10 ways to understand a person psychologically (practical guide)

Are you aiming to understand someone’s psychology better?

Well, we all do. But also, we all struggle to understand people at some point in our lives. 

Whether it’s a family member, a friend, a colleague, or even a stranger, understanding other people’s behavior and motives can be a challenge. 

Fortunately, throughout my psychology classes, I’ve learned multiple practical ways to understand a person psychologically and assess the way they think and feel.

In this practical guide, I’ll discuss 10 powerful ways to understand a person psychologically, so you can better navigate the dynamics of interpersonal relationships.

1) Start with observing their appearance

What’s the first thing you notice whenever you meet someone? Is it their face, their body, or maybe their clothes?

Just admit it.

Even if you try to avoid assessing people by their appearance, looks do matter!

That’s the first and, indeed, the most important thing that I’ve learned from social psychology.

Perhaps not surprisingly, we form our first impressions based on the way people look. Their appearance can tell us a lot about them.

So guess what?

If you want to understand a person psychologically, my first tip is to start by observing their appearance.

  • What do they look like?
  • What kind of clothes are they wearing?
  • What color is their hair? Is it neat or messy?
  • And what about their face and body? Are they well-groomed or not?
  • Do they have any tattoos, piercings, or other unusual features that you can notice right away?

These observations can tell you a lot about a person’s personality.

For example, based on their appearance, you can tell whether someone is neat and tidy, messy, or disorganized.

You can also see if they’re friendly or unfriendly. These clues will help you form your first impressions of them.

And it’ll help you understand a person psychologically better. 

I know what you may be thinking right now. Making assumptions based on superficial appearances can lead to stereotypes and limit your ability to truly understand this person psychologically.

For example, a person who is dressed in all black and has a lot of piercings may seem like they’re into rock music and alternative culture.

But what if they’re actually a very nice person?

Of course, they can be. But you know what else?

It turns out that most of the simple stereotypes that we use on a daily basis are accurate! They just help us process information faster and make decisions about people more quickly.

You need to be careful to avoid prejudices and be as objective as possible, though.

So, start by observing their appearance, but use your judgment to avoid judging them based on their looks.

2) Analyze their behavior in different situations

Once we observe the appearance of the person of our interest, we need to focus on their behavior to understand them psychologically.

In fact, behavior is the second thing that we usually notice about a person.

The truth is that the behavior of a person can tell us so much about them because it’s a reflection of the way they think, how they feel, and even the goals that they have in life.

And I’m sure you know that people can’t hide their true intentions from us! We have a natural ability to read people’s intentions and emotions from the way they behave.

So, try to observe their behavior and analyze it based on the following questions:

  • What do they do?
  • How do they behave?
  • What are their actions like?
  • What are they up to?

A person’s behavior is what they actually do. It can tell you a lot about the way that they think, feel, and behave.

Their actions are more objective than their appearance. That’s why observing a person’s behavior is better than simply looking at them and making assumptions.

It will also help you understand a person psychologically better!

But how can you actually read their behavior?

You may argue that people can fake their behavior and make themselves seem like someone else just for the sake of being liked or accepted by others.

Yes, I totally agree with you. However, there’s a way to understand whether they’re faking it or not.

And that’s by analyzing their body language.

But before I do, I want you to know that people usually act differently in different settings and around different people.

While that’s completely normal, analyzing their behavior in different situations is also a great way to understand a person psychologically.

So, try to observe that person in different settings with different people and see how they behave.

If you notice that they’re changing their behavior drastically in every situation, then it might be a sign that they’re faking it.

3) Observe body language and facial expressions

Now let’s discuss another important strategy to understand a person psychologically and see whether they’re faking their behavior or not.

It’s a really powerful strategy, and I’m sure you’ll find it useful.

The truth is that the entire body of a person can give us an idea about their personality and behavior.

You can learn a lot about a person by simply looking at their body language. It’s true!

Can you imagine that we communicate more with our bodies than with our words?

