January 13, 2024




How to Know a Person

At a glance

Today’s Fast Summary:

  • Loneliness in all age groups is associated with heart disease, addiction, suicidal ideation, and diabetes. It’s bad for your health. 

  • People have an innate need to feel seen, known, and heard by others. Speaking with others, and knowing them, makes people happy. 

  • When we make others feel seen, we bridge and minimize our differences. Through this, we create meaningful bonds.

| Latticework

Today’s newsletter is brought to you by Latticework, one of my favourite learning resources on the internet.

The Latticework is an application only, all-in community providing the most thoughtful approach I’ve seen to learning the big ideas from the big disciplines. I’ve been a member for 1 year and am now proud to offer my community priority access to join as well as a sneak preview of some of the key content.

Head over using this link to check it out.

How to Know a Person

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world seems relatively dismal and lonely. 

A new survey conducted by Meta-Gallop studied this, looking at people living in over 140 countries across the world: 

  • 24% of people ages 15 and over reported feeling lonely

  • Only 17% of people aged 65 and older reported feeling lonely

Unsurprisingly, the age group reporting the highest incidence of loneliness (27%) was adults aged 19 to 29. 

Connect this with an advisory issued by the U.S. Surgeon General, who noted that, “In recent years, about one-in-two adults in America reported experiencing loneliness.”

Why does this matter? Studies show that loneliness is tied to sleep issues, inflammation, and changes in the immune systems of young adults. In older adults, loneliness is tied to pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and a shorter life span. 

The truth is that loneliness is bad for your health. However, speaking with others, and knowing them, makes people happy. Friendships and bonds are good for your health. 

This loneliness epidemic, or what David Brooks calls an “epidemic of blindness” is pervasive. He says, “A society that becomes more sad is one that becomes more mean.” However, we aren’t taught how to not be lonely.

Brook’s new book, How to Know a Person, follows Brook’s journey with loneliness, offering us a pathway to becoming more human. He proposes that the antithesis of loneliness is knowing others, and teaches us how to do so. 

Here is a compilation of Brook’s tips on how to know a person: 

1. See Others

People have an innate need to feel seen, known, and heard by others.

Brooks states, “If you want to know someone well, you have to see the person in front of you as a distinct and never-to-be-repeated individual.”

Our judgment of others begins when we first lay eyes on them. Mentally, we ask “Am I a priority to you? Will you respect me?” 

We ask ourselves these of the other person before saying a word. So the question when we encounter others becomes, “How do we make others feel comfortable answering ‘yes’ to these questions?”

He reveals the following tips to accomplish this: 

Conversely, it’s helpful to understand how not to see someone. Brooks highlights the following as ways we don’t see others. 

  1. Egotism is being too self-centered to try to see others. Those who engage in egoism offer their perspectives without feigning interest in another’s. 

  2. Anxiety is the noise in our heads. It blocks your ability to think rationally.

  3. Naive realism is the assumption that simply because your perception is objective, others’ perceptions are similar. It’s a way of being locked into your own opinions.

  4. The Lesser-Minds problem refers to the idea that we don’t know what’s going on in the mind of another person. We assume that what they share with us is all they’ve thought of. 

  5. Objectivism is the observation and collection of data on others as a means of understanding them. It doesn’t work. 

These are just examples of the ways we diminish others. In doing these, we make them feel unseen. 

When we make others feel seen, we bridge and minimize our differences. Through this, we create meaningful bonds. 

2. Accompaniment

Like a pianist playing alongside a singer, accompaniment is merely being around people. 

We show up to others throughout our daily routines. Merely playing a game with someone, regardless of dialogue, is among the ways we get to know others. 

Patience and playfulness are necessary for proper accompaniment. Getting to know someone takes time. 

Don’t immediately delve into a serious conversation about the world’s ills. Take time to ask playful questions with seemingly minimal value. 

Presence is the third. Show up for others in your life, particularly when they’re experiencing hardship. 

You don’t need “to say some wise thing; you just have to be there, with a heightened awareness of what they are experiencing at that moment.” 

3. The Value of Good Talks

A great conversation isn’t a group of people shouting nonsense opinions. Great conversations, like a song, build over time as each person contributes to the topic. 

Great conversations yield powerful insights. There’s rarely a human on earth who isn’t open to sharing their story of how they came to be. 

Podcasts prove this time and time again. People love to talk about their experiences.

