Six Tools for Understanding People Better


Amanda Ripley at a Tech conference in 2012
Photo by Thatcher Cook for PopTech via Flickr

What can you do when you just cannot agree with someone? Bruce Gulland and Liz Waid share some tools for understanding people better.

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Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Bruce Gulland.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

Amanda Ripley is a writer and reporter. She writes about politics and life. In 2016, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. All the news Ripley had read before the election said that Trump would not win. She was sure he would not win. But he did win. She realized she had not understood what millions of people were thinking and feeling about the media and news. She spoke to the Solutions Journalism Network.

Voice 3 

“I felt like I failed at my job. And so I wanted to stop and try to think about it. Is there something people can do differently? I felt like we are not listening and we are not being heard.”

Voice 2 

Everyone talks. We talk for school, work, and at home. But even with all this talking, people can fail to understand each other. Leaders of countries fail to understand each other. It happens over important issues like jobs, human rights and religion. When people misunderstand something, they may fight and break relationships. Today’s Spotlight is on six tools to help people understand each other when they do not agree.

Voice 1 

Ripley knew she needed help. So she turned to people who had experience in dealing with conflict and fighting. She talked to conflict managers, psychologists, lawyers, and religious leaders. She found that these people use many tools to help them understand how other people think. She believed that writers could use these tools to better understand the people they were writing about. But she also thought that everyone could use these tools to help them understand people in their own lives. She set out these six tools for understanding people better.

Voice 2 

The first tool of understanding is to know that people are complex. Most people like to reduce things in ways they can understand. For example, one person is good, and the other person is bad. Or a person thinks that all people in a group think the same way. For example, a person might think all women love to buy clothes. However, every group of people has many differences in the group. People are complex and changing.

Voice 1 

The second tool of understanding is to remember the full issue. You cannot know everything about a person’s life or experience. Their opinions may be based on these experiences. But there is usually something people can agree on in every issue. People can argue over small details. But they can try to discover what they agree on. Then the argument is less full of anger. A good thing to ask is, “Help me understand the problem that your idea solves.”

Voice 2 

The third tool is to try and understand why people think the way they do. Do not only look at what people think. You should try and understand why they think it. Why does someone care so much about this particular issue? What happened in their life that made them feel so deeply? How would their life change if people agreed with them?

Voice 1 

The fourth tool is a way of listening called looping. A loop is a piece of rope or wire that connects back in a circle. Ripley explained how to do this when talking to someone. She told the Solutions Journalism Network.

Voice 3 

“Choose what you think the most important issue to the person was, and say it back to them. Do it in the shortest and most clear way you can. They will correct you if you got something wrong. This happens more often than you think. This helps people feel heard. And then this very special thing happens. When people feel heard, they will open up more. They will even be ready to hear information that goes against their deeply held beliefs.”

Voice 2 

The fifth tool is to spend time with people who disagree with you. It is not always easy to do this. But it is very important. When people spend time together, they see that every person is more than just their opinion on one issue. This connection can even happen over the Internet. People often make comments on the Internet that are full of anger. Yet some people believe the Internet can be a safe space. One organization works to connect people on different sides of issues. They are called Spaceship Media. They provide special groups on Facebook. Each group has a moderator. The moderator makes sure comments are respectful. Eve Pearlman is one of the founders of Spaceship Media. She spoke to NeimanLab.org,

Voice 4 

“We have learned that people want to have respectful discussions across differences. If they have the chance for it and the rules for it, people can and will act with respect.”

Voice 1 

The sixth tool is to work against what we already believe. Everyone finds it difficult to change what they think. We look for stories and information that confirm what we already believe. We dismiss stories and information that may make us change what we think and believe. Everyone is like this, even if we want to be honest and fair with information. Nir Eyal is a writer. He writes about habits and choices. He wrote about the problem of changing what we believe for Psychology Today.

Voice 5 

“If you walk into every situation trying to prove that you are right, you are going to confirm what you already believe. Instead you should concentrate less on being right. You should concentrate more on experiencing life with questions and wonder. When you are willing to be wrong, you open up to learning new things.”

Voice 2 

People often only see right and wrong, good and bad. But we can understand each other better. We need to spend time with people who are different from us. We need to understand that we do not have all the right answers. And we need to keep our hearts open to change.

Voice 1 

Do you think people can change? What is one thing you have changed your mind about? Tell us about your experiences. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on Facebook at Facebook.com/spotlightradio.

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Adam Navis. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Six Tools for Understanding People Better’.

Voice 1 

Visit our website to download our free official app for Android and Apple devices. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Have you ever changed your mind about an issue? If so, what made you change it? If not, why not?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
Honneur
said on March 17, 2020

In Brazil, we have a saying: “Lawyers think they are gods; Journalists are sure”. Perhaps Amanda Ripley did not look in the right direction and, in her likely arrogance, thought she was sure, even when all the clues suggested otherwise. Many people I talked to about the dispute between Trump and Hilary agreed that Trump wouldn’t win, but Hilary would lose ... And, in my opinion, that’s what happened ...

Avatar Spotlight
kenhieuloilam
said on March 19, 2020

Each of us has abilities or limits. Each of us learns and trains a lot to live to be a good person. We find ourselves when we live our lives for beautiful good things. We know about ourselves and we know about other people. Each of us learns and trains a lot to live to be a good person. To live to be a good person may be very difficult. Being good persons, we are persons of freedom. We are free to choose beautiful good things. Each of us has abilities or limits. Each of us learns and trains a lot to live to be a good person. We get good characters. Good characters help us live our lives well.

Avatar Spotlight
soulaiman
said on April 05, 2020

Hello all,
first I would like to express my gratitude for all the SpotlightEnglish team members, we appreciate your efforts and your valuable work, a lo of people around the world are following your programs which we use to improve our English language studies areas such listening, pronunciation, vocabulary… and also our cultures ...
this current program is one of the best, and I have some comments, on it, and that is I’m totally agree that almost of the people around the world followed the 2016 USA presidential election thought that Hillary Clinton will win the oath of the white house, and no realized that the business man Donald Trump will win the campaign, therefore all the medias and surveys companies lost their credibility.