At a young age I became a people watcher. As a child, I remember my mother sitting me and my siblings down on benches around town to watch people walking by. She would tell us to sit quietly and see if we could figure out what each person was thinking, feeling and what their mood was. Today, I have honed that skill and it has helped me greatly in relationships.
Here are 50 techniques from the late Vernon Howard to help you learn this gift too. Enjoy!
50 Ways To See Through People
by Vernon Howard
You have now set sail on a fascinating voyage. Your discoveries will be rich and abundant.
You have trouble with other people because you don’t see thru them. When learning to see thru them you will not have trouble with them. Seeing is freeing. There it is.
Think of past occasions when you were deceived and hurt by relatives and friends. Go ahead. Pause in your reading long enough to recall those times when someone took your money or happiness or confidence. It is a healthy practice to bring these experiences up to the surface of your mind. It permits spiritual sunshine to work its cure.
Now here is something magnificent. The wisdom about human ways that you can obtain is overwhelmingly powerful. It is a thousand times stronger than any shocking or agonizing experience you have ever had. Past defeats and pains have no chance whatever against the pure knowledge available to you. This new wisdom is stronger than any human betrayal, any human cruelty, any human cunning — and deceitful human beings know it. They tremble before the Spirit of Truth — but when you see life from Truth’s lofty level you will never again tremble before any man or woman.
Notice something. Notice that deep down inside you have serious suspicions about the people around you. You are haunted by the feeling that they are not what they say they are. You are wary of people, including those who are supposed to be especially good or wise or loving. You will be glad to hear that your suspicions are absolutely right. They are really more than suspicions — they are friendly facts which are trying to break thru to protect you. Let them do so. Let them set you free.
Lots of people don’t care if they get you into trouble, as long as it returns them some kind of reward. They actually get an ego-thrill out of causing grief to others. Notice that this is one of the vague suspicions you have always had about men and women. No longer hide it away inside yourself. This is an excellent example of how self-knowledge frees you from yourself and therefore from others, for all liberty is really self-liberty.
Remember, anger or bitterness toward those who have hurt you will block your path toward higher ground. You can have anger toward people or you can have freedom from people, but you can’t have both. So set aside any negative attitudes and concentrate on your truly profitable aim of building a new inner self.
Never hesitate to see thru people. Go as far as you can as fast as you can. Your entrance into a new world depends upon it. Some students of human nature are reluctant about exposing falseness and weakness in others. They think they should not see so much badness. The opposite is right. You should and must know all about hurtful human behavior, for only exposure of the wrong can invite the right. The real peril is to not see things as they are, for delusion is dangerous to the deluded. Believing that a shark is a dolphin is both foolish and unnecessary. When a wise man sees a shark he knows it is a shark. Since when is it wrong to see right?
So don’t feel guilty about seeing thru people. Feel delighted. You will know what every truly happy and healthy person knows, which is this: Insight into charlatanism is a definite first step toward a life that is authentically higher, genuinely spiritual. Diligence toward the discovery of deception is part of the upward path.
So persist in spite of everything that presently appears to be an obstacle. It will fade away. You are in the right place. You are doing the right thing. You are passing thru an astonishingly beautiful experience that will change your life forever.
Do you think you have problems with other people? That is what it appears to be from one viewpoint, from your present thinking. But there is another way of viewing things that can be a pleasant revelation of solutions.
When anyone has problems with others it is because he first has problems with himself. All difficulties are really personal difficulties, though it is an unwise human habit to glare outward and blame someone else. You are your own world; therefore, when that world is free there is no other world to distress you. The external world of suffering exists only for those who have an internal world of suffering. A free spirit sees and understands the outer world but he is not part of it.
Take someone who thinks he has sex problems with another person. The fact is, no one has ever has trouble with someone else regarding sex. He has a problem with himself. If his mind and spirit were clear his sex life would be so free he would never need to give it thought. We are forced to resort to troubled thought only because we have not yet ascended to a loftier level of life. A man dwelling on a quiet mountaintop does not think about the noise in the big city far below.
