The Critical 7 Rules To Understand People

By Scott Young

My headline might sound overreaching. Clearly a rule can’t define something as complex as human behavior. But despite this, I’ve found most people tend to make the same mistakes. These mistakes are frequent enough that they create conflicts later. Remembering these seven rules will help you avoid these mistakes.

People Skills is About Being Nice, Friendly and Interesting, Duh!

Most the books I’ve read on dealing with people either make two claims:

  • Incredibly obvious stuff that most sensible people understand; even if they haven’t always mastered it. Things like be nice, be considerate, etc.
  • Bizarre and complex theories that may explain some behavior, but is difficult to generalize.

Between these two I’ve found there seems to be a gap of information that is can be applied generally, but isn’t always obvious. These frequent mistakes tend to cause most people conflicts, social errors and emotional upsets.

The Seven

Here are the seven rules I’m talking about:

Rule One: Never blame malice for what can easily be explained by conceit.

People don’t care about you. This isn’t because people are mean or hurtful, but simply because they are mostly focused on themselves. Consider this hypothetical pie-chart showing the variety of thoughts a typical person has:

Thought Chart

*Data is hypothetical

In this example, 60% of thoughts are self-directed. My goals. My problems. My feelings. Another 30% are directed towards relationships, but how they affect me. What does Julie think of me? How will boss evaluate my performance in the next review? Do my friends like me or see me as irritating?

Only 10% in this model is time spent in empathy. Empathy is the rare event where one person actually feels the emotions, problems and perspective of another person. Instead of asking what Julie thinks of me, I ask what is Julie thinking.

Within that 10%, most people then divide attention between hundreds of other people they know. As a result, you would occupy a fraction of a percentage in most peoples minds, and only a couple percentage points in a deeply bonded relationship. Even if you are in another persons thoughts, it is how your relationship affects them, not you.

What does this mean?

  • Embarrassment doesn’t make a lot of sense. Since others are only focusing a small portion of there thoughts onto judging you, your self-judgement is overwhelmingly larger.
  • People who appear to be mean or hurtful don’t usually do it intentionally. There are exceptions to this, but generally the hurt you feel is a side-effect, not the principle cause.
  • Relationships are your job to maintain. Don’t wait to be invited to parties or for people to approach you.

Rule Two: Few Social Behaviors are Explicit

Basically this rule means that most the intentions behind our actions are hidden. If a person is feeling depressed or angry, usually the resulting behaviors distort their true feelings. If I feel you snubbed me, I might hold my tongue but ignore you later.

The old joke is that women use words like, “fine,” and, “go ahead,” when they really feel the opposite. But I’ve noticed men do this too in polite situations, although often not in the same way.

The application of this rule is that you need to focus on empathy, not just hearing a person. Demonstrate trust, build rapport and learn to probe a bit. By focusing on empathy you can usually break away these subversions and get to the heart of the issue faster.

The other application of this rule is that most the time you feel something, nobody else knows about it. So don’t get angry when people aren’t responding to you. If you deceive your thoughts with your actions, don’t get angry when you fool people.

Rule Three: Behavior is Largely Dictated by Selfish Altruism

To say everyone is completely selfish is a gross exaggeration. That ignores all the acts of kindness, sacrifice and love that make the world work. But I would argue that most (not all, but most) behavior does work from the principles of selfish altruism.

Selfish altruism is basically win/win. It is where helping you directly or indirectly helps me. There are a couple main categories where this applies:

  1. Transactions – If I purchase a car, both myself and the dealer benefit. I get a vehicle, which I want. The dealer gets money to improve his lifestyle. This is the predominant form of selfish altruism between people who don’t have emotional bonds.
  2. Familial – Blood is thicker than water. We are designed to protect people who share our genes. This can sometimes shift towards extremely close friends and loved ones.
  3. Status – Helping someone is a sign of power. Many species of primates will offer assistance as a sign of dominance. People act similarly, offering aid to boost their self-esteem and reputation.
  4. Implied Reciprocity – Many relationships are based on the idea that if I help you, one day you will help me as well.

Occasionally behavior falls outside this group. Nameless heroes dying for causes that don’t help their bloodline. Volunteers devoting their time towards humanitarian missions. But these are the minority, whereas most actions can be explained by some form of selfish altruism.

