Knowing Someone

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"I am human, I consider nothing human alien to me." ~ Terence

Introduction[edit | edit source]

This course is about connecting with another person. Connecting is a stronger and more intimate interpersonal bond than typical friendship.

People need to be seen. “Above almost any other need, human beings long to have another person look into their face with loving respect and acceptance.”[1]

Author David Whyte claims “The ultimate touchstone is witness[2] We seek to be seen from the first time a baby looks at their mother. We seek to be noticed.

The ancient playwright Terence  proclaims “I am human, and nothing human is alien to me.” –

Getting to know someone deeply provides that essential connection.

Objectives[edit | edit source]

The objectives of this course are to:

  • Better understand the foundations of human interactions,
  • Better understand yourself,
  • Better understand others,
  • Connect more deeply with others,
  • Improve our social interactions.

This course is part of the Emotional Competency curriculum.

There are no prerequisites to this course, and all students are welcome. Students may benefit from studying the companion course Converging along with this course.

Course Structure[edit | edit source]

This course structure draws on an architecture of human interactions described in the companion course Layers of Human Interaction, and shown at the right.

An Architecture for Human Interaction

This course begins by encouraging students to know themselves. Students then work gaining social skills, being friends, sharing experiences, and practicing dialogue. With that background as a foundation, we then explore the bottom layer of human interaction—human nature—and progress upward through personality traits, learned responses, and finally cognition.

To become familiar with this architecture of human interactions, please study the Wikiversity course Layers of Human Interaction.

Begin with yourself.[edit | edit source]

As a starting point, it is helpful to know yourself as a step toward getting to know others.

Assignment[edit | edit source]

  1. Complete the Wikiversity course Unmasking the True Self.
  2. Consider completing the personal inventory together with a trusted friend or intimate partner who you seek to know better.

Gain Social Skills[edit | edit source]

Social skills are essential for effective communication and building positive relationships. These are the foundations of a civil society.

Assignment[edit | edit source]

  1. Study the Wikiversity course Social Skills.
  2. Practice social skills.

Be Friends[edit | edit source]

Being friends is more than a mere association; it's a dynamic, reciprocal connection that enriches the journey of life. It involves the sharing of laughter, tears, triumphs, and setbacks. Friends create a shared history, a tapestry woven with the threads of mutual understanding and acceptance. Being friends means navigating the complexities of human relationships with a spirit of camaraderie, trust, and loyalty. It's about standing by each other, offering a comforting presence in times of need, and celebrating together in moments of joy. The essence of being friends lies in the ability to embrace each other's uniqueness, offering support, encouragement, and a genuine sense of belonging. It's a shared adventure where the bonds forged through time and experience become the foundation of lasting connections that withstand the tests of life's unpredictable journey.

Assignment[edit | edit source]

  1. Study the Wikiversity course Being Friends.
  2. Become a friend.
  3. Gain friends.

Share Experiences[edit | edit source]

Sharing experiences can help us get to know someone better. It has been said that “you don’t know someone until you have gone camping with them”. While that may be cute hyperbole, it is true that spending time together is an important part of knowing someone.

Shared experiences can be as simple as sitting together silently on a park bench, or as complex as a shared adventure, especially including arduous tasks where you need to rely on each other in difficult situations to succeed, often by achieving superordinate goals.

Assignment[edit | edit source]

  1. Share experiences with someone you want to get to know better.
    1. Spend time together.
  2. Witness the other person, being fully present and attuned to their experiences, paying close attention to them, and caring about them.
  3. Consider engaging in activities such as those on this list of shared experiences.
  4. Find common ground.

Practice Dialogue[edit | edit source]

Practicing dialogue is an essential skill for communicating accurately with others.

Assignment[edit | edit source]

  1. Complete the Wikiversity course Practicing Dialogue.
  2. Practice dialogue.

Human Nature[edit | edit source]

Humans resemble humans.

It is likely that you would have no trouble describing cat nature or bird nature but might have difficulty describing human nature. Perhaps this is for the same reason that fish don’t see the water, it is so close and so pervasive that it often goes unnoticed.

Humans resemble humans. Each of us shares a long list of intrinsic similarities to all other humans. These similarities extend across the sexes, races, and cultures and include many details of anatomy, behavior, and mental processes. Fish swim, birds fly, horses gallop, and humans walk upright. Ducks quack, dogs bark, birds sing, and humans speak.

Anthropologists have studied human behavior in many very different cultures around the world. This has documented a broad range of culturally distinct behavior. It has also identified behavior that is consistent from one culture to the next. These human universals, or near universals, form a long and interesting list of behaviors that range from simple to complex, obvious to surprising, and include both helpful (constructive) and hurtful (destructive) traits.

Perhaps this commonality is not surprising. The laws of logic, mathematics, physics, chemistry, and economics hold uniformly true throughout the known universe. Humans everywhere share a common and complex anatomy, physiology, genome, and brain structure. It is likely that every person alive today descended from ancestors who left their African village as recently as 70,000–50,000 years ago to populate the far reaches of the globe. Perhaps our common traits result from the strategies our selfish genes use to survive the clever and relentless competition they face on our remarkable planet.