All this information is powerful and workable. But there is another way of describing it. This is the way of good cheer! Why? Why, because you need no longer strain and stumble in your attempt to find your way around the world. All the needed answers are within yourself. You can stay home and let them come to you, which will surely happen. Then you will confidently know your way thru all of life.
Truth is like the captain of a ship on a voyage to a new world. All along the way the ship approaches hundreds of strange islands inhabited by fierce savages. Knowing all about them the competent Captain gives a slight turn to the wheel, and the ship passes safely beyond the savages.
In a similar way, Truth knows everything about the savages inside the human mind — nothing is hidden from it. It sees and understands every hidden human desire and motive. Truth is totally safe from the fierce warriors on the islands because it has nothing to do with them. It lives in another place.
All you need to do is start your voyage of life-conquest. And you can start exactly where you are. Your very wish for discovery is the request that brings the Captain to your ship.
Beyond the savage islands is another land, a Paradise Island. Here are fifty wise and reliable maps for your successful voyage toward it.
1. ROYAL SECRET
A good king ruled over a great castle. Over the years many enemy armies tried to break down the walls and loot the castle, but all met defeat. No one knew the secret of the king’s strength and serenity. But one day at a royal ceremony he was asked about his secret for success. The king replied, “I know more about my castle than the enemy knows.” That is also your great secret for quiet success with people — learn all about your castle — your own mind.
2. NATURAL LAW
Count the times you have exclaimed, “Please leave me alone!” You have a right to that statement. But people lead such empty lives they find it hard to leave others alone. And of course they loudly justify their insolent interference. Realize that intrusion into your life by any person or organization is a violation of spiritual and natural law. Value this law and it will show you exactly how to keep your life your life.
3. STUDY FACES
Make it your profitable habit to carefully study facial expressions. You can see the entire human drama in a face; you can tell its owner’s history. Since faces make secret thoughts visible, they reveal needed facts about the person. You can glimpse suppressed anger, boredom, pretense of happiness. Even an expressionless face tells a story, for example he is hiding his real attitudes, or he enjoys baffling you with his blank stare.
4. THE WOLVES
Here is some astonishingly helpful information for seeing thru people. False men and women want only false things from other men and women. Since falseness is all they value it is all they can desire. Now, if you have nothing false in your nature they have no motive for approaching you. They are like hungry wolves who have no interest in an empty sheep pen. You can turn away any false person simply by being a true person.
5. A WISE QUESTION
There was a farmer with several sons. The boys constantly asked permission to visit the farm next door, explaining that they wanted to borrow a tractor or study the harvest. The farmer always replied, “Now that I’ve heard you out, what is the real reason?” The farmer knew that a pretty girl lived next door. Question the motives of those who make requests of you. Discover what they really want. You may not want to give it.
6. PEOPLE IN POWER
A certain number of people seek power over other people in a desperate attempt to find themselves. They fail, for self-discovery is spiritual in nature, not social or political. Authoritatively telling other people what to do is their distraction from an inner emptiness they can never fill. Just see them as anxious men and women who took a wrong turn along the path of life. Don’t tremble before these fear-filled people.
7. BE IN CHARGE
You are carefully studied by everyone you meet. While appearing casual, the friend or stranger is intensely interested in discovering a certain fact about you. He wants to know your weak point. Can you be bullied, confused, flattered, bluffed, romanticized, soothed, shamed? That is where he will attack, wishing to catch you off guard, hoping to make you yield. So watch him watch you. See what is going on. That puts you in charge of the game.
8. A PROFOUND FACT
A teacher of higher truths was told by a new student, “The world deceives me so easily and so often. How can I see thru others?” The teacher replied, “See thru yourself.” This is one of the most powerfully practical truths ever spoken. Anyone who obeys its message will one day have a trouble-free life. The admission of what is wrong within us makes room for the right. End self-deception and other-deception ends.
