Self Defense/understanding people
I've been thinking: we assume that we know what other humans think, what they feel, but true is, we can only make a more or less intuitive/educated assumption of it.
An example: let's suppose we're talking with someone that has been in...orphanage. And as he describes his memories, we're saying "uhu, I know what you mean, I understand". Because we take one of our memories that's closest to what he describes, along with the emotions attached and we complete the rest with our imagination.
But true is, we don't understand and no, we have no idea how it was to be him in that situation. Even if we've lived in the orphange, our experience and emotions and thoughts are different than his.
But in society we behave in a certain manner, according to the stimuli that we get by watching the people we adress to, in order to create a certain reaction in them.
So my question is: how much can we guess about how other people feel and think? It seems to be of absolute necessity in order to get along, but it's impossible to know for sure (?) how the think and what they feel. How far can we go with our guess before we fall prey to our expectations about how we believe people should react?
How can we improve our accuracy? Can we actually be sure of anything related to other people?
Wow, that is one hellaciously big question.
The short answer: You can never be 100%, the best you can do is take steps to increase you percentage.
Allowing for percentages, has the extra bonus of keeping us from being 'married' to our actions, responses, beliefs and -- most of all -- assumptions.
There is book called the "Art of Thinking Clearly" by Dobelli. Or you can get the information here.
These are 'mistakes' our brains normally make. A big part of the foundation of what you're asking about is there in those links. Not the answer per se, but a big part of understanding and being better at dealing with people. Because you're going to run into both yourself making these mistakes and people doing the same thing. When it comes to increasing the percentage of you being right about your guesses, you have to factor in these.
Another element is learn how to read body language and social interaction. I always point to the works of Dr. Desmond Morris. Humans do most of their communicating non-verbally. You learn to compare words with body language. Do they match? Do they not match?
But the most important skill of all is learn how to actively listen
Don't assume you know what someone meant. Reconfirm it. Stop jumping to conclusions that you know what someone meant. Slow your own thinking down and think about what you just heard. What are the other possible meanings? If someone says something and you can think of at least four different ways they could mean it, it really reduces the ego of "I know what he means."
Those are three starting points to help you increase the percentages of guessing right. It also opens the doors for small course corrections or even outright, stop, turn around, wrong way when you realize you've misread the situation.