Human nature makes up the first layer of the architecture for interaction. Although human nature cannot be changed, we can certainly make choices and change how we apply ourselves.

Assignment[edit | edit source]

  1. Read this list of Human Universals.
  2. Work to recognize these characteristics in yourself.
  3. Work to recognize how these human characteristics are evidenced in the behavior of others.
    1. Embrace these common characteristics at the foundation of our being.
  4. Complete the Wikiversity course What you can change and what you cannot.
  5. Accept that you cannot change human nature.

Salient within human nature is the role of emotions and of our conscious awareness of subjective experiences.

Emotional Competency[edit | edit source]

Although emotional experiences are salient human universals, emotional competency—the skill to recognize, interpret, and respond constructively to emotions in yourself and others—is an uncommon skill.

Emotions are colorful, dramatic, fascinating, and essential dimensions of every person’s experience. These primitive mechanisms send a constant stream of powerful signals that can guide us along the difficult path of survival, or quickly send us off on destructive and painful tangents.

Improving your emotional competency is a good place to start knowing someone.

Assignment[edit | edit source]

  1. Study the Wikiversity Emotional Competency curriculum.
  2. Improve your ability to recognize, interpret, and respond constructively to emotions in yourself and others.

Vulnerability[edit | edit source]

We are vulnerable whenever we expose ourselves to harm or risk failure. This may be when applying for a job, asking her out on a date, appearing in public with a new hairstyle, asking to borrow the car, contacting a sales prospect, submitting a manuscript for publication, giving a speech, inviting someone to dinner, or any of hundreds of other small, and not so small, risks. Perhaps the core risk is the fear of personal rejection, the fear of not being worthy of connection.

Exposing interpersonal vulnerability—behavior that risks disapproval from another—is the key to intimacy.[3] Partners over time engage more frequently in those expressions of vulnerability that are safe in the relationship than in those that are not.[3] Vulnerable behavior can include expressing emotions, sharing details of painful or embarrassing events, sharing personal pain or private thoughts such as fears, worries, anxieties, embarrassments, failures, disappointments, and confusions. Intimate relationships are built by progressing through a series of increasingly vulnerable disclosures or actions with a partner. If these disclosures are reinforced the relationship becomes more intimate. If they are discouraged, rejected, or punished, the intimacy of the relationship suffers.

But we must be comfortable with our vulnerability before we can let our true selves been seen and begin to love with our whole heart.[4]

The paradox of vulnerability is this: to become worthy of connection, we must overcome our fear of rejection, our fear of being unworthy of connection.

One expression of vulnerability is apologizing when we have offended someone.

“You will be loved the day when you will be able to show your weakness without the person using it to assert his strength” ~ attributed to Cesare Pasese.

We embrace our vulnerability when we realize that I am imperfect, and I am worthy of love. What I am is enough, and I am worthy. We become aware of, comfortable with and honest with our shortcomings as well as our strengths.

Exposing vulnerability is an act of trust.  Exposing vulnerability is an act of courage. Exploiting vulnerability is an act of betrayal.

Assignment:[edit | edit source]

Begin by taking a modest risk. If no harm occurs, then continue taking similar risks.

Especially important to developing intimacy is interpersonal vulnerability. Begin by disclosing some minor discomfort, embarrassment, or failure to a friend or (potential) partner. Notice if this disclosure is respected, welcomed, and encouraged or if it is discouraged, ridiculed, punished, or a breach of trust is threatened. Continue disclosure at a modest rate, based on a positive response including reciprocation, or refrain based on a negative response.

Earn trust.

Have the courage and courtesy to apologize when you have offended someone.

Subjective Awareness[edit | edit source]

A conscious awareness of our subjective experiences is another salient characteristic of human nature. Each of us knows what it is like to be us, uniquely us.

Within every human doing, is a human being. Our subjective experiences are our only experiences, yet they are private and often difficult for us to access, interpret, or describe. Sensing, identifying, and describing our subjective experiences can help us enjoy life more fully, flourish, and connect more closely to others.

Becoming aware of subjective experiences is another important skill in getting to know someone.

Assignment[edit | edit source]

  1. Study the Wikiversity course Subjective Awareness.
  2. Become more aware of your subjective experiences.
  3. Seek to become aware of others’ subjective experiences.
  4. To better share another’s subjective experience, it is essential to adopt their unique point of view.  Consider these questions as a focus of an on-going dialogue:[5]
    • How are you interpreting what happened?
    • How do you see it?
    • How do you construct your worldview to accommodate this experience?
    • How does this look to you?
    • Do you see the same situation I see?
    • What experiences and beliefs cause you to see things this way?

Personality[edit | edit source]

The second layer of the architecture for interaction recognizes the intrinsic differences that make us each the unique person we are. These are our personality traits. These stable characteristics remain primarily constant throughout our adult life.