9. DECEPTIVE WORDS
There is no end of ways to deceive and hurt people by using tricky words. See thru people who use these methods: a. They promise future rewards they never intend to deliver. b. Self-interest is all they have, but they smoothly pretend interest in you. c. They build excitement in you, hoping it will distract you from their schemes. d. Discovering what you want to hear, they let you hear it. e. They count on their pleasant words to cover their unpleasant motives.
10. ALERTNESS IS SAFETY
This method works for you all day long. The evidence of someone’s wrongness is within the person himself. You need only watchfully let him reveal what he is hiding, like a policeman watching for a thief in a crowd to make a mistake. Why be alert to wrongness in others? Because wrongness radiates outwardly in a circle which can include you. You can meet negative radiations by seeing them as wrong for you, which defeats them.
11. WOMAN IN LOVE
A woman complained that every time she fell in love with a man she ended up betrayed and heartbroken. It seemed impossible for her to break the painful pattern of meeting, quarreling, parting. One day she met a wise man who asked her, “Are you in love with him or merely with your own hopeful ideas about him?” She soon saw how her own foolish imagination invited grief, which is what stopped her grief. As she saw thru herself, she also saw thru the problem.
12. BE AT EASE
Feeling uneasy with others is a habit you need no longer endure. A simple correction will keep you at ease with both relatives and friends. Remember, uneasiness is not caused by some mysterious power or charm in the other person. It is simply a mental mistake in which you wrongly attribute superiorty to someone. Your increasing self-wholeness will also increase self-calm in all conditions. Truth ends problems by the dozens on contact.
13. BANISH FEAR
One constant terror is to hear someone demand, “Explain yourself!” You tremble before it. This fear will vanish if you will constantly explain yourself to yourself until you really see what life is all about. You will see that demanders are simply trying to relieve the pressure of their own wrongness. This dismisses them from your life. Now you can live your own life. Living your own life means that your natural energies flow thru you without ego-interference.
14. REAL RESCUE
Notice how often you feel worthless and condemned. The world does all it can to keep you under the weight of self-condemnation. The exploiters then come along and offer you their sinister solutions — for a price, of course. You can escape their schemes. Instead of condemning yourself as stupid, simply realize that you do not as yet understand life. This honest attitude attracts the real rescue of self-insight.
15. STAGE PERFORMANCE
Notice the theatrical devices used in many public activities. The motive is to overwhelm and take over your mind. Notice the use of uniforms, flags, parades, rituals, music. The contrived atmosphere whispers, “See how thrilling and powerful we are? Join us. Submit to our loving care and all will be well with you.” But it won’t. Get out of the theatre fast — for the sake of your happiness. Submission to any staged atmosphere induces a hypnotic spell.
16. SAFETY SIGNAL
You possess a secret weapon which can be developed for strong personal security. It is a sensing that something is wrong. On past occasions you have been with certain people when the feeling arose that everything was not quite right. Even though you could not put it into words you felt uneasy. Release fully this feeling of natural protection. Give alert attention when it rings a friendly warning signal in your mind.
17. A HOAX
Do you crave approval from others? Realize what a dreadful price you pay to society for its crafty smiles and pats on the back. If a million people assured you that they loved you it would not reduce your self-doubt one bit. Just what is this part of you that worries so much about itself? It is something with no real or permanent existence. It is a hoax. Stop believing in it, for then you will stop paying its outrageous price.
18. CLOUDY WEATHER
Want to know what he is really like? Never mind how he behaves when things are going well. Anyone can smile in the sunshine. Watch his behavior when life gets cloudy, when told unpleasant facts about himself, when someone else gets what he wants. Next, watch how he justifies his childish behavior, how he blames others, how he gives himself away in front of your very eyes. Now that you see thru his weakness, you are ready to discover real strength.
