How To Understand People Better

knowledge powerThe feedback we receive from our Advanced Communication Skills course is just awesome. This is because it goes beyond the normal communication techniques that you use on any other course.

Instead, you delve into how people behave, understand why they do what they do, you understand how others think and what makes up their personality so that you can communicate, build rapport and influence them at a different level.

All of the delegates come off the course thinking like Hannibal Lector! No, not that way! Instead, delegates come off the course really understanding what makes people tick and what makes them what they are.

Let’s look at what we mean…

Appreciate that not everyone likes to achieve and move towards goals. Some would rather avoid pain far more than to gain pleasure

Let’s take a look at this.

All human behaviour is centred around gaining pleasure or avoiding pain!

You go out for a nice meal with friends to gain pleasure. You run away from a poisonous snake to avoid pain!

Someone goes to the gym to work out because THEY WANT to look fabulous, have a hot body and feel more attractive. Others may go to the gym because they DON’T WANT to look fat, ugly and feel out of place in society.

Notice above that some people go to the gym because “THEY WANT TO HAVE…” and others go to the gym because “THEY DON’T WANT TO HAVE…”

This is interesting…

By the way, not everyone acts in the same way here, everyone moves toward some things and away from others. But overall everyone has a dominant preference.

So, looking at this then – some people like to move towards things and others like to move away from things.

How do you know who is which?

Well, this is easily done by listening out to the way that they respond.

When you ask people or staff about what they want in a job, this project, their work, their relationships and so worth – do they tell you WHAT THEY WANT or WHAT THEY DON’T WANT?

Listen to everyday conversations.

Are people moving towards things?

“I want to achieve a 234% increase in sales next month”

“I want us to dominate the widgets market”

“We are going to make this happen so we look the best team in the department.

Or are people moving away from things?

“We need to increase sales because I don’t want our department to be bottom of the league tables”

“If we do not dominate our market XYZ competitor will overtake us and I do not want that to happen”

“If we do not improve we are going to look the worst team in the department”

Can you see the differences?

They are all stating the same thing but in a different way!

Which ones would you be more motivated to achieve?




Think about this….it is really important how you communicate to people.


I am sure you have some ideas of your own of how to use this in the workplace.

Here are some of my tips where this can be very useful.


Are you trying to “achieve” all of the time with everyone or are you modifying your approach with different people depending on how they think?

Stress to “MOVE TOWARDS” people what they will get out of a situation and they will be motivated. Do this to “AWAY FROM” people and you are wasting your time.

You need to be flexible and change your approach.

I am sure that you “Just can’t seem to get through to some people”. Well, the first thing you should look at is whether you are moving them TOWARDS something when they want to move AWAY FROM or vice-versa.

Not everyone are goal seeking machines you know. Even though we are taught that they are!


If you are selling an idea or a product you can promote it by:





You can try to sell a motorbike by explaining that it is fast, cool and hip and trendy or you can stress that it does not use much petrol, has low insurance premiums and will not break down on you.

The approach that you would use depends on the person.

Think about this when you need to influence or sell something.


For those of you that have kids or want to communicate better with your spouse think of this…

How many times have you told your kids “Do your homework or you will fail your exams” or “You’d better study hard because you don’t want to end up like me” or “You’d better work hard at school or you will not get into XYZ University”

Have you noticed something?

These are all MOVE AWAY from statements. What response are you getting?

What about if your children are more motivated about MOVING TOWARDS things? Yes, what you have just said to them will go in one ear and out the other.

Let’s just reframe those statements so that they would appeal to a MOVE TOWARDS child:

Instead of:

“Do your homework or you will fail your exams”


“Do your homework Sam so you will get the best grades, get a great job and have loads of money when you are older!”

Instead of:

“You’d better study hard because you don’t want to end up like me”


“Study hard Sam so you can get that big house, flashy sports car and have great holidays”

Instead of:

“You’d better work hard at school or you will not get into XYZ University”


“If you work hard Sam you will be able to take your pick of the Universities in the country!”

Thanks again


Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Training   | Image courtesy by Stuart Miles of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

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Updated on: 13 October, 2010

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