The five-factor model of personality is the most widely accepted personality model. It identifies five factors and ten values characterizing personality types. These five factors and ten values (describing the extremes of each value) are as follows:

It can be helpful to determine your own personality traits, according to this model. Several measurement instruments are available that can help you gain insights into your personality type.

Understanding a person’s personality traits is one key to knowing how to treat them appropriately.

Learn your big five personality traits and invite others you wish to know better to learn theirs and share their findings and insights with you. Notice how these personality traits influence your behavior, and that of others.

Habits and Historic Influences[edit | edit source]

The third layer of the architecture for interaction addresses our responses learned by conditioning. These are the habits, cultural differences, and even addictions we have learned throughout our lives. These learned responses are the results of classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and other learned associations and they create (often implicit) long term memories that act as limbic attractors (described by Hebbian theory) to guide our (almost) automatic responses to many situations. These often drive our behaviors below our conscious level of awareness.

Here the history we carry within ourselves, our origin story, and the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves become important.

History Within[edit | edit source]

“One of the great fallacies of life is to think culture is everything; another great fallacy is to think culture is nothing.”[6]

We learn about someone by asking new and better questions. Here are some questions to ask, suggested by David Brooks, to get started:

  • Where is home?
  • What is the place you spiritually never leave?
  • How do the dead show up in your life?
  • How are you embracing or rejecting your culture?
  • How are you creating and contributing to your culture?
  • How are you transmitting your culture?
  • How are you rebelling against your culture?
  • How are you caught between cultures?

Habits[edit | edit source]

Each of us has habits and quirks that are uniquely our own. As the relationship permits, use skillful dialogue to explore habits with questions such as these:

  • What habits are characteristic of you?
  • What habits are unique to you?
  • How did these originate?
  • Which are helpful?
  • Which are annoying or unhelpful?
  • What addictions, if any, are you experiencing?
    • Do you consider any of these to cause a struggle?

Stories[edit | edit source]

David Brooks advises “Ask people to tell you their stories”.[7]

  • Just tell me who you are.
  • How did you come to believe X?
  • Tell me about the person who shaped your values the most.
  • Where did you grow up?
  • How do you hope to spend the years ahead?
  • Others from this list of Story prompts.

Choices[edit | edit source]

Finally, we come to the top layer where our thoughts directly guide our choices.[8] This cognition gives us the ability to choose our actions based on our beliefs, values, goals, motivation, and intent. Our agency is within this layer.

Assignment:[edit | edit source]

  1. Use skillful dialogue to explore the various life choices each of you have made.
  2. Dialogue questions might include:
    1. Why and how did you decide on your career path?
    2. How did that decision influence the education path and other critical life choices you have made?
    3. What salient beliefs shape your life?
    4. How did you choose those beliefs?
    5. How have these beliefs shaped your life? Consider choice of friends, choice of spouse, raising children, political views, religious views, places you have lived, adventures you have experienced, … as appropriate.
    6. What values are important to you?
    7. How did you choose those values?
    8. What are your goals?
    9. What motivates you?
    10. Engaging in additional big talk and engaging conversation topics.
      1. Ask better questions.

Loyalty[edit | edit source]

Loyalty is a devotion to a country, philosophy, group, or person. Why loyalty is often considered a virtue, and it is one way to get to know someone, misplaced loyalty can become confining and unhelpful.

Loyalty can be beneficial when it provides trust, security, stronger connections, mutual support, team cohesion, and emotional well-being. However, misplaced loyalty can result in blind allegiance, isolation, tolerating harmful behavior, reduced independence, stagnation, and betrayal.

Moderate your loyalties.

More than Friends[edit | edit source]

If you wish to know someone more deeply, invite then to complete the Wikiversity course Informed Commitments with you.

Recommended Reading[edit | edit source]

I have not read the following books, but they seem relevant and interesting and are listed here to invite further research.

  • Atlas of the Heart, by Brené Brown

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Brooks, David (October 24, 2023). How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen. Random House. pp. 320. ISBN 978-0593230060.   Chapter 1
  2. "Friendship, by David Whyte — Brian T. Miller #DoGreatThings". Brian T. Miller #DoGreatThings. 2018-09-14. Retrieved 2024-03-12.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Cordova, James & Scott, Rogina. (2001). Intimacy: A Behavioral Interpretation. The Behavior analyst / MABA. 24. 75-86. 10.1007/BF03392020.
  4. The power of vulnerability, June 2010, TED Talk, Brené Brown.
  5. Brooks, David (October 24, 2023). How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen. Random House. pp. 320. ISBN 978-0593230060.   Chapter 5
  6. Brooks, David (October 24, 2023). How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen. Random House. pp. 320. ISBN 978-0593230060.   Chapter 16
  7. Brooks, David (October 24, 2023). How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen. Random House. pp. 320. ISBN 978-0593230060.   Chapter 15
  8. The nature of free will is an actively debated among experts.