19. ENERGY THIEVES
Notice that when you part company with certain people you feel especially tired. You are exhausted because you have been robbed by an energy thief. Having no strength of his own, an energy thief is a definite type of psychological swindler who drains unwary victims. He operates by overstaying his welcome, asking foolish questions, making pointless phone calls. So identify these thieves of your life-strength. It stops this invisible crime against you.
20. THE INVITERS
They send you enthusiastic invitations to an activity or a love affair. They smilingly assure you that getting involved leads to personal fulfillment. So you get involved — and get stuck. The inviter then disappears, leaving you alone to sadly wonder what happened. Remember past griefs that happened like this? From now on, be smarter than they are tricky. Ask, “What do they want from me?” See the trap behind the invitation.
21. THE JUNGLE
A man was lost in a vast jungle. A stranger appeared who offered to lead him to safety, so he followed the stranger. The lost man soon saw that both of them were stumbling in circles. He remained lost after accepting the offers of several other strangers. The thought finally struck him, “My guides are just as lost as I am!” Don’t fear to see that your helpers are helpless. It develops your own inner compass which guides you all the way out of the human jungle.
22. THOUGHTLESS ACTION
Human beings are terribly impatient. They want what they want right now, rarely considering future consequences. See thru those who take advantage of this weakness. They promise instant relief, fast money, immediate pleasure. But since receiving requires paying, will you still value that product or person a month from now? Casually ignore impulse-buying. You won’t lose anything truly valuable.
23. SEEK TRUE VALUES
The world attributes value to delusion because it cannot see the difference between value and delusion. This explains the world’s strife. Withdraw from this chaotic society. Here is how: a. Don’t value something just because everyone else does, such as an aim to become rich. b. Detect the desperation of those who chase popular but empty goals. c. Know that the exposure of delusion removes a heavy weight.
24. DEFEATED FACES
Some people are not happy unless they are miserable. Having a strange love for gloom and doom, they are quite willing to share their sorrows with you. If you say something cheery they strike back, fearful of being robbed of their dramatics. Being sad when others are glad is one way they attract attention. Don’t be influenced by them; don’t let them scare you. You were not born to be unhappy. See that they are all wrong and you will be all right.
25. THE RECIPE
A woman wrote to the publisher of a cookbook, asking for an explanation of a puzzling recipe for a chocolate cake. The publisher replied, “The printer blundered. The recipe doesn’t make sense.” Don’t use society’s recipe for a better life, whether in economics, human relations or anywhere else. The recipe doesn’t make sense. Accept this as the fact it is, and life will at last make perfect sense to you.
26. THE ONLY SECURITY
People know you are insecure, which they energetically exploit. They promise you security in exchange for whatever they want from you. They give you friendship, pensions, clubs, counsel, homes, entertainment, sex — and everyone remains as scared as before. The fact is, no human being can supply you with safety. So you must refuse to believe in human promises. If you do you will find Eternal Truth — and lasting security.
27. SECRETS OF DRESS
Clothing cleverly communicates. People often dress as they do in an attempt to tell you how nice they are — which usually means they are the exact opposite. They use clothes as costumes for their stage performances, hoping for your applause. People dress to appear wise, mysterious, kindly, authoritative, innocent, sexy. But the exterior dress and the interior condition may be miles apart. Even Dracula dressed well.
28. STAY MENTALLY HOME
Ponder the power called attention. You are reading this page right now because of this power. Notice how often people steal your attention with idle remarks and excited exclamations. They don’t care if they interrupt and bother you. It is the same as if they tried to pull you off an upward path. Don’t permit them to tug you away. Learn to remain with your own mind and its higher aims. Sustained attention is power to live as you wish to live. Use it.
29. FACTS AND ACTS
There are two steps toward seeing thru tricky people. First you gather facts about human behavior. Then you act upon your knowledge. Suppose you read that you need protection from your very protectors! Try to see what this means as you mingle socially. Find examples of those who pretend to be on your side while secretly scorning you, such as a dishonest friend. Let facts and acts work for you.
