus on how they behave towards others: true character is marked by consistency.

We all make mistakes: but, repetitive behavior is not a mistake.

People do change: ask how long was the behavior set; how recently did it change; how quickly did it change; what motivated the change.

Look for patterns of behavior:

Selfishness: we all have needs but…

Performance under fire: we all have our breaking point, but charged situations reveal strength of character.

Unkept promises: sometimes evil, sometimes not, but do not rely on it.

Avoidance: sometimes what someone does not do is as important as what they actually do.

Preaching: there is always an agenda – persuasion, control or attention.

Fanfare: a sure sign of insecurity. As a gauge of confidence, self-esteem, and a giving nature, the fanfare is very reliable.

Spending habits: look for extremes.

Question why they deviated from a set routine.