To engage in great conversation, try the following tips: 

  1. Don’t treat attention like a dimmer. Your attention cannot waver throughout the conversation. Practice paying attention throughout.

  2. Be a loud listener. Verbally respond to what the other person is saying. 

  3. Choose familiar topics. People get excited when they hear something familiar to them. Choose conversation topics that align with the other person’s interests. 

  4. Allow them to tell a story. Stories yield more profound insights than simple questions. Prompt others to tell theirs. Instead of asking, “So what happened?” ask specific questions to prompt the other person to clarify information. 

  5. Find the disagreement causing the disagreement. When you’re arguing about whether or not to get Chinese or Italian, probe what’s prompting the disagreement. Ask the other person about their decision. What made them feel this way? 

Keep in mind that great questions yield great conversations. Try the 5 Why’s framework to ask better questions. 

4. Excavate alone or with a friend. 

Excavation is the process of reviewing events with a friend or partner. The practice creates ‘mental flexibility’ and yields a more well-rounded perspective and curbs loneliness.

According to Brooks, excavation is the practice of “[putting] tragedy in the context of a larger story.”

To try excavation, try the “This is Your Life” exercise: 

  1. With a friend, write out a summary of the past year, month, or week from the other person’s perspective, and in the first person. 

  2. Focus on challenges your friend or partner faced and how they were able to overcome them. 

This practice allows you to “see yourself through the eyes of one who loves you.” 

Another exercise is sampling, a form of writing practice:

  1. Grab some paper and set a timer for 20 minutes.

  2. During that time, write about your emotional experiences from your perspective. Don’t worry about crafting a linear narrative. Write only for your eyes. 

  3. Throw it out at the end. 

  4. The next day, try writing from another perspective. Try on different ones each day until one feels right. 

Research shows that those who try this exercise experience more self-awareness, “lower blood pressure, and healthier immune systems” than those who do not. 

Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, said, “We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” 

This week, I challenge you to analyze the ways you connect with others and to try some of Brook’s powerful tools. Think about yourself and the ways you connect with and know others critically.

  1. Do you see others? 

    a. Consider the most recent time you delivered a first impression. What was the context? 

    b. Did you listen loudly? Did you offer vulnerability? Did you ask more questions than provided answers? 

    c. Or, did you engage in egoism, naive relativism, anxiety, etc? 

    d. On a piece of paper, analyze what happened. Why or why not did you engage in these behaviours? 

    e. How could you have made the other person feel seen? Consider practical tools and tactics based on Brook’s tips.  

  1. Do you merely accompany? 

    a. When was the last time you engaged in accompaniment? When were you merely around someone without foreseeable personal benefit? 

    b. What happened? Why? 

    c. How can you accompany others more often? Consider only practical ways you can implement this. 

    d. What are your barriers to accompaniment? Why are these in place?

  1. Sampling

    a. Grab some paper and set a timer for 20 minutes.

    b. Write about your emotional experiences from a set time frame (ex. the last month)f rom your perspective. 

    c. Throw it out at the end. 

    d. Tomorrow, do the same. Write from another perspective. 

    e. Try on different ones each day until one feels right.

In his book, Brooks states, “Above almost any other need, human beings long to have another person look into their face with loving respect and acceptance.


I’d love to hear from you:

  • Do you experience loneliness? 

  • How can you leverage these tools? 

  • Will you give Brooks’s book a read?

Tweet at me (@_alexbrogan) or respond to this email — I’ll try to respond to everyone.

Have a wonderful Saturday, all.

Until next time,


Whenever you're ready, there are other 4 ways I can help you:

(1) Newsletter Mastery: Learn how to start, scale, and monetise a 5-figure subscriber newsletter (while working full-time). Access everything I've used to grow two Newsletters to 50k+ subscribers in 18 months.

(2) The Sovereign Creator: Learn how to grow a 6-figure audience (without leaving your day job). Access everything I've used to grow from zero to 610k followers in 18 months.

(3) The Master Delegator: Learn how to hire, onboard, and ramp a virtual assistant that will save you 15+ hours per week as a content creator, founder, leader, or investor.

(4) Partner with Faster Than Normal to reach an audience of 65,000 people.

The Faster Than Normal Newsletter

Join 70,000 others receiving timeless ideas to break from normal.

Delivered twice weekly to your inbox

Wednesday and Saturday

100% free

You're in!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
We won't send spam. Unsubscribe at any time.