30. CONCEALED THOUGHTS
Do you fear a silent person who won’t let you know how he really feels about something? You anxiously search his face for a clue to his hidden thoughts, but fail. This is a common fear, but fear no more. Firstly, he knows that his silent treatment upsets you, which gives him an unnatural thrill. Secondly, it makes absolutely no difference what he thinks. Why? Because Truth never places your peace and your future at the mercy of anyone else. Never.
31. A COMMON TRAP
Trappers in the jungle conceal their traps from unsuspecting creatures. So do trappers in the human jungle. One of their subtle traps is sprung after you have turned them down. The trap is a hurt look or a disappointed reply. Their aim is to make you feel guilty. Don’t fall for it. Don’t let them pressure you into thinking you owe them something. You don’t. You are never responsible for someone’s disappointment. He is. Leave it that way.
32. MIRACLE METHOD
A method exists that will stop cruel people from ever deceiving and hurting you again. Here it is. Realize that no one can ever attack or hurt your real nature. They can injure only the unseen and self-flattering pictures you have of yourself. Only your imaginary identity of being wise or strong is every pained or insulted. So develop and live from your true nature, for it is as far above human conflict as a star is above earth.
33. CHANGE OF NATURE
Have you ever been nice to someone in order to keep him in your life, only to see him suddenly turn against you? Being nice to someone, pleasing him, has no influence whatever in changing his nature from bad to good. It is useless and unnecessary to try to change others, for nature-change must include self-change. You will never again waste your days or be betrayed if you remember that you have no real need for a harmful or sour man or woman.
34. EXPOSE THE FAKER
As a daily exercise in getting your life back from the smooth fakers, catch them in the act of being phony. Just carefully watch everyone you meet. You will be amazed at how many masks fall away, exposing the faker beneath. Just quietly remark to yourself, “He is pretending to be sincere.” Or maybe he is pretending to be confident, wise, helpful, friendly, calm, respectful, generous, sympathetic, kindly, loyal, courteous, heroic.
35. FACTS ABOUT GUILT
Think of the many times people have tried to make you feel guilty. Recall your shame and self-doubt. This is exactly why they accused you, for anyone confused by guilt is easy to deceive and control. This is a favorite device with exploiters, so be on guard. Accusers are anxious to make you look guilty so that by contrast they can appear innocent. They are not innocent, but you can be guiltless by devoting yourself to Higher Truth.
36. NEVER FEAR ANGER
You need never again tremble before an angry person. The method is simple and guaranteed. Just understand that anger is weakness, not strength. Read that sentence a thousand times if necessary in order to see thru the false power of rage. An angry person is substituting hysteria for intelligence and he is trying to bluff you. Would you fear an angry ape in a zoo? Well, calmly see thru a scared and ridiculous human being who never matured to higher behavior.
37. WATCH THE TRICKS
A famous magician was asked how he fooled his audiences. He replied, “I build up their dependence upon my completely confident manner. They are entranced by my personality when they should be watching the tricks.” Dependence is slavery, but few slaves see their chains because they call them jewels. A domineering but worthless man can make you think you need him, which is like needing trash. Don’t fall under the spell of dependence. Be independent.
38. TRUE LOVE
Have you ever taken a stroll down lover’s lane only to end up in the swamp? Most people have. The only solution to male-female problems is spiritual maturity. True love blossoms between a man and a woman who share positive qualities, not just human love and marriage and sex. Positive qualities are won by loving Truth more than anyone or anything else. Only then can one partner give real value to the other.
39. THE MESSAGE
A woman found herself frantically running around to dozens of community activities, including chats with neighbors. She sensed that her own nature was trying to get a message thru to her. One weary evening the message came thru loud and clear: “Live your own life!” Like to have your own life back? Just resign from the life imposed on you by a frantic society. You owe nothing to its dreadful artificiality. You owe everything to your own inner-advancement.
