Learning to Understand What Others Think

Over the past year or so, I’ve really made a conscious effort to be in tune with what my wife is thinking and how she is feeling. We’ve been married almost 13 years now, so perhaps now is as good a time as any to really buckle down and do better in this area :) In doing so, I am learning a lot about what makes others think the way they do. I’ll use my wife as an example, but you can do the same type of field work for any person pretty quickly if you just listen or read what they have to say or watch for non-verbal actions.


There’s things I know about my wife that are personal between us that I won’t share here, however, some of the one’s I am willing to share are the following:

Heidi has had good experiences in the past being involved with youth, particularly young women in the LDS church. She enjoys the togetherness and shared experiences that environment brings. She’s mentioned that a few times and today she is involved a little with the young women who attend our church here. I know that she willingly volunteers her time to do this, so this is definitely something she likes and wants to do.

Heidi has had many experiences travelling with her family and doing events with her choir in high school. She enjoys getting out and seeing the world and has hinted to me many times asking about when we are going to go to Ireland and England. As I spent a couple years in Ireland many years ago, it would be nice to go back.

Lastly, Heidi has had good experiences with her family, particularly a few of her siblings that she is very close with. I know that she enjoys that interaction and it is a big part of what she likes to do each day.

As a husband to Heidi, it’s important that I recognize all the experiences Heidi has had in her life. These experiences are the foundation for who she is. They are especially important because they create her…


All of us have expectations of how we want things to be. Even if all we want is to be safe today, that is still an expectation – that we not get hurt by anything or anyone. For Heidi, she has certain expectations. These range from making sure our blankets are neat and tucked in to having family dinners together, to taking a trip at least once a year.

I’ve found that most of Heidi’s expectations can be traced back to an experience she’s had in the past. I have to be very mindful, especially of the negative, experiences that Heidi has had in the past. If I’m not willing to listen and understand what those experiences are, I could very easily violate her expectations.

For instance, I’ve talked to her about trying to better understand some of the concerns I have regarding the LDS church and its history. I first approached this in a way that violated her expectations and didn’t quite realize it until recently. Heidi expects a husband who is faithful and spiritual and if she is not getting that, she’s going to be concerned.

This is understandable and a reasonable response from her. Therefore, I’ve adapted my approach to ask her to be involved with me and my studies in reasonable sources of material as we explore questions together as a married couple, rather than a me -vs- her approach to see who is right and who is wrong. I think expectations are then directly tied into…

Hopes and Dreams

The hopes and dreams of people are a big part of why they do what they do. Most of the areas for this involve religion/after life, money, entrepreneurship, a relationship of some kind, health, or general being happy/content with life. Knowing this broad set, I can see that Heidi just wants to have a good family, be a good mom, raise our family, have a spiritually connected relationship with me, her husband, and live together happily in this life and the next.

As Heidi’s husband, I have to recognize her as a conscious human being with legitimate hopes and dreams. To be a husband that satisfy’s her needs better, it is in my interest to talk with her about those hopes and dreams. This is an area I haven’t done well in. Too often, I only talk about what I think is important, or what my ideas are. The art of listening is something I will work on in this area.

I believe by better understanding Heidi’s aspirations, hopes, and dreams, that I’ll better be able to serve her as a husband who helps her feel more happy, empowered, and excited about our life and future together, both in this life, and in the next. The other side of this, however, is…


I think we’re all afraid of something. Heidi’s biggest fears are more personal, so I won’t share them here. But I’ve taken the time to listen and understand what concerns her. I also know that sometimes she doesn’t share her fears because she doesn’t feel it would be worth “rocking the boat” to do so. I respect that – not everything needs to be shared because many times, thoughts and feelings come and go.

To understand someone better, find out what they are most afraid of and why. This gives you a wonderful opportunity to better understand why that person does what they do. In my case, I understand when Heidi does certain things by understanding her fears. In cases where I might otherwise get frustrated, I instead understand because I too act in ways based on my fears.

Finally, all of this gets tied into…


All of these things above tie into our perceptions of reality. When I see a cat, I see a precious furry creature. Someone who has been bitten or scratched by a cat might see a monster. It’s very easy to belittle someone because they think a certain way about someone or something. But chances are, they’ve had an experience that you have not.

In the case with my wife, I believe a more concerted effort by me to share in our experiences together and understand her points of view better will give us both more knowledge and understanding than we currently have. It might even change both of our perceptions about certain things as we each offer insights and ideas into what the other thinks that we might not have gotten had we decided to only believe what we individually think.

Next time you hear someone say or do something and you don’t like it, see if you know that person well enough to understand what their motivation might have been. If we work together more on this, I believe we’ll create more accurate perceptions of each other and the world we live in!

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3 thoughts on “Learning to Understand What Others Think

  1. Nice, yep it’s working now! I used to have very little patience when I thought I was right about something and other people disagreed. I’ve wised up to be more sensitive about trying to understand why others may think differently about things. Humans are extremely complex and we think and feel in totally different ways about things a lot of times.

    I’ve also learned to be more supportive of hobbies my friends love that I have little interest in. Like sports – I can totally zone out if I’m watching a game but I try and share the same type of enthusiasm as my friends who are really into sports if we’re all watching something together. A little support and a positive spirit can go a long way. Plus I like not having all of the exact same interests too. We learn, share, and gain more perspectives that way.

    1. Sydney, glad you were able to get through and sorry about the comment problems. We sure are complex beings and I commend you for being willing to watch sports with your friends. It really does make a difference to them I bet, just to see that you show even a little interest :)

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