How do you apply this rule? You understand the motives of people and appeal to them as if they were selfish. Find ways to help people within these four categories. Don’t expect people to offer aid outside of selfish altruism, it isn’t impossible, but it isn’t likely.

Rule Four: People Have Poor Memories

Ever been told someone’s name at a party and then forgot it later? Another rule of human behavior is that people have trouble remembering things. Especially information (as you’ll recall in rule one) that doesn’t apply to themselves. People are more likely to remember your similarities than your differences (unless they were emotionally incensed by them).

Recently I even broke this rule. I made arrangements to talk to a person I hadn’t met before on the phone. Even with my normally foolproof system of calendars and to-do lists, a few spontaneous schedule changes caused me to miss the call. I quickly apologized and made a new arrangement.

But the fact is most people don’t have organized GTD systems. People are forgetful by nature, so once again, don’t assume malice or disinterest if something is forgotten. The other side of this rule is that you can demonstrate reliability by having a good memory or system (if it doesn’t fail you).

Rule Five: Everyone is Emotional

Perhaps this is an exaggeration. But the core of the message is that people tend to have stronger feelings about something than they let on. People who regularly have outbursts of anger, depression or flamboyant enthusiasm are generally frowned upon in most cultures. This especially applies to men (for women trying to figure us out).

The application of this rule is to not assume everything is fine just because someone isn’t having a nervous breakdown. We all have our individual problems, angst and upsets that are normally contained. You don’t need to call people out on their private deception, but being sensitive to those underlying currents gives you an advantage in trying to help.

The alternate application of this rule is similar to rule two. People generally assume everything is fine unless you just had a blowup.

Rule Six: People are Lonely

This is another broad generalization. But it is amazing how many people who seem to have it all, suffer from bouts of loneliness. As social animals, I believe people are especially sensitive to any threats to becoming ostracized. In Neanderthal times, exile meant death, so loneliness and the desire to be with other people is a strong one.

The application of this rule is that loneliness is fairly common, so in that sense, you really aren’t alone. I used to be bothered when I felt alone or an outsider in a social group. Although I’m still human, I’ve found recognizing this feeling to be fairly common as a way to minimize it.

Rule Seven: Did I Mention People Are Self-Absorbed?

This may sound like a reiteration of rule one, but I believe the applications extend beyond relationships and your emotional state. The fact that people tend to be too concerned about themselves to give you much attention, that people tend to be lonelier, more emotional and feel differently than they let on applies to how you view the world.

If anything this perspective should make you more proactive and independent. Once I started really learning these rules, it made far more sense that I needed to take charge. By placing your individual happiness in the hands of another person (or people), you ignore all these rules and do so at your own peril.

I like to take an optimistic, but realistic view of people. People who are generally try their best, but make mistakes and suffer from unintended self-absorption. In other words, they are basically like you.

2 thoughts on “The Critical 7 Rules To Understand People

  • June 20, 2019 at 10:10 am
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    Who’s at Fault? find a Mirror!…

    LBRC- Louisiana is #50 in a USA Class of 50! NOLA is at The “Bottom” in Louisiana! If a Nuclear Carrier runs aground, who will The Joint Chef’s interview 1st, why! There are consequences to low expectations when “Huge” Nuclear Carriers are manned by  “Incompetence! Who “Avoids” and evades “Competent and Experienced Scholars” in areas where they have study and “International Collaboration” plus “Peer Review”? Ans. A City where illiteracy is a rampant Badge of Dishonor and The Public School Board  Proliferate it! Who Captains NOLA, it’s Income, and Sets Priorities for Budgeting? Ans. Mayor and Council (De Facto- We Know it’s The Caucasion Moneyed Class! They’re Handled With Care! Do “Not” Offend?)! Moving Along…

    1. A few have advantages in maintaining poor educational outcomes. Still it seems  forbidden for Negroes to Read! Nothwithstanding without comprehension, “What’s the Point”!

    2. NOLA has a “Wealth” of local Universities and a “Highly Specialized Indigenous Professional  Class” plus Science, STEM and Law Clinics”! Which areas aren’t covered? Take 1 issue, ENTERGY NOLA? Follow City Council Logic? 

