Understanding Others: Why Is It So Important?

What moves us as human beings to want to understand other people's emotions? We'll look at why understanding others is so important in this article!
Understanding Others: Why Is It So Important?

Last update: 23 November, 2020

Human beings are the only species capable of making an effort to understand other individuals. Understanding others is a task that facilitates the processes of socialization. As a result, it improves the chances of survival of individuals in different contexts, through mutual aid.

As social beings, understanding other people opens up the possibility of seeing and understanding situations from different perspectives. In this sense, it favors the processes involved in creating empathy and the values systems human beings have. However, even though understanding other human beings is an extraordinary skill, that doesn’t mean that it’s a simple goal.

Social behavior in human beings

Understanding others is influenced by several factors. Moods, emotions, tiredness, and illness, among others. They all influence the way that any given individual is willing to do favors or provide help.

This means that, if a person is in a good mood, then they’ll be more willing to do other people favors or show empathy and understanding. On the other hand, if this same person feels irritable, then they’re less likely to want to understand other people.

There are times when one can easily recognize a person’s emotional state by their expressions, looks, and mannerisms. However, on other occasions, handling these non-verbal cues is quite difficult. Thus, the only solution left is to ask the individual what the problem is.

This second strategy often fails, because sometimes people want to hide their more intimate feelings, or cover up or lie about their emotional state.

Two women talking.

The role of empathy when it comes to understanding others

Empathy plays an essential role in understanding other people. Getting to grips with another person’s experience in order to get to know their point of view, and how it makes them feel, opens the door to understanding.

Understanding other people means you need to experience their emotions and compare them to your own. It means remembering similar experiences that you’ve had to go through and recognizing the differences between your point of view and the other person’s.

Active listening is also key in this regard. You shouldn’t react immediately, and this will help you share your individual differences.

Why is understanding others important?

We know that human beings have survived and evolved thanks to their social skills in group living. Socialization has often facilitated survival through learning and the acquisition of skills taught by others.

Understanding others has been one of the key factors in the development of these basic skills. This helps us know when interaction is necessary and the implementation of mechanisms to safeguard one’s own life and other people’s as well.

Moreover, when other people in a group either ignore or misunderstand you, this can lead to great emotional and psychological consequences.

A sad woman.

Mistakes when trying to understand other people

People’s tendencies or intentions may vary, regardless of the behaviors they may display to others. This behavior will show their state of mind or emotions that may be appropriate under the circumstances. For example, if you’re in an airport where your departure gate is an hour away and you need to run through crowds of people, would that mean that you’re an impatient and disrespectful person?

You can usually pick up on certain key factors, but, at the same time, not take into account other equally important keys. Therefore, understanding others is often not an easy goal to achieve.

On the other hand, other people’s opinion regarding certain circumstances also influences the understanding of other people’s certain situations and moods. In other words, the reaction of others can influence the ability to understand an individual.

Therefore, understanding others is one of the essential tasks for human and community survival. However, it isn’t an easy job to transcend your own self and put yourself in someone else’s shoes if you’re not skilled in identifying your own emotions and the factors that condition them.

In addition to this, certain opinions and specific scenarios can reduce objectivity when you put yourself in someone else’s shoes. This is when empathy can bring out its dark side. Inevitably, as individuals integrated into communities and groups, judgments are sometimes virtually inevitable.

It might interest you...
Emotional Contagion and Empathy
Exploring your mind
Read it in Exploring your mind
Emotional Contagion and Empathy

Emotional contagion and empathy both happen when you meet a friend who's excited about a project and their enthusiasm motivates you to explore your...