Book review: How to Know a Person

There’s a psychological theory, that the quality of our relationships has the biggest single impact on our life satisfaction. Forget money, worldwide recognition or achieving our goals. All these things pale in comparison to the massive impact meaningful connections with friends and family provide. In his book, How to Know a Person: The art of seeing others deeply and being seen, David Brooks delves deep into the topic. If our relationships are so important to our wellbeing, how can we improve them?

From overcoming the mental obstacles that stop us connecting with a person (ego, anxiety and a fixed mind set) to being a wonderful listener for a friend in need. Brooks shows us how to create, develop and sustain long lasting relationships. And he does all this in a way that’s both informative, entertaining and at times very, very moving. He shies away from nothing. In How to Know a Person we explore Jung’s theories, and then how to support a suicidal friend. Everything you could want to know about creating and nurturing beautiful relationships is between these covers.

A counsellor’s perspective

As a therapist I couldn’t fail to notice the person centred approach to building a relationship that Brooks recommends. And if you’ve picked up a counselling book I’m sure the Rogerian approach is familiar to you too. That is: let the other person set the pace, focus your attention on them completely, don’t advise but walk alongside in a non-judgemental way. And above all trust the relationship will unfold. Yet, as I looked at the index I saw Carl Rogers didn’t get so much as a mention, let alone a credit.

Ultimately though, I think you’ll get a lot out of this book. It’s provides the reassurance we all need that others want meaningful connections as much as you do. And no matter the slight discomfort or vulnerability you have to endure, in the end it will be worth it. Because good relationships are there own reward.

As Brooks writes, “The ultimate gift we can give another person is to know them deeply.”

Three women in a group standing up and laughing in a friendly way together.

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