Well, it turns out that 70-93% of our communication is non-verbal.

And that’s why it’s important to understand how to read people and interpret the meaning of their body language.

In other words, you need to pay attention to the way they move their bodies and the gestures they make while talking with you or interacting with others. 

For example, the way they move can tell us a lot about what they’re thinking and feeling at any given moment.

Not only body language but also facial expressions can also be a great source of information.

Yes, facial expressions can also tell us a lot about a person’s behavior.

For example, if you see that a person is making an angry face or that their eyebrows are furrowed, it might mean that they’re mad about something.

Or if you see that someone is smiling at you and their eyes are gleaming with happiness, then it means they’re genuinely happy to see you.

So, instead of just listening to what the person is saying, you can also observe their facial expressions and body language to see how they feel.

For example, let’s say that you’re talking to a friend who seems really happy, and she’s smiling widely.

You might think that she’s really excited to be around you, but in reality, she might be faking her emotions. In this case, her facial expressions and body language are telling you a different story than her words.

That’s why it’s important to observe a person’s body language and facial expressions so you can get a more accurate picture of how they’re feeling.

So, try to observe the way people move and how they make facial expressions while interacting with others in order to understand whether they’re faking their behavior or not

It’ll help you understand them psychologically better.

4) Listen to their speech patterns

Did you know that you can understand a person’s psychology by listening to their speech patterns?

As it turns out, certain speech patterns can indicate certain psychological traits.

So guess what?

After assessing and analyzing the way they look and behave, now it’s time to start observing the way they speak and the words they use.

You can learn a lot about a person by paying attention to the way they speak and the words they use. 

For example, you can tell how intelligent someone is just by listening to how they speak.

If you hear that someone is using complex words and sentences, then it means that they’re smart and well-educated.

Or if someone uses simple, short sentences and slang words, then it means that they’re not very smart or educated. 

So, try to answer these questions:

  • How do people speak?
  • Is it loud and clear, or soft and gentle?
  • Do they have a certain accent that you can notice right away?
  • And what about their vocabulary? Do they use simple words or complex ones?

There are a few things about speech patterns that can reveal hidden things about this person and help you understand them psychologically.

For example:

  • A person who has a high volume of speech may be extraverted and uninhibited. – A person who has a higher pitch in their voice may be an introvert.
  • A person who has a fast rate of speech may be very anxious or impulsive.
  • A person who has a slower rate of speech may have a high degree of conscientiousness.

If you can identify speech patterns, you can better understand a person’s psychology.

Sounds impressive, right?

So, pay attention to how people speak so you can learn more about them psychologically.

It’s like learning their language or dialect! And if you want to be able to understand people better, start observing their speech patterns!

pexels jopwell 2422293 10 ways to understand a person psychologically (practical guide)

5) Ask questions, and be a good listener

Nevertheless, focusing only on the patterns of speech won’t help you fully understand someone.

That’s because there are still things that you need to know about a person, and that’s what their answers will tell you.

So, here’s the thing:

When you want to understand a person psychologically, try asking them more questions and being a good listener.

This will help you understand their thoughts and feelings, so you can respond to them effectively.

Let’s say that you’re talking to a friend who just broke up with her boyfriend.

She’s upset and frustrated, and she keeps saying she wishes she would’ve broken up with him sooner.

You can respond to her more effectively if you ask her questions and listen closely to her answers.

For example, you can say, “I’m so sorry that happened. How long were you guys together?” Or, “What made you decide to break up with him?”

Then, while she’s talking, try to understand her thoughts and feelings so you can respond to her in a helpful way.

In either case, you need to make sure that you listen to them carefully.

How is this possible?

The best way to listen mindfully when trying to understand a person psychologically is to be present at the moment.

This means not thinking about what happened yesterday, what you have to do tomorrow, or how someone treated you today.

Instead, focus on the here and now and try to be as fully engaged in the conversation as possible.