40. STORMY EMOTIONS
Memorize this sentence: Stormy emotions cannot see danger. They cannot recognize danger from others any more than you can see a trap in a blizzard. Anger cannot be logical, tears cannot be calm, fear cannot be perceptive. This means you must see thru people who try to lure you into an emotional whirlpool. Your emotional distress is their opportunity to quietly sneak in and plunder your life. Stay calm.
41. HEALTHY ACTION
Here are the three steps taken by tricksters: a. Contact. b. Influence. c. Conquest. Here is how to prevent trickster-triumph. Memorize these three steps. Immediately after someone contacts you, watch for the influence, which is certain to come. Realize fully that any pleasure you feel from his cunning influence is harmful to your true life. He is simply giving you ego-excitement which you mistake for happiness. Understand this. It prevents his gain and your loss.
42. RICH REWARDS
You must refuse to take responsibilities that belong to others. By doing this you obey natural law which requires everyone to take care of himself. Your trueness to this law returns rich rewards. So the next time someone tries to unload his responsibilities onto you, ask him, “What are you going to do about your problem?” This shows that you will not do his work for him, and also encourages his self-reliance.
43. THE VANDALS
Suppose you own a grocery store. You arrive one moring to find that vandals have broken in and scattered everything. You hire some men to clean things up. Then, shockingly, you discover that the hired men were the vandals. This is how society secretly operates. It causes problems and pains and then forces you to hire them to clear things up — which they cannot do. See why safety depends upon seeing thru people?
44. RIDICULOUS OFFERS
Those who use you for their own selfish reasons have a special trick. They supply you with false interests. They know that desperate people with empty lives will fall for any product or program, no matter how idiotic. Delivery is usually promised in the future. Reject the offer. You can have something different. And what you can have is a life that interests you. It is a life of true meaning and purpose, guided by the Spirit of Truth.
45. DEFEAT TYRANTS
Listen to this! No one has power to hurt you unless you yourself supply that power by fearing him. Your own fright and unawareness is the only source of strength he has. It is like a soldier handing over his rifle to the enemy. A tyrant reacts with evil excitement at your fear, which he must have to wound you, for evil has no power of its own. So have no fear. You can actually ignore all tyrants out of existence!
46. EFFICIENT DAYS
Have you ever thought of human incompetence as a form of harmful deception? Do so from now on. Someone breaks a promise, is late for an appointment, sells a faulty product, supplies wrong information, fails to make a necessary contact. His incompetence causes confusion or gets you into trouble with other people. He does not see himself as harmful, but you must. It adds competence to your ways of doing things.
47. PRACTICAL PROPHECY
You can learn to prophesy the results in any new contact with someone. And then you will not cause the dark prophecies to come true! Suppose you meet someone with a long record of stormy human relations. Walk away after the first contact. He may appear decent at first, but must finally obey his hostile impulses, snaring you in his net. Prophecy protects when inspired by insight into human weakness.
48. HORROR SHOW
Suppose you are watching a horror movie on television. You understand everything; for example, you see that the monster lures his victims with his exterior charming manners. What gave you this insight? Your position as a detached observer of the drama. The victims in the movie could not see thru the monster, but you can see thru people in life by remaining emotionally apart from them. See thru the human horror movie with observation without participation.
49. YOUR SHIELD
Seeing thru another person means to know things about him that even he may not know! Information about him becomes your protective shield. Take a revengeful person. He will threaten you with the very punishments he himself fears the most. If loneliness scares him, he will threaten to leave you. If he worries over contempt from others, he will show contempt for you. See how your confidence is already stronger?
50. THE ROAD HOME
Imagine yourself traveling homeward down a dark road, but carrying a bright lamp that reveals the way. Out of the shadows glide people who offer you love and money in exchange for your lamp. You refuse. You want to go home! Pay no attention to anyone who declares that he has exciting bargains for you. He is a charlatan. When reaching home you will see that nothing on earth was of more value to you than your light.
SEE THROUGH LIFE AND GAIN NEW LIFE