    3. Tulane, Xavier, Dillard, Loyola, SUNO, Delgado and other “Local” Universities have and are “Training” lots, if not most the “Engineers, Scientist, Attorneys” and yada…, on  Energy Matters! Yet? Who does “Your” NOLA Council pay “Exhorbent” amounts of your “Local Tax Dollars” to “Advise” ‘Dem About “Local” Energy Engineering, Environmental Law, related to Energy Production or “Any” matter relating to Scientific Input regarding ‘Dat Production”? Ans. “Your” NOLA Council pays “Millions” to “Out of Town” so- called Advisors, to advise them about Energy Issues Studied “Locally” by a Host of “Cartified Scholars”! Question Imhotep? What literate mind whose home is own fire and has a sufficient Fire Extinguishing inside, runs down the street several blocks in search of “Expert” advice about should they or shouldn’t they “Employ”/Pun Intended, what’s inside? Clues?

    4. NOLA is on “Fire”! Not so? NOLA is 1 of Louisiana’s “Poorest of The ‘Po, it’s Citizenery, not its “Exclusive” Economy! Like The Continent of Africa or an “Enslaved Ante Bellum Louisiana Negro, Share Cropper”, The Land and Environment is Rich”! The Wealthy Pollute it and Citizens Breathe it! Citizen Saps called “Rate Payers” and/or Common Tax Payers, pay “All” The Bills! “Every Dollar in Tax Coffers Come From Citizens”! Where do Corporations get Dollars when and if they Pay? Exceptions- GE, Trump et al, you “Heard” ‘Dem brag, “They don’t pay”?

    a. Over 26k Opportunity Youth in NOLA, 99.999% Black and growing! You don’t call ‘Dat a Fire? Trauma, PTSD is “Off The Chain” in NOLA! Why? You talk about Katrina, but lots of citizens were in NOLA Pre 1965 Civil Rights and Hurricane Betsy, Vietnam Veterans,  Gulf Wars, we haven’t even touched ongoing Systemic Racism! 

    b. Who avoids Universities and Local Expertise with respect to advice, like Sick avoid Doctors? A State and City who ranks #50 in a USA Class of 50! Stupidity “Self- Perpetuates”, why MAGA Zealots are more feverish than ever! What is ‘Sic? Ans. You revere a “Lie” and a “Confirmed Liar” more than “Truth”! Denial? We believe Forrest Gump, “Stupid is as Stupid Does”! 

    5. Keep it real! NOLA Council, Mayors as in years past, are “Gift of Gab” Specialist! Always doubt your lying eyes? Glittering Generalities rule, little relation to “Reality”! 

    a. Explain the “Fall” from resources for NOE? What Plaza, right? ‘Stuntun Negro voters are Dupes, just like what they put on Council and elsewhere! Sorry…? Peace…

    Reply
  • June 20, 2019 at 5:26 pm
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    (((o))) – (((o))) eye opening
    ————————————————–
    * – Discernment is not the ability to figure out what is right or what is wrong.
    * – Discernment is knowing the the difference between right and “almost right”.
    * – Wisdom is the power to see and the inclination to choose the best and highest goal and the surest means of attaining it.
    * – Knowledge is the accumulation of information.
    * – Intelligence is taking wisdom and knowledge and accomplishing excellence.
    * – Common Sense is, ability to instantly recognize perceive formulate and respond to what ever is presented and avoid catastrophic events, a disaster, or danger or harm, resulting from a better mind that illustrates elite superior cognitive reasoning & logic, but, common sense is not found in most people.
    * – Common Sense is multiplied in humans as they embrace wisdom, knowledge, and intelligence, which then results in superior quality of actions or re-actions which avoids errors and a waste of time and assets.
    * – Human Common Sense, can be like a perfectly designed software which when activated, it instantly and accurately draws from the programmed knowledge and spontaneously operates.
    * – Human Common Sense is ready to function always, because of or from the intentional accumulation, retention, and storage of what one has learned from observation, schooling, or life experiences or those acquired as an apprentice, which begins from the moment of birth, and then retains and values the learning by storing in the mind for later recall to benefit ones life.
    * – Human Common Sense, is always impaired by defective reasoning, defective logic, defective cognitive functions, and all these are often the results of improper training, improper school curriculum, and the distractions of mental skills caused by, human hedonism, human heathenism, human paganism.
    * – Human Common Sense, and effective reasoning, fail when the human mind is stimulated with the daily consumption from, lust, greed, envy, and covetousness.
    These behaviors are all mentally destructive and mentally toxic to the mind of humans and incrementally impair events for good quality successful conditions in a persons life.
    —————————————————————-
    *** “GUILE”, is the use and practice of skillful shrewd sophistry, by using deceit, a trick, a scheme, a scam, sorcery, or witchcraft, upon any man, woman, or child, with the intended goal to confuse, mislead, deprive, hurt or harm. Guile, is practiced every day by men, women, children, leaders, nations, and frequently thru spiritual wiles. Advertising is often more guile that truth.
    *** – “GUILE”, is practiced intentionally with the goal to control something in other people, and also guile can be the result of any person told fake information learned from unverified sources that then deceives people, but both, still, lead to the hurt, harm and abuse of other people.
    ^^^ GUILE and DANGER !!!
    People who daily practice “guile”, intentionally or thru ignorance or any method, are people that are not good for any friendship.
    People of guile want power and control over others, either verbally, physically, mentally or technically.
    People of guile, are themselves, beguiled, from powers and principalities, and live daily in a blindness, formed by allusions, illusions, delusions, and confusion.
    People of guile, their conduct illustrates the example which expresses easily visible steps which hurts others, or seeks to take advantage of others, yet they often cannot see it or understand it, and often very hostile when it is explained to them.