Ask them questions about their current experiences, what they like doing in their free time, or even about their goals and dreams for the future. 

And be a good listener as they respond to your questions! Listen closely, so you can understand them better. 

And remember: the reason we often fail to understand people is that we simply don’t listen to them as carefully as we should.

Often, we’re too busy thinking about something else or not paying attention. We’re just waiting for the other person to finish talking so they can start speaking again! 

But being a good listener is the only way to truly understand someone.

6) Listen actively

Now let’s focus on one more communication technique that you need to master if you’re aiming to understand a person psychologically.

Active listening is all about responding to the person you’re talking to. In fact, it’s a technique used by counselors and therapists to build rapport and trust with their clients.

When you actively listen, you’re showing the other person that you’re interested in what they have to say and encouraging them to open up further.

While it’s important to listen passively (so that you don’t interrupt them while they’re talking), active listening is all about letting the other person know that you understand them and are trying to help, even if they don’t realize it.

Therefore, this powerful communication technique will help you understand your friend’s thoughts and feelings, so you can respond to them more effectively.

Imagine that your friend is really upset because someone at work made a comment that made her feel really bad. You can respond to her better by actively listening to her.

For example, you can say: “I’m so sorry that happened. I know how you must have felt!” Or, “What did he say exactly?”

Then, while she’s talking, try to understand her thoughts and feelings so you can respond to her in a helpful way.

However, it’s not always easy to actively listen because it requires specific skills.

For example, you need to be able to ask the right questions and know when to say something or when to stay silent.

Still, let me give you a few practical tips to understand how you can listen actively and understand others’ thoughts and feelings:

  • Maintain eye contact with the speaker.
  • Ask questions about what they told you. 
  • Repeat the main points of their story in your own words.
  • Listen without judgment
  • Provide support and be empathetic

That way, you can show this person that you care about what they have to say, and as a result, you’ll find it easier to understand them psychologically.

7) Be aware of the person’s communication style

Speaking of communication, understanding a person is not only about how you listen or what they say. It’s also about how they speak and listen.

When you understand a person’s communication style, you can respond to them more effectively.

For example, there are two communication styles that psychologists often talk about:

  • The first style is called “expressive,” and it’s associated with high levels of emotion.
  • The second style is called “informational,” and it’s associated with low levels of emotion.

Knowing which communication style your friend uses can help you respond to people more effectively, and it can also help you understand their personality traits.

What’s more, being aware of the person’s communication style can help you determine whether they’re an extrovert or an introvert.

For example, I’m an introvert, and I like to speak in a calm tone.

However, if you’re an extrovert and you speak loudly, I might feel overwhelmed.

Or maybe I’ll find it hard to understand you because your tone of voice is too fast for me.

Therefore, understanding a person means paying attention to how they speak and listen – so that you can communicate better with them.

And if you notice that this person is more introverted than extroverted, it might be a good idea to take turns speaking rather than having one person talk all the time (like most people do).

That way, they will feel more comfortable talking because they are not overwhelmed by the pace of the conversation.

However, being aware of their communication styles does not reveal everything about introversion and extraversion.

Instead, you can also understand a wide range of their personality traits, such as their emotional intelligence, their ability to control their emotions, and their level of honesty.

8) Consider their beliefs and values

Other than personality traits, another important aspect of understanding a person psychologically is to understand their beliefs and values.

Beliefs and values are factors that heavily influence our personality traits.

Values are the things that a person considers important in life, and they can change depending on the circumstances.

For example, a person might value their career over their social life if they have recently been fired from work.

Or, a person might value eating healthy food over saving money if they’re trying to lose weight.

Someone might believe that helping others is good (their belief), and if this is the case, they’re likely to be kind (their value).

So, here’s what you should know:

Beliefs and values are two powerful aspects of a person’s psychology.

They help us understand the reasons behind a person’s actions and decisions, which can be especially helpful in conflict situations.

