You’re not likely to understand what someone’s thinking about if you only try to guess his thoughts intuitively, scientists warn. Putting yourself in someone’s place is not the most reliable way to understand feelings of people around you, Science Daily reported.
Trying to put yourself in their shoes may be pointless
The famous book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie taught us to put ourselves into another person’s shoes. But this old adage has been proven to ignite too many incorrect assumptions, researchers found.
A group of researchers from the University of Chicago and BGU conducted 25 experiments to find out if our gut instinct is effective when it comes to predicting feelings of others.
Focus group members were asked to express their hunches about a certain person’s feelings. The participants were required to rely only on mimics, gestures, body posture and eye movements of the person in question. Respondents had to distinguish fake smiles from sincere ones and truth from lies. The participants were also requested to attempt to predict consumer preferences of the said individual and what kind of spousal activities the person would favor.
The study shows that Carnegie’s ideas about trying to adopt another person’s perspective are rather unhelpful. Research subjects had gotten more confident in their predictions when they tried to “put themselves into another person’s shoes”, however, their accuracy wasn’t particularly impressive.
If you want to know what another person thinks, better ask
The researchers concluded that using one’s intuition to figure out feelings of others wouldn’t be beneficial to the situation. If one wants to know what’s going on inside somebody’s mind, the best option is to simply ask.
At the beginning of the experiment many participants were sure that the method of putting oneself in another person’s shoes really worked. However, the results of the study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, demonstrated that hunches don’t work very well.
So, the most efficient way to understand a person better is to talk to them and find out everything you’re interested in, according to the researchers. Guesses, even attempted with the best of intentions, don’t work!
The same could be said about another famous adage, “Treat others as you would like to be treated.”
For instance, Russian women expect flowers and “little signs of attention” from the men they are dating. But you certainly wouldn’t be able to figure it out if you simply tried to treat the lady the way you wished her to treat you. While some general rules of politeness and consideration would be aligned between men and women, the courting ritual requests different actions from males and females, at least in our times.
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