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Using human nature to your advantage

Mutumbo was the best storyteller I've ever seen.

And the worst rapper. What boggled my mind was that Mutumbo considered himself a rapper first.


And I wasn't the only one perplexed.

You see, a few years ago, I went to an event displaying different African cultures. It was a weird event since the organizers didn't know what they were doing.


Anyways, there was a talent show.

And Mutumbo walked on stage. He was dressed like a rapper, with a hat and baggy clothing. People weren't too sure what to expect from him.


Then he begins to tell a story.

It was about how he escaped war and suffering in South Sudan. It was a gripping tale with heartbreak and hope.


Everybody was astonished.

Then soon after the story ends, he begins the worst rap performance of my life.


Not to hate on Mutumbo, but had he stuck with storytelling, he could have made a name for himself. Yet he was dead set on being a rapper. This career error could have been avoided if he had more self-awareness.


One thing we need to be aware of is human nature.

But why?

It seems like a waste of time to try and understand human nature. Since we are humans and deal with humans all the time, we should intuitively grasp it.


But that's not how it works.

We tend to be blinded by illusions and our inhibitions. So as life passes by, our understanding of human nature isn't improving.


And many of the problems we get from interacting with others can be avoided. We have to accept that human nature drives many people's actions.


And by having a more nuanced understanding of it, we can navigate the rough waters of dealing with humans. Anyone who achieved big goals needed many people for it. And they had to understand human nature to get the best of the people involved and prevent unnecessary conflicts.


And if you want to achieve anything in life, you can't do it alone. So it becomes paramount to understand human nature. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for preventable and vexing challenges.


Okay, this sounds great.

So how can we improve our understanding of human nature?


There are many ways to do this.

But there are three simple but effective ways to go about this. They are:

  • Reading biographies and classical literature

  • Journaling

  • Keen observation of others

Reading biographies and classical literature.

One thing to note is that humans haven't changed at all. Whether from 5000 BC or 2023, humans still act like humans.


So instead of analyzing things, we can read to figure out human nature. And there is no better way than reading biographies and classical literature.


You will see how notable people solved complex challenges in these two genres. And in all this, you see how people act with their emotions, motives, etc. Funny enough, you read enough, and you notice a pattern in human nature. Where you see similar archetypes, vices and virtues that bring people up and down. The more biographies you read, the more predictable you realize humans are. Even how petty people can be is a constant among humans.

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Seeing the same behaviours I read about occur in my life amazed me. All this reading helped me get a better grasp of reading people, helping me avoid problems and unnecessary misunderstandings.


Another way to avoid misunderstandings is to understand yourself better.


Journaling

I am a big fan of journaling, and this is after years of failing at it. But once I got the hang of it in my 30s, journaling became an indispensable tool in understanding others.


Which seems odd.

Isn't journaling meant for me to understand myself better? Yes, but when you know yourself, with your emotions, thought process etc. You are better understanding human beings.

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Because newsflash

You are human! And humans go through the same emotions as you. So when you work to understand the intricacies of yourself, you can apply that understanding to others.


The Roman playwright, Terence, encapsulates this better than I:

"I am a man, I consider nothing that is human alien to me."


On top of journaling, you also need to keep an eye on people.


Not like a stalker.

But more to observe the behaviour of people around you. When you are reading biographies/classical literature and journaling. You will be able to notice others and get a good idea of them.


It's important to observe others in your day-to-day life, as this will augment the knowledge of human nature you get from reading and journaling.


Because this will help you in seeing the nuances.

You will never find the same exact behaviours in all humans, but you can see the patterns. As a result, you can adjust and behave accordingly.


Observing humans in real life is crucial, as this forces us to use our brain to relate to what we read/journalled. We can't rely solely on what we've read or how we experience things. Otherwise, that's static knowledge. We need our understanding of human nature to be dynamic.


And the only way to do this is by observing human nature. As you do this, your knowledge of humans will continue to grow and be more nuanced. Then when you interact with people, you will get a good read on them.

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And that type of knowledge is paramount.

Because you will see who is worth investing in and running away from. Some will think their knowledge of human nature is already good.


But I have to counter.

And I am going to sound harsh, so please forgive me.


Only the foolish think they know enough.

And if you're on this newsletter, then you are not foolish. There is always something more to learn. And since human nature is vast, we must do our best to know all we can when we are alive.


We will never stop interacting with humans. And we never know what kinds of people are on earth. So why not study human nature to help us? Especially before we encounter challenging or difficult personalities.


And one person who dealt with many challenging personalities was Hideyoshi.


Hideyoshi's rise to the top.

Hideyoshi was one of the first people to unify Japan. Yet he had a humble beginning. He came from a poor background, was part of a brigade of thieves, and was notoriously ugly.


He was so ugly his first wife divorced him because she couldn't stand his face. But despite all this, Hideyoshi became a legendary samurai and leader of Japan.


And one of the reasons for that was his fantastic grasp on human nature. This knowledge allowed him to deal with political rivals, his hot-tempered boss, and his many enemies in Japan.


Hideyoshi didn't like to use force or shed bloodshed in his quest for Japan. He wanted to secure victory through a long-standing method.


And he was able to do that by understanding human nature. Hideyoshi avoided problems that his contemporaries fell into.

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Although Hideyoshi was intelligent, his knowledge of human nature was significant for his success. And it will be substantial for yours as well. So you must respect what the knowledge of human nature can do for you.


That said,

You need to be aware of not being too stringent with your understanding.


Being too logical with human nature

If you've noticed, I used the word nuance quite a bit in this article. And the reason for that is that too many people read something and consider it fact, with no room for variations.


And trying to understand human nature can fall into this same trap. Where people read a little bit about human nature and think it's black or white. When this is not the case.


The patterns can be similar but different. Because each human being is unique and will have their quirks. And when you respect that, you can have a general read on people but will know that each person will have their own distinct flavour.


One of my favourite quotes on history summarizes this idea best:

"History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme." Mark Twain


So keep that in mind when you study human nature. And you will surely benefit from it. Just as much as you will benefit from this article wrapping up.


Summary

  • Understanding human nature will help you work with others and prevent conflicts.

  • The best ways to improve your knowledge of human nature are through biographies/classical literature, journalling, and observing others.

  • Biographies and classical literature will show you the patterns of human nature.

  • Journalling allows you to understand yourself better. And since you are human, you can appreciate others consequently.

  • Observing others allows you to augment what you learned about human nature through reading and journaling.

  • Hideyoshi is a prime example of someone using his understanding of human nature to achieve his goals.

  • A common mistake is to treat your knowledge of human nature as black and white. And not have a nuanced approach to it.


Too many people go through life falling into the same traps.

And a lot of that is due to not understanding human nature. So moving forward, I hope you make it a goal to understand humans better.


It will help you with your relationships, conflict, and how to live a better life. But if you choose not to study human nature, don't be surprised if you catch yourself in a disaster worse than Mutumbo's rap performance.


Until next time,


Bulcha

The Charismatic Nerd

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