How do we understand someone's psychology

Knowledge of human nature: learn to assess and understand others better

Knowledge of human nature: the great temptation

Look me in the eye ... and I'll tell you who you are. It sounds seductive: To see what makes them special to our counterpart at first glance. To know immediately: is he sad, happy, nice? In fact, the art of reading faces is a teaching that has already fascinated people in ancient times: the oldest records of this can be found in the writings of Aristotle. But to infer a person's mental characteristics in a matter of seconds from the appearance of a person - this unfortunately often leads to false prejudices about others. So a real knowledge of human nature is required!

Wherein the danger lurks

In ancient times, the art of so-called physiognomics was still considered a kind of secret knowledge that was mainly used by priests for occult purposes. With the age of the Enlightenment it was accepted more and more as a scientific teaching - unfortunately with dire consequences. Because it was not used positively, for example, to empathize with others more easily, to deal more sensitively with one another or to appreciate differences. On the contrary: in the 19th and especially in the 20th century, it often provided the scientific underpinning for eugenics and racism.

A first clue

Based on the shape of the head, the height of the forehead or the width of the mouth, characteristics such as intelligence and willpower can be read: In social psychology today, it is highly controversial whether a better understanding of human beings can really be derived from this. There are numerous studies on this, which provide very different results. What many experts agree on: Our first judgment is superficial - but quite useful, as we can see the rough outline of a personality. This is possibly a protective mechanism from evolution: Before we let someone get closer to us, we protect ourselves - by looking at them and, based on our first impression, intuitively grasping whether the other person could harm us or whether he means well . That makes sense - but just a very first clue.

Read emotions

In order to be able to assess the feelings of others and thus of people more easily, the US psychologist Paul Ekman developed his “Facial Action Coding System” (FACS) in 1978 - a method with which one can read seven basic emotions based on muscle movements in the face supposedly present in all people: anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, contempt and joy. Today, the FACS model forms the basis for numerous software programs for emotion recognition. But the method is controversial. Critics complain, among other things, that the application does not take into account how easy it is to control facial expressions. A “correct” assessment is therefore not possible at all.

Our own influence

If you want to assess people realistically, you have to realize that it doesn't work at first glance. If only because we don't have a neutral view. How we rate others and what we read on their faces depends above all on ourselves - our experiences, our mood, our culture. If we put our counterpart in a drawer too quickly, we are actually still missing a lot of information that would justify that. It helps to make oneself aware again and again: the outside does not reveal inner values. We have to take a closer look and ask: What ideals does he stand for, how does he treat others, what is important to him?

Care wins

Especially when it comes to very important things, for example relationships with others, we should be cautious about quick assessments and judgments. Because even those who have a good knowledge of human nature are not always right. We cannot defend ourselves against a spontaneous impression - but we can, if necessary, change our initial judgments again by carefully checking. This is not only fair to the others, but also a benefit for us: Because we no longer miss the chance to get to know people who turn out to be wonderful at second glance.

5 helpful tips for better judgment

1. Remain vigilant and open: Let us realize that we never look at others objectively, but always against the background of our experiences.

2. Do not transfer externals: Often we deduce the inside of the other from external characteristics: attractive = smart, fat = happy ... Be careful, these are just clichés!

3. Questioning one's own prejudices: Unconsciously, we often judge certain people or age groups more critically than others. All the more important to reflect on it.

4. Train empathy: Before we evaluate someone (negatively), we try to empathize with them: Why does they act like this? What's behind it?

5. Hear nuances: If we pay attention not only to what is said in conversation but also to how something is said, we learn a great deal about the character of the other person.