We recently had an interaction with a client that was an important (and shocking) reminder of how different we are from one another.

One of the things that we know is that humans have a tendency to believe that others are just like us; they want what we want, feel what we feel, and see what we see. This is often most obvious in a primary relationship. Most of us show people we love that we love them in the way that we want to be loved. We rarely stop to consider what gives them a sense of being loved, instead we believe that what feels right to us will feel right to them.

Recently, we were in a client meeting with a successful accountant. He had come to meet with us because he was unhappy with his work due largely to the fact that he had to interact with other humans. He described the work life he wanted to create and it was one in which he could be left alone. He loved his alone time, had no interest in relationships (with the exception of his wife) and wanted to figure out a way to remain out of reach of his clients.

When he walked out the door, we both stood silent, struck by how very different he was from both of us. While Linda is quite outgoing and Stephanie quieter, neither of us can imagine the work life he’d described as “heavenly.”

It was an “aha” moment. A “wow, people really are… really, truly… different from one another.”

It was an important reminder to us and it’s an important reminder to all of you who are reading this, because you are more powerful when you are curious about how people see the world, rather than certain that you know what to expect.

Given our tendency to assume others are like us, it is important to spend some time as we interact with others asking ourselves, “How do they see the world? How do they make sense of the situation they just walked into?” Because having a sense of that will help you understand why they respond the way they do, and it will help you take their response less personally.

We know you will be guessing but guessing is a good start. Think about the different ways people see the same situation. If you can get curious about how others see the world, you will quickly understand more about them and how to interact effectively.

Take this situation: two women and a man are working at the front desk of an insurance company. One of the agents comes in and he is frustrated that the paper work he’d expected to be done was not done. Now consider the various ways that agent might see the situation he is walking into.

He might see, within a few seconds of looking:

  • If they are working or socializing
  • Whether or not they would want to help him out
  • The work flow process used at the front desk when there are multiple people
  • How they are dressed and whether or not they look professional
  • How quickly someone asks what he needs (to assess whether he is perceived as powerful)


And, there are many more things someone will see depending on the person.

This week, spend some time getting curious about what people see and what they look for as they walk into a situation. If you can start to understand that, you will be able to see others’ reactions in new ways and find more power in your moments.

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