    GUILE, is the construct of language, feelings, drama, & acting, used to deceive or bewitch, or trick people.
    WAR BATTLE PLANS of ARMY’S have for centuries used “guile” to confuse, deceive and distract an enemy to believe something one way, while the ARMY does things a different way to exploit the enemy and capture them and win.
    <<<>>>
    “FRIENDSHIPS”, any and all, must be 100% free of “guile”, or else it is not friendship.
    “THEREFORE”, wisdom, knowledge, intelligence, and effective reasoning must be fully applied to the “discernment” of “human friendships” to ascertain whether one
    can associate with whomever might want to or claim to be a friend.

    SEVEN HYPOTHETICAL RULES of PEOPLE… – “flawed and temporary”.
    THE 7 described rules above, seem like a good human secular analysis, which “may or might” help reduce some harm to people and “bridge” some “temporal diplomacy” to obtain or sustain friendships between people.
    BUT?
    It is always temporary self-control, for it is built upon “human self will”, and human self will is guile. It is the guile of tolerance, will help us be friends, but, only for a while, until a human scheme or scam can be portrayed and performed to “get even or retaliate”.
    MUCH OF TODAY, imposes the idea that all people can be friends, or have friendships if they “simply tolerate the diversity’s” of other peoples conducts and actions and seek to impose people to “associate” with them, in spite of their actions and practices.
    MUCH OF TODAY, seeks to “force and impose” everyone to “accept” all peoples cultural practices of behaviors, regardless of the harms hurt or offenses it causes to many people. We see today that, nothing is wrong and all people must accept a claim of other people to accept them as friends or else be attacked by the same person with “societal coercion” that slanders and defames, which is coming from the person who wants to be your friend, Hmm?

    So then, certain people find it hard to be friends with others who live differently.
    AND, certain people who claim to be a friend, are intolerant and to make another person be their friend, they do so by “harming” the other person with acts that are far from conduct that displays “friendship”!

    *** LOVE *** a very multi defined and multi confused word about “a conduct”.
    > SOME, people say love means sensual erotic pleasures.
    > SOME, people say love means never criticize my lifestyle or culture, even if it hurts you or causes any mental anguish, pain or suffering.
    > SOME, people define love as making “deals, agreements, or contracts” with each other to achieve some benefit or to balance a exchange.
    Then if all these “love ideas” are successful then that is considered “a friendship”.
    TOO OFTEN ,,,, what we do see, is not lovers and friends, but we see VICTIMS and
    ABUSED and HUMAN EXPLOITATION.

    GUILE,,, is not new and has and still is harming many people and as long as Guile is in the character and conduct of people then the most that one can obtain is a friendship designed from feign ideas.
    Hollywood is Guile, and Guile is Hollywood.
    …………………………………………………………
    ——————————————————-
    2019, JUNE 20.

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