An exercise to help you understand others, reduce arguments, and become more aware of yourself

August 28, 2014 by Joshua
in Awareness, Exercises, Nonjudgment, Tips

Today’s exercise builds on the one in my post, “An exercise in knowing your beliefs; so you can change them,” so please do that one first. It’s easier for most people, more general, and develops skills that you can use for this post’s exercise. Still, you can do this on its own if you want.

It’s similar:

  • It only takes a few minutes a day
  • It costs nothing
  • You don’t have to tell people you’re doing it
  • It reveals a lot of how you view the world
  • It helps you become less attached to things and ideas you don’t like

The exercise

1. Carry a notebook or some paper with you every day for a week.

2. When you to notice a belief that another person holds, write that belief.

That’s it. It costs nothing and takes a few minutes a day. At the end you’ll have a list of many beliefs that permeate your world.

Some beliefs you’ll see once in that week. Others you’ll see daily. Some more than daily. Some will annoy you. Others will calm you. The point is to record them without guilt, blame, or any judgment — just to record them.

The exercise isn’t to sit still and trying to write out a bunch at once, though you can. Try noting them as they come up in regular life. That way you don’t just get a list of other people’s beliefs, valuable as that list is, you also develop the skill of identifying others’ beliefs in the moment. If you’ve gotten into arguments you later regretted and later wished you could retract things you said, you know the value of identifying disagreements in the moment.

Like behavioral exercises, you don’t just do this one for the outcome, you also do it to improve your skills.


Here a some beliefs I saw in people around me. I’m not saying everyone has them, nor that I endorse or condemn them, just that I see people behaving consistently with them. Again, the point of the exercise is to increase awareness, not to judge, nor to try to change anyone.

  • The best way to get a job is to send out lots of resumes.
  • I’m going to die so I might as well eat what I want.
  • Sharing emotion creates intimacy, whether the other person feels comfortable hearing it or not.
  • If I talk faster, I’ll communicate more and people will listen more.
  • The more things I say yes to, the more I’ll do and the better my life will be.
  • I’ll make money first, then do what I want.

What to expect

You’ll get different results than these examples.

You’ll probably notice only a few in the first couple days, then more each day as you develop the skill. If you find yourself overwhelmed with recognizing beliefs, you probably have the skill down. You don’t have to write every belief you notice, but keep writing the whole week to get a fuller cross-section of the beliefs of people in your environment, only writing a few per day if you want to save time.

You may notice that your awareness and understanding of the people you interact with most changes. I predict you’ll understand them more, and develop more empathy and compassion. Along the way you may feel some self-righteousness.

Let me know how your experience goes.

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