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People Management Skills - How to Understand Behaviour

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Posted 12 May 2014 by Chris FarmerChris Farmer

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You may find the following will help with your people management skills.

How to understand behaviour

People management skills. How to understand "Why do people do what they do"?

If you want to understand why people do what they do, then there are two schools of thought that you could turn to, in order to discover some answers.

The two schools of thought both claim to have information that will explain to you why people act in the ways that they do.

The two schools are:

  1. The school of psychology
  2. The school of philosophy

The school of psychology is the school that most people turn to if they are interested in understanding the behaviour of other people.
Psychology is not only one school.

Of course the school of psychology is not really one school. It consists of many competing subset schools of psychology.

There are the behaviourists:

  • Transactional analysis
  • Cognitivist
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Gestalt psychology
  • Organizational psychology
  • Process Psychology
  • Psychoanalysis

And so on....


The new kid on the block is NLP. Neuro-linguistic programming was created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, in California.

For the last 15 years NLP has been all the rage with those people, especially in business, who want to understand why people do what they do.

For years, I spend endless hours studying NLP and the other schools of psychology, in the hope that such a study would give me more insight into why I act the way I do, and why other people act the way they do.

Then I discovered that I had been wasting my time.

I discovered that you cannot explain people's behaviour by making reference to their psychology.
Instead, if you want to understand a person, then you must understand that person's philosophy!

Philosophy is where it's at!

If you want to understand human beings, then you need to understand philosophy.

Philosophy is a uniquely human creation.

Other animals have their own psychology. But no other animal has philosophy.
There are doggy-psychologists (who, for a fee, will psychoanalyse your doggy).
But no animal has philosophy.
No doggy ponders the ethics of right and wrong, the structure of logical inference and the relationship between himself and God.)

Only humans do that.
Only humans have philosophy.

Philosophy is a uniquely human activity.

What is philosophy?

Philosophy is a broad topic that studies the following 8 subsets:

  1. Theology. Is there a God and if there is a God, what is Gods nature?
  2. Metaphysics: What is the fundamental structure of existence?
  3. Epistemology; Is certain knowledge possible and if so, by what means?
  4. Logic: What is the nature of valid thinking?
  5. Ethics: What would you regard as good and what would you regard as evil? The study of moral right and wrong.
  6. Politics: How should we organise our society.
  7. Economics: How should we best organise our economy.
  8. Aesthetics: What is the nature of artistic good taste?

Study the Philosophical questions.

It is only in studying the answers to these philosophical questions that you can gain an understanding of distinctly HUMAN behaviour. (As opposed to animal behaviour).

  • You don't need to know the answers to the other person's psychology
  • You do need to know the answers to the other person's philosophy

For example: If you learned about my psychology: it would teach you nothing of value.

If you learned that I was:

  • The third sibling.
  • That I was left handed.
  • That I had an I.Q. of 110.
  • That I was a visual learner.
  • That I had a phobia relating to moths.
  • That my father died when I was 17.
  • That I was deemed to be an extrovert.
  • I have good levels of self-esteem.
  • If I told you that my belbins team role profile was high "plant", low "completer finisher".
  • If I told you that I had recurring dreams about having to join the navy.
  • You discovered that I had a "reflector" learning style.......

Then, tell me, what good would that information be to you in predicting my behaviour?
Answer: None.

It is trivial, useless information.
It tells you nothing, of any value, that you could use to understand and predict my behaviour.

Psychology is, in my opinion, a terrific source of interesting, but trivial information.

On the other hand.

Philosophy provides important information about any person.

For example: If I told you about my philosophy; if I told you that......

  • I did not believe in any religion.
  • If I told you that I believe there is no God.
  • If I told you I do not believe in the power of prayer.
  • That, instead, I believe in the scientific method.
  • That I believe that certainty was possible.
  • That I believe in logic.
  • That I believe in the moral principles of honesty, hard work and cooperative effort and
  • That I hate thieves.
  • If I told you I do not believe in the principle of monarchy.
  • I believe in low taxes and small governments.
  • I do not believe in socialism but I do believe in capitalism.
  • If I told you that I don't like modern art but I do like classical renaissance art and if I told you I tend to read nonfiction books rather than fiction,

Then you would know the essentials of my personal philosophy.
And if you know my philosophy then you know who I am.

If you understand philosophy; then you understand people.
If you want to understand a particular person's behaviour, then you need to understand his or her personal philosophy.
If you want to understand why people do what they do then I suggest that

You cut back on your study of psychology and you take up a study of philosophy.

  • Theology.
  • Metaphysics:
  • Epistemology:
  • Logic:
  • Ethics:
  • Politics:
  • Economics:
  • Aesthetics:

My recommendation is this:
Study these 8 areas of philosophy and you will gain more fruitful knowledge than you would if you engaged in a similar study of psychology.
Read Ayn Rands essay. "Philosophy; who needs it?"

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