If you want to do something with your time that will pay off in the long-term, there are few better options than studying people. Understanding their inner workings – their psychology – gives you a kind of superpower that you can use to progress your career in all sorts of ways.
Research suggests that the most successful people aren’t necessarily those with the highest IQs or best degrees. It is people who know how to communicate with others and get them to align with their interests.
So much of what we learn in our formative years is academic. Worse yet, we get the general impression that this is all that matters when it comes to our personal success. The grade point average becomes God.
But when you delve a little deeper into how the world actually works, you soon learn that this is only part of the story. Grades are important, but they’re just the springboard. They say nothing about what you do while you’re in the air.
Studying people and learning their ways, therefore, is one of the most powerful things that you can do to get to where you want to be in life. You can use it as a way to ingratiate yourself with your colleagues and even convince people at an interview that you’re the person for the role.
Furthermore, you can use knowing how people tick to your advantage, no matter what your underlying personality. It doesn’t matter if you’re a rank introvert or somebody who likes to feel out how the world works as you go – the techniques are all the same. Fundamentally, it’s all about getting people to love you, respect you, and look up to you, while also meeting their emotional needs.
Studying people takes many forms. For some, it involves searching for online colleges for psychology and doing a degree. For others, it means reading a lot of books on how to make friends and influence people. It could easily be a combination of both. The more you understand how people work on a social and emotional level, the more you can use that to your advantage.
We should note that this isn't about manipulating people. You’re learning about how the brain works to hijack it like some TV mentalist. Instead, you’re investigating the nuts and bolts for what holds people’s psychology together and gaining a more in-depth perspective on the human condition. At a deep level, it is about applying a logical framework to your existing powers of empathy and building strategies around that.
Studying people always pay off. Here’s why.
You Earn A Better Understanding Of Human Development
People don’t stay fixed throughout their lives. They shift through different stages or mental paradigms as they make psychological breakthroughs. Babies start in life, believing that the world is merely an extension of their bodies. It is only over time that they come to realize that there are other thinking, emotional beings out there like them.
When you study psychology, you gain an understanding of the various mental paradigms that people go through on their way to authentic adulthood. Over time, you begin to recognize various traits in people that speak of their inner life. Ultimately, you’re able to judge how far progressed the people around you are, and you can use that knowledge when interacting with them.
You Become A Better Critical Thinker
Becoming a critical thinker is a challenge. It is not just about learning the scientific method or even the tools of reason. Instead, it is about uncovering the psychological hang-ups and ticks that prevent you from applying to the cool light of logic to the world around you.
Studying people doesn’t just refer to contemplating the minds of others. It also implies the study of your own. When you learn about the brain, you inevitably reveal stories about your personal psychology, providing you with insights for how you work as a person.
The payoff from this kind of self-observation can be enormous. When you take a genuine third-party view of yourself, you begin to see how you relate to others. You get a feel for what type of person you are, and how uplifting it is to be with you.
You also get an insight into the factors that are holding your development back and the areas in which you still need to work. It’s not a bad thing. When you identify your weaknesses, you put yourself in a much better position to excel in the workplace – and the rest of your life, for that matter.
You Become A Better Communicator
Hiring managers will often talk about how they’re looking for people with “communication skills.” It’s the most generic job requirement in the world, and rarely something that they actually test.
Communication skills, however, are vital if you want to land a role in the most competitive jobs. But it has nothing to do with whether you know the difference between a semicolon and colon, or even your grammatical ability. Instead, it primarily comes down to your ability to deliver value to someone.
Imagine you’re trying to communicate a complex topic to an audience. You could take the approach of some lecturers and bamboozle people with technical jargon to demonstrate your mastery of the subject. And you could deliver the content in perfect English with lots of helpful body language. But if the people listening to you have no idea what you’re talking about, they’ll leave feeling like they didn’t get anything from the experience. You’ll forever go down as a bad communicator.
Now compare that to lecture in which you adjust what you say to the current level of development of your audience, and you immediately get a completely different response. People instantly warm to your message and leave feeling as if they got something out of the experience. You don’t have to hit the technical points. You don’t even have to know how to do basics, like use the past tense properly. All you need to do is transfer something of value from your mind to theirs. If you do that, you have the makings of a great communicator. This thinking runs contrary to so much of what we’re taught, but it reaps rewards time and time again.
It all starts, however, with studying people. If you want to communicate an idea, you have to understand their questions, concerns, and conceptual limitations. You must then tailor your delivery to deal with that. If you don’t, you’ll wind up leaving people feeling confused and lost. And that’s never a sensation you want to evoke.
You Learn More About The Challenges That People Face
Succeeding in the stuff that matters in life – relationships and work – is all about gaining real insights into the challenges that people face. Studying subjects like psychology, therefore, are a great way to learn about where people are coming from in their thinking.
Sometimes it can be challenging to know how to manage a person in your team or circle of friends. They seem to have difficulties in various areas. Either they’re neurotic, anxious, or have anger management issues. When you study people, you get an appreciation of where these issues come from, and how to approach them in your interactions. It gives you a context that you can use to smooth over some of the rough edges of the personalities around you.
So, the bottom line is this: if you want to excel in life, you need to understand people, including yourself. And the only way to do that is to study them.