In spite of this, we do not understand other people. Very often, they take us by surprise. Those we believed akin to ourselves always reveal themselves to be different from what we first thought. Our experience of others is a familiar one, but it also confronts us with a puzzlingly great diversity. It makes us aware of how oddly particular we all are.
Yet what do we mostly do in order to know? We use categories valid for everybody, ready-made categories. We say of Jack that he is a “musician,” “depressive,” or “childish;” of Jill that she is “brazen,” a “bitch,” or immensely “kind.” The terms “musician,” “depressive,” “childish,” “brazen,” “bitch,” and “kind” would equally apply to people other than Jack and Jill. They don’t describe what Jack is, what specifically qualifies him or makes him different from John or Jill. Aristotle says that only the general is known and only the particular exists. How could we overcome this obstacle? What enables us to understand others?
First let us all agree on two important points.
- In general an understanding of people gives you an enormous edge in any interaction involving people.
- Specifically, if I understand myself better than you understand yourself, and I understand you better than you understand yourself, I have a huge advantage over you.
If we agree these statements are true then we need to find a way to take general knowledge and make it specific; or more correctly we need to take knowledge we can obtain to help us obtain knowledge we can’t. Learning about, and using, Behavioral Models will help us to understand those around us, making our professional and personal interactions more productive.