Qual Street

Dedication to the answer


Get some perspective!

Get some perspective!


I’m reading Mindwise by Nicholas Epley

I’ve got to the part where he reveals how we can better understand what others think, believe, feel and want. Epley says: we need to ‘get’ perspective (rather than ‘taking’ someone’s perspective – imagining how they feel about something).

We get perspective by talking to people and asking them questions. And… talking to people face to face is the optimum way of ‘getting’ because the written word is so easy to misconstrue. Conversation allows us to connect.

We need to be incredibly careful about how we talk and listen and interpret what we’ve heard because there are big barriers that stand in the way of ‘getting’. (Over half of Epley’s book demonstrates for us how bad we are at understanding other people’s minds).

Get set to be truthful

One barrier is honesty – people need to be in the right set-up to be honest, frank and open. They need to feel that there is no come-back for telling the truth, that there won’t be hurting feelings by being frank. Objective sharing in research is therefore really important so people can understand the need for frankness and honesty. Reminding people they withhold thoughts could be an important way to trigger openness too.

Set the questions up right

We also need to recognise that people aren’t perfect readers of their own minds or their own intentions. We need to ground questions in decisions based in the here and now, and talk about what their behaviour is rather than ‘why’ it is.

Get a talking stick

We need too to make sure we’ve actually understood what is being said – what the intention in the words are. One answer lies in using the speaker-listener technique. Each person reiterates the other person’s point of view. According to Epley this is how Indian tribes negotiate – using a talking stick. One person has the stick, and whilst they have it they can speak. They then pass the stick to the next person who has to recap on what’s been said, and when the previous speaker agrees that they new person has ‘got’ what was said they can move on to make their point.

Epley makes an interesting case about how we aren’t great at interpreting what’s going on in people’s minds – we need to actually ask them in order to understand them.

It’s great to think that the core of what qualitative researchers do – asking questions and listening to answers is one of the secrets behind understanding other people’s minds…


Kath Rhodes, Qual Street Owner

I love love learning and so I invest time and resources with Ambreen and Claire into exploring social psychology, neuro science, creativity and new techniques in research. Read all about it and help yourself to the ideas that will deliver your business the insight it needs

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@Qualstreet on 17 March 2023