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How to Really Know a Person

by | Feb 21, 2024 | 6 comments

David Brooks talks to me while I’m doing my gym workout.

David, a bestselling author, reads his latest book, How To Know a Person – The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen, into my ear buds while I’m lifting weights.

He’s making lots of sense on how to best navigate through our personal and professional pursuits.

In this short blog series I’ll share some of Brooks’ findings on qualities that make it hard to see others; and qualities that make it easy to see other people in all their fullness.

Today I’ll focus on the former – what Brooks defines as Diminishers.

Diminishers: How not to see a person

➜  Egotism – Being self-centered.

A Diminisher is all about, “Let me tell you my opinion.” Brooks comments that many people are unable to step outside of their own points of view which shows up as a lack of curiosity about other people.

➜  The Lesser-Minds Problem – Perceiving that you are more complicated, subtle and high-minded than others.

You have access to all of your thoughts/motivations and just a tiny access to other people’s minds shared by what they say out loud.

For example, Brooks writes, when business school students answered why they were going into business the common response was, “I care about doing something worthwhile.” When asked why others were going into business, they replied, “For the money.” Lesser motivations, lesser minds!

➜  Instant Size-up – Making generalizations about groups and cultural trends.  

“The size-up is what you do when you first meet someone: You check out their look, and you immediately start making judgments about them…. Most of us have inborn proclivities that prevent us from perceiving others accurately.”

All in all, Diminishers make it hard to really see others. Next week I’ll share some of Brooks’ set of skills for being an Illuminator, the ability to see others in their fullness. It does not just happen.

© 2024 Karen Cortell Reisman, All rights reserved 


  1. Nancy Kaplan

    You have motivated me to get this audiobook and get outside walking while I learn. Thanks!

    • Karen Cortell Reisman

      Nancy – that’s great! Your walks will go by fast as you listen to Brooks. Let me know what resonates with you.

  2. Tom

    The great thing about your thoughts Karen is you always make me think and look at my behaviors to others. Way to go to make this a better world. Bless you.

    • Karen Cortell Reisman

      Thanks Tom. Brooks’ book makes me think as well about how to relate to others. We will continue to think and learn together.
      Warmly, Karen

  3. Joel Litman

    Also believe diminishers may lack self esteem because it’s all about themselves in a one-sided conversation. Great terminology.

    • Karen Cortell Reisman

      So true. I like Brooks’ terminology and self-involved people do diminish positive back ‘n forth relationships.

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