As an avid reader of Quora, I sometimes find very intriguing questions, so appealing that I am the first one to read them. One of these questions is why it is important to have the skill to understand people. Understanding people creates new meaning in our lives. It
puts our previous perceptions and our own biases aside and opens our minds to something new. Dr. Richard Muller a professor of physics at UC Berkeley and the author of “Energy for the Future Presidents” summarizes his opinion: “The ability to understand other people, and to help them to understand you” is the most important skill a human should have. I was fascinated with the simplicity of the statement. I knew from having read Steven Covey’s book The 7 habits of highly effective people” that this is one of the seven pillars of success. Again, understanding people is important, and it will save us a lot of effort and hassle.
Understanding people reveals key human elements of reaching out to people, allowing us to work with effectively. Steven Covey even went further by saying that you need to understand people before they understand you. Understanding a person allows you to find middle ground when you disagree with someone.
I am surprised when I see middle managers struggling to lead their employees in the workplace. Perhaps the story of Amazon’s management style and its heavy handed approach in leading people might be a lesson for us. Perhaps Google’s, Facebook’s, and Zappos’ management style (Zappos is owned by Amazon now) produces the best environment for managers as well as employees to understand each other.
Understanding each other in the workplace not only will benefit the company, but it saves a lot of effort, not mentioning money, and increases productivity. Jack Welch the previous CEO of GE mentioned in his book that one time he asked an insurance person to explain to him some type of insurance which was not clear to him, and the insurance man was an expert in this type. The insurance person, annoyed at the simplicity of Welch’s question, explained that it had taken him more than 20 years to understand this type of legal instrument of this insurance. The agent, trying to show off how complicated the system was, in fact was preparing his own noose. He was fired months later. Welch realized that if the agent was incapable of explaining the insurance, this type of insurance was not good business for GE. In fact, this business was sold years later.
My wife and I went through cycles of trying to understand our son with some successes and failures, especially during his teenage years. We now focus on understanding him more, not mentioning trying to understand each other when we are faced with some disagreement. I am hoping that seeking to understand people will be a habit of not only us but all the young people who encounter a lot of difficulties at the beginning of their lives.
Finally, thinkers like Warren Buffett emphasize that you should understand people before you seek to be understood. If you follow this simple advice, you will be able to achieve a lot.
This blog is usually written on Saturdays. I would love to hear from you. Please email me at Sufalkhaldi@FutureandScienceHacks.com