What does it mean to know someone?

People throw the term around pretty often – “I know him” or ”I know her”. They’d be surprised how often they’re wrong.

Have you ever realized after a long time that someone who you considered to be close doesn’t really know you at all? I found that working backwards provided me (and therefore us) with some insight into what it takes to know someone and how you can be ‘close’ to someone without them getting to know you well.

You have to care… enough

I’m not saying you don’t care about this person, or that they don’t care about you. I’m saying that you don’t care enough, that they don’t care enough. Getting to know someone requires effort. Effort requires motivation. You have to want to know this person. It has to be important to you, otherwise it will not happen. Yes, that may hurt your feelings, but keep in mind that often neither you nor they know that they don’t care enough. It is not a conscious decision. Remember, they really believe they know you, and vice-versa. Why does that even matter? Because it means that if it’s pointed out a conscious decision to change that can be made.


You have to exercise patience

There is no crash course in deciphering a human being. It takes time. You have to spend time personally with that person. You have to talk, share experiences in words and in actuality – you have to actually go through things together… at the same time… in the same space. You have to talk deeply. Some people share their life stories easily, but there is always more to know, stuff that’s not being said. Hearing about them from friends and family members may allow you to feel that like you’re well on your way, and may help fill in some gaps later on, but it’s not enough and it’s not always accurate. People always have biases. Also, keep in mind that people grow and change, and that they don’t always keep their family members informed. What am I saying? Some of that information may be old news. There’s no escaping it. You have to be willing to put in the time.


You have to be observant

So, you two are inseparable. At home we’d say a variation of “they’re bottom and bench”. Does that automatically mean you’re in the clear? Unfortunately, no. You may learn a lot about the person, could write your own trivia booklet about them, but that doesn’t mean what you think it means. First, you have to be aware generally. Then, you have to pay attention to them – observe them in varied situations; observe their behaviors and behavior changes; observe their reactions; observe the mannerisms that accompany different emotions. No,this is not about being weird. These things actually take place naturally when you care enough. If you’re a person who is more uncomfortable around people, this will take real effort on your part. You will have to decide if it is worth it, and you will have to accept that if you don’t take this path at some point, then you will never experience the pleasure of knowing and being known.


You have to store the information

No, you don’t have to write it down… unless you want to. Habits and behaviors, mannerisms and reactions repeat themselves. Each time you observe something it will be reinforced in your memory. Paying attention is what will allow you to store the information you are acquiring.


You have to put it into practice

Knowledge in and of itself does nothing. It’s the application of knowledge that people refer to as being ‘everything’. You have all this information, yet it doesn’t help you to be more understanding and compassionate. It doesn’t improve the quality of your conversations. It doesn’t help you help them when they need it. It doesn’t help you to see when they’ve had enough so you can back off. It doesn’t help you provide support and comfort. It doesn’t help you open yourself up to being known. What then is the point of all this knowledge? None, unless you use it. As you begin to use it, you begin to realize how deeply you have come to know this person.



So, how does this help us to understand how we can not know someone we have been ‘close’ to for a long time? Well, at least one of the above components has been missing. Most times, it boils down to taking people for granted; assuming that they will always be around and therefore no longer making an effort. We stop actively caring, exercising patience, and paying attention. Once we stop paying attention there is nothing to store or put into practice. We have killed the process. Despite the length of time, we only know what we learned in the beginning coupled with a handful of facts. We spend time together in mindless ways and believe we are close, but in reality we are not, we are simply used to each other.

Now it’s all well and good to talk about knowing people. The motive behind knowing people can’t be overlooked. I have assumed that all motives are pure and positive, which is why my first point has to do with caring. Getting to know someone in order to manipulate them is not what we are talking about here. Period.

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