For example: Let’s say that two of your friends are fighting about who should host a party. One of your friends thinks that she should host the party at her apartment, but the other friend thinks her house is a better location.

If you know what they value most, you can help them come to an agreement.

For example, if your friend who wants to host the party values having a nice place to bring people over, you might suggest that the other friend’s house is a better location because it’s bigger and has a nicer kitchen.

In either case, the most important thing is that values are deeply rooted in our personalities and therefore make us who we are as individuals.

Therefore, it’s really important for us to make sure that we understand our friends’ values so we can help them better!

That’s because these factors define how they act, think, and feel.

9) Pay attention to their interests and hobbies

The next tip that I’d like to offer you might sound a bit trivial, but it can indeed help you understand a person psychologically.

I’m talking about paying attention to their interests and hobbies.

When you get to know a person better, you’ll find that they have many different interests and hobbies.

For example, some people like to read books while others like to play sports or games.

The key here is that you can also understand a person’s psychology by paying attention to their interests and hobbies.

After all, interests and hobbies are an extension of a person’s personality. They provide insight into a person’s values and interests, which helps us understand the reasons why the person does the things they do.

While goals and dreams are often confused with one another, both of these concepts play an important role in understanding someone psychologically.

In fact, if you want to understand a person psychologically, it’s important for you to pay attention to the things that they enjoy doing in their free time.

pexels jose mieres 847078 10 ways to understand a person psychologically (practical guide)

In other words, if your friend likes playing chess or eating sushi, then it’s likely that they will also enjoy reading books about chess or watching movies about sushi.

So, here are some useful tips:

First of all, don’t assume that your friend will enjoy the same activities as you do just because you like them!

Secondly, make sure that you get really specific when thinking about what your friends enjoy doing in their spare time.

And lastly, make sure to pay attention to why they enjoy this particular hobby or activity and how this is related to their personality.

10) Practice non-judgmental thinking

I’d like to finish this practical guide for understanding a person psychologically with a final tip that I think is very important.

In fact, this tip can be seen as the most important of all since it will help you understand your friends better.

I’m talking about practicing non-judgmental thinking.

When you’re trying to understand a person psychologically, it’s important to practice non-judgmental thinking.

As a matter of fact, judgmental thinking involves the belief that one person is superior to another and that this superiority makes them better than others.

This means that you don’t judge a person’s thoughts and feelings, and you don’t judge yourself for having thoughts and feelings.

In other words, you take a non-judgmental stance in your own mind, and this creates an environment where you can explore your thoughts and feelings without feeling shame or guilt about them.

Why is it important to understand the psychology of a person?

Well, when you practice non-judgmental thinking, you will be able to understand someone’s psychological perspective and realize how they actually think and feel.

That’s why you need to be objective and open-minded if you’ve decided to understand a person psychologically.

In fact, you need to be open-minded about the possibility that others’ thoughts and feelings are different from yours.

In other words, you need to be non-judgmental in your own mind and realize that people have different perspectives than you do.

And lastly, practicing non-judgmental thinking will help you understand your friend better.

After all, being non-judgmental in your own mind will make it easier for you to understand a person psychologically. Why?

Because it allows you to accept their point of view without feeling ashamed or guilty about it.

Final thoughts

All in all, understanding a person’s psychology can be difficult, but it’s essential for strong relationships.

Whether it’s your partner, a family member, or a friend, understanding how a person thinks and feels is an important part of connecting with them. 

Hopefully, with these practical tips and tricks, you can learn how to gain insight into a person’s psychological makeup.

From reading body language to asking the right questions, these tips will help you develop a better understanding of those around you.

Nato Lagidze

Nato Lagidze

Nato is a writer and a researcher with an academic background in psychology. She investigates self-compassion, emotional intelligence, psychological well-being, and the ways people make decisions. Writing about recent trends in the movie industry is her other hobby, alongside music, art, culture, and social influences. She dreams to create an uplifting documentary one day, inspired by her experiences with strangers.

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