Tips and Tricks for Understanding Other People

Steve Williamson, VP Digital Marketing and Content, eRep, Inc.
Monday, May 20, 2024
Tips and Tricks for Understanding Other People

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Why did he do that? What motivated her to say such a thing? Dealing with other people's behavior can be tough enough, but understanding the underlying reasons goes a long way. Here are some tips and tricks to help.

It's been said, "If someone behaves in a way you don't like, you can't change them, you can only accept them as they are or leave."

Life isn't that simple. Acceptance may incur additional stress or even abuse, and leaving is not always an option.

What if the bad behavior is coming from your boss and you really need your job to pay rent?

Although we can't change other people directly, sometimes we can express our frustration and the other person might decide to change on their own. (See our suite of articles on Communication for ideas.)

Understanding why people behave the way they do can feel like teaching a cat how to play guitar.

Although human behavior is an incredibly complex and fascinating subject, there are some universal forces that drive the way people act. Understanding those forces can help you figure out why people behave the way they do.

For instance, people's behavior is often a way to have a positive experience or to avoid a negative one. Simple enough, right? But a positive experience for one person might be a profoundly unpleasant experience for another.

Some people enjoy public speaking while many others find it intensely stressful.
The first thing to learn is that human behavior is largely unconscious and unintentional. We react instinctively to most situations.

Our preferences for what we like and don't like are essentially hardwired and can be very difficult (some would say impossible) to change.

If you don't like raw oysters, you may be able to force yourself to eat one but you realistically cannot force your brain into enjoying the experience.

Simple Guides to Human Behavior

There are four categories of innate emotional hardwiring you can learn about that will provide valuable insight into what motivates and drives behavior in others as well as yourself.

These personality drivers are unconscious. They don't define your aptitudes but they do describe your preferences both for what you enjoy and what you dislike.

Each person has a particular combination of these four personality categories called core value energies, and it is the ratio of these core value energies within each person — coupled with their life experiences — that makes them unique.

Core value energies are defined in the Core Values Index™ psychometric assessment. It is the world's most accurate psychometric assessment yet it only takes about 8 minutes to complete. For more information, go to

When trying to figure people out, the trick is to spot the core value energy that is playing a primary or dominant role in that person's personality.

Four Personality Drivers

The first core value energy is called Builder. People with the Builder core value energy primarily dominating their personality are motivated by action and power. They like to get things done and they rarely have doubts about their ability to handle any given situation that comes up. Their primary motivation is to make things happen and build great things, both literally and metaphorically. They are always ready to take charge.

Those with Builder energy as the driving force behind their personality (pun intended) will get frustrated with delay or anything that takes a long time to accomplish. If you have to explain something to a Builder, be brief. Things that take a lot of patience frustrates them. Ultimately what a Builder fears most is being made to feel powerless. Making them feel powerless will cause a Builder to react in a strongly negative way, usually through intimidation.

Understanding someone who's primary core value energy is Builder means realizing that what motivates them is action and power, and what scares them is feeling powerless. Knowing these two key points will help you work and communicate with a Builder more effectively.

The second core value energy is called Merchant. These folks are driven by a need to be loved and worthy of love. This cannot happen in isolation, so an inherent part of their personality is the need to be connected and part of a group.

Saying to a Merchant, "Join us! We'd love to have you," brings them joy. This validates their reason for being. Including a Merchant and valuing their emotional contribution to the group is like clear spring water to someone dying of thirst.

What's the opposite of love and belonging? When a Merchant feels unloved, unworthy of being loved, or isolated from the group, they react through emotional manipulation. They will deftly manipulate others to get what they want. Avoiding this feeling of exclusion or being unloved is a powerful negative motivator for a Merchant.

When you learn what drives the Merchant core value energy in others (or yourself), your relationships with them on a professional or personal level can be more positive and effective.

Everyone has a particular ratio of four broad personality categories called core value energies. Understanding how these core value energies work will help you improve your personal and professional relationships.

The third core value energy is called Innovator. As the name implies, these folks are driven by the desire to solve problems. Being the biggest source of wisdom and innovation in the room is a huge source of happiness to them. In fact, it is their primary motivator. They will be engaged and enthusiastic about activities and situations where their ability to solve problems is highly valued.

Motivating someone with a lot of Innovator core value energy in their personality profile can take the form of expressing confidence in their ability to find the solution to challenging situations. Asking them, "I've got a tough problem. Can you help me find the answer?" lights up their soul.

The biggest demotivator in people is the opposite of their biggest motivator.

What's the opposite of wisdom? Being made to feel foolish or incapable of solving a problem is an Innovator's biggest fear and source of stress.

If you are working with an Innovator and they are reacting in what's called their conflict resolution strategy of interrogation — asking a lot of leading or accusatory questions — stop your current approach and deescalate immediately. Recognize that this individual is feeling unwise or that their contribution of providing solutions is not being valued.

An Innovator will be unmotivated to engage or contribute to efforts where their ability to solve problems is unwanted, unvalued, or dismissed. Telling an Innovator, "I don't think you are capable of figuring this out," will be like a wooden stake to their heart (splinters and all). Recognize that an Innovator wants the opportunity to find the answer to your problem (they have a seemingly limitless motivation to find the perfect solution), even if all you do is ask their advice on a simple matter. "What do you think?" goes a long way.

One of the best tools available to help you figure people out (and figure yourself out) is the Core Values Index psychometric assessment.

The final core value energy represents the need to gather data and knowledge. Making decisions, establishing connections with others, and finding clever solutions to challenging problems doesn't motivate the people we call Bankers. Instead, they want to collect information and share it with those they feel justly deserve to receive it. (Bankers have a strong sense of justice and are also really good at spotting and avoiding risk.)

If you are working with someone that has a lot of Banker energy in their personality, asking them, "Do you know ...?" will get them enthused and engaged right away. Even if they don't have the answer, the opportunity to research it (thoroughly!) and come back with the requested information will inspire and empower them.

What's the opposite of knowledge? Make a Banker feel ignorant and they will go into their conflict resolution strategy of aloof judgment. They will go silent and disengage with anyone who makes them feel that way.

Nothing will disengage a Banker from the group's activities quicker than being made to feel ignorant.

Don't bother asking a Banker to take charge or make decisions; that's a Builder's job. Don't ask the Banker to get everyone organized and motivated like a team cheerleader; that's what Merchants do. And don't say to the Banker, "How would you solve this problem?" That's what Innovators are for. But when you need the discerning eye of someone who can spot risk a mile away, or to thoroughly research a topic and become knowledge experts in that field, those with primary Banker core value energies are there to make the difference.

What's the secret to understanding other people?

Human behavior is complex, but there are some simple things to look for that will improve your communication and ability to work together.

Learn to spot the presence of four different core value energies in other people, and you will have key tips on hand to understand what motivates or demotivates them. Provide the former and avoid the latter and you'll go a long way in figuring people out.

Core Values Index™ and CVI™ are trademarks of Taylor Protocols, Inc.

Go to to learn more about the CVI or to take the Core Values Index assessment.

Employees hired with a CVI that closely matches a Top Performer Profile often outperform candidates hired without a TPP match by 200% or more. → Learn more

Steve Williamson

Steve Williamson

Innovator/Banker - VP Digital Marketing and Content, eRep, Inc.

Steve has a career in project management, software development and technical team leadership spanning three decades. He is the author of a series of fantasy novels called The Taesian Chronicles (, and when he isn't writing, he enjoys cycling, old-school table-top role-playing games, and buzzing around the virtual skies in his home-built flight simulator.

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