In my search for the meaning of life, the universe and everything, I must keep reminding myself that things are not always as they appear. This fact is really evident in business and I refer to them as the "hidden factors". These are the items that people do not reveal but are major influencers. These are both personal things and broader issues.
If a person has a substance abuse problem or marital difficulties, you may never know but the issue will affect everything. If the person is about to lose his job or had a seriously bad appraisal by his boss, how might they behave with you? If the person has had bad experiences in dealing with other people in your role, for example salesperson or consultant, they will be very guarded. Underlying prejudices of all types can be very insidious. What happened just before you met with this person? Things are often not as they appear.
I find that if I keep this idea in my awareness I am less likely to jump to conclusions that might lead me down the wrong path. This idea brings to my mind one of Harvey's favourite saying, "I am confused, help me understand." It works miracles if the statement must be authentic expression of your feelings. However if we remember the hidden factors, we are often confused.
One of the dangers in coping with hidden factors is our discomfort in dealing with uncertainty. The main coping mechanism in dealing with uncertainty is to fill the gap with speculation and guesses. The strategy works as long as you are ready to change your mind as facts appear. I notice often I get so attached to my guesses that I disregard facts. Ignoring reality is never a good consulting technique.