7 Habits of Highly Insightful People

Elevate your success, with deeper understanding

by Matt Donahue

Success, in literally any endeavor, depends on how well you understand people. Your customers, your audience, your buyers, your investors—if you really get them, you have a better a chance of really reaching them.

But true understanding takes work. You need intuition. You need curiosity and empathy. You need to look beyond the obvious and below the surface.

In other words, you need to be insightful.

As curious observers of the human condition, we’ve studied the nature of insight for decades. And, in so doing, we’ve identified 7 habits of highly insightful people—specific behaviors that allow the world’s most successful, persuasive, creative individuals to expand their aptitude for human understanding. And as the word habit implies, these are behaviors you can practice and adopt into your daily professional (and personal) life.

HABIT 1. THE METHOD ACTOR | Step Inside Their Shoes and Into Their Lives

Insight starts with empathy. Highly insightful individuals—like method actors—embrace the perspectives and experiences of others to build a deeper understanding of their defining challenges and motivations.

Learn more about The Method Actor on Burke’s BeyondMeasure Podcast.

Corey and Cherri talk with Peter Nason–an accomplished actor, director, and award-winning theatre teacher–about the power of stepping inside the shoes and into the lives of others. Through directing, writing, and teaching theater and filmmaking, Peter shares his unique view of practicing and guiding others to experience empathy. Peter knows the power of insight-provoking questions, and he has a great question connected to his vast knowledge of Hollywood films. At the end of the podcast, he’ll share it and de-code the meaning behind some of the most common answers he gets.

HABIT 2. THE MIRROR | Never Forget the Human Inside

Whether you’re a marketer, a business leader, a researcher or something else, you have unique experiences and ideas that make you who you are. And when you apply your own sense of humanity and self-awareness to a particular challenge or a situation, you often discover unique human truths that are relevant to others as well. It’s almost like looking into a mirror.

HABIT 3. THE REPORTER | Ask Insight-Provoking Questions

Just as a reporter builds a story through critical inquiry, you can uncover compelling insights simply by… asking better questions. Whether it’s crafting a strategic POV, a qualitative discussion guide or simply asking yourself tough questions, the answers will bring depth and dimension to your understanding of any challenge.

HABIT 4. THE OBSERVER | Notice the Unnoticed Details

Details matter. Observing the “little” things that people do and say (or don’t do or say) in the moment often sheds light on a bigger revelation—which is the key to developing powerful, relevant insights.

Learn more about The Observer on Burke’s BeyondMeasure Podcast.

Corey & Cherri talk with Frank Prince, a former Fortune 500 Consultant, best-selling author and stage hypnotist about the power of observation–collecting firsthand experiences and noticing the unnoticed.  Frank is a master at seeing patterns in the details of human behavior. In this episode, Frank shares his unique career path, an eclectic mix of what he’s learned along the way, and wisdom on how we all can become more keen observers as well.

HABIT 5. THE PEACEMAKER | Look for Paradoxes & Contradictions

As you listen to and observe people, try to identify the things that are troubling, baffling, confounding or eluding them. Look for the tension. In doing so, you’ll not only gain valuable insight into what’s actually bothering them… you’ll have an opportunity to find solutions that resolve the tensions and create a new sense of peace. In essence, this habit is about being a peacemaker.

Learn more about The Peacemaker on Burke’s BeyondMeasure Podcast.

Corey & Cherri talk with Linda Peterman, LMHC, a couple’s counselor, collaborative divorce mediator and an expert in the habit of “seeking tensions and resolving them” in the quest for insights into healthier, happier relationships.  Have you ever wondered what happens in couples counseling?  What the 3R’s are in discussing relationships? Or why people are “hard wired” to resist change? Linda shares these answers and more—all while connecting her work with how marketers and researchers can more deeply and authentically find powerful insights and aha’s.  

HABIT 6. THE STORYTELLER | Never Underestimate the Power of Stories

Stories go beyond mere facts, contextualizing ideas and information in an emotional, relatable way. And that takes a keen eye for insight. Great storytellers find the why behind the what—the thematic “hook” that lends a sense of deeper connection to otherwise impersonal data.

Learn more about The Storyteller on Burke’s BeyondMeasure Podcast.

Cherri and Corey sit down with Grammy and Emmy-nominated musician, film composer and songwriter Peter Himmelman. Peter is an expert in the habit of “never underestimating the power of story” in the quest for insights, and offers specific advice plus time-tested wisdom on how to find your storytelling voice in the world of human insights. 

HABIT 7. THE HUMORIST | Exaggerate to Make Your Point

This final habit is less about finding insights and more about making them powerful, inspiring and memorable—through humor. Exaggerations and understatements are among the most effective ways to create humor. They create a “mismatch” between the actual situation and the words being said, which has a satirical or ironic quality. Not only does this earn a laugh, but it makes the insight “stick” in a more memorable way.

Learn more about The Humorist on Burke’s BeyondMeasure Podcast.

Cherri and Corey chat with Jane Fischer—improv comic and cofounder of The Unexpected Guests Improv Comedy Group in Jamestown, NY. Their entertaining discussion dives into the insight-provoking power of humor and how exaggeration, unexpected connections and embracing the power of “silly” can lead to inspiring insight discoveries and compelling ways to express those insights to others.

At the end of the podcast, Jane shares one of her favorite improv games, called “the world’s worst ___” and discusses how it can provide powerful inspiration for innovation and reveal never-before-imagined solutions for almost any industry.

So, how do you find insights in your everyday life? We’d love to hear from you!

And for more on the power and potential of insights, don’t forget to check out our 7 Habits of Highly Insightful People podcast series hosted by Cherri Prince EVP, Head of Growth at Seed Strategy (a Burke company) and Corey Beilstein, SVP Research and Behavior Design. Each episode explores fresh perspectives on human insights—what they are, how to know you have one and how to discover more. Our outside-the business-world guests offer compelling wisdom and tangible advice on creating environments where insights can flourish and thrive.

Matt Donahue is a Creative Director at Seed Strategy with a keen interest in product innovation and marketing theory. Matt is a graduate of Seton Hill University’s “Popular Fiction” master’s program and writes whenever he can.

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As always, you can follow Burke, Inc. on our LinkedInTwitterFacebook and Instagram pages.


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