Commonality Of Humanity ➠ Understanding

Is there a commonality to our humanity that enables us to understand others, even those demonstrating bizarre behavior?

The simple answer is yes. There is a commonality to our humanity, which is why highly-self -aware people, connect easily with others. They understand others behavior because they’ve behaved in a similar fashion albeit to varying degrees and in disparate situations. Here are a few examples to illustrate this point.


During a presentation on pricing for a group of window treatment retailers, a member of the audience asked “How do I get my designers to be comfortable asking for tens of thousands of dollars from affluent customers?”

I suggested that he ask his designers to recall a time when they spent a significant amount of money, an amount outside their normal spending, on something they wanted but didn’t really need. Then ask them “How is that different than what your customers are doing? Aren’t you both spending amounts outside your normal budget for things you want?”


When you’re listening to someone’s dreams and you realize that they’re overlooking serious risks associated with their dream, recall a time when you did the same. If you were fortunate, your listener pointed out those risks and offered insights into how to mitigate them.

If the person pointed out the risks without offering suggestions for limiting your risk, the person may well have been in a naysaying mindset. Haven’t we all fallen victim to that mindset at one time or another?

Knowing that we’ve been both encourager and naysayer enables us to choose to be the former and avoid being the latter when listening to others’ dreams. It also helps us evaluate which mindset we’re dealing with when we’re receiving feedback on our dreams.


We have all, at times, found someone to be consistently difficult to deal with. Our natural tendency is to avoid contact with these folks. Yet, if we understand that there have been times when we’ve been difficult as well and realize why we were being difficult, we may just get some clues as to how to deal with the person in a way that is helpful and encouraging.

I recall that, at the inception of my part-time CFO business, I was insistent that my messaging was what it should be, even though both my wife and youngest brother were trying to convince me otherwise. What finally moved me off my position is when my brother said to my wife “Does it sound like there’s pride of authorship here?” My brother understood my resistance. In all likelihood, he’d been of that mindset as well at some point in his life.


I’ve heard managers complain that their employees don’t listen to them…that they don’t do what’s being asked of them. Most of the time, during that discussion, they’ll also say that their kids don’t listen to them. Hmmm, any indication of who’s the problem?

They fail to see that the language they’re using in their communications is creating resistance, consequently, they assume that others are the problem, not their communication style.


In a vein similar to the last example, a manager had dual responsibilities: sales and leading the administrative team. He had grown his district from number 24 to number 2 in the country in just 24 months.

He told me that he couldn’t get his administrative staff to do what he wanted despite having repeatedly told them why what he was asking was important. He asked me “How can I get them to do what I want?”

I asked him if he told his customers what to do. He replied “No, they have to come to that conclusion on their own.” Then I asked “Why do you think your employees are any different?” Two weeks later he called and said “Wow, this is really easy isn’t it?”

He didn’t see that resisting being told what to do exists in both his customers and his direct reports. Indeed, we all resist being told what to do…something that begins around age two and grows with age and experience.

I could go on, but you get the point. There’s a commonality to our humanity that, once we’re aware of it, makes our lives, and the lives of those whom we touch, much easier.

For you

If you want to make life easier for yourself, if you want to gain others’ trust more readily, if you want greater influence, train your mind to see the commonality of our humanity. It’s easier than you might think.

Shortly after rising, commit to paying attention to how people are behaving and what they’re saying. Remind yourself of instances in which you behaved similarly or had gotten a similar reaction to what you said. The insights you gain will help you deal more effectively with anyone you meet…regardless of their current mindset.

At the end of the day, shortly before retiring, review your success in understanding others’ actions and language. Then review those instances when you didn’t pick up on the common feelings associated with those actions or that language. What would you have done differently if you’d picked up on their state of mind more quickly? Remember, we always learn more from our mistakes than the things that go well.

For our kids

When kids are struggling to understand why someone is doing the things they do or saying the things they say, ask them “Have you ever done something similar or said something like that to others?”

If that doesn’t trigger a memory for them, ask “How is that different than when you…?” They’ll quickly discover that others’ actions and language aren’t all that different than their own. As they become increasingly aware of what’s driving their actions and their language, they’ll come to understand others as well…including how to help and encourage others when they’re struggling.

In other words, they’ll discover the commonality of humanity that’ll serve them well for the rest of their lives.

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