Ray Dalio says this one question will help you uncover someone’s true motives: ‘This applies to everything’

Almost everyone has an ulterior motive, according to billionaire investor Ray Dalio — and figuring it out comes down to asking yourself one simple question.

“When you hear someone’s description of what’s happening, ask yourself: What are their biases and goals?” Dalio, the 74-year-old founder of hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, posted to Threads on Tuesday.

“This applies to everything: when you’re buying something, asking for advice, reading the newspaper, watching the news, etc.,” he wrote. “That is because most people (though not all people) are trying to sell you something that will help them get the things they want.”

Maybe a salesman is trying to get you to buy a product because they’ll make a commission from it, or a boss is denying you a promotion despite your stellar performance. In these scenarios, it can be helpful to take a step back and think about the situation from the other person’s point of view.

“If you keep this question in mind, and get the answer to it, you will be able to see things from a higher level,” Dalio wrote, adding in a follow-up post: “If you can identify the people who are true friends or those who are truly trying to help you, especially the smart ones, you will have a much better life than if you don’t.”

That may be easier said than done: 64% of U.S. adults believe that their trust in each other is shrinking, Pew Research Center reported in 2019. About half of Americans (49%) say that their lack of interpersonal trust is because they believe people aren’t as reliable as they used to be.

Dwelling on whether someone is trustworthy can affect your health, increasing loneliness, anxiety and depression, leadership and positive psychology coach Diane Dreher wrote for Psychology Today in April.

“We need people we can trust to provide stability, support, and a sense of community in our lives,” Dreher added.

As for seeing things from a “higher level,” Dalio has long attributed that ability to his success at evaluating financial markets. He leans on it while navigating a variety of other scenarios too, including personal struggles in his life, he noted in a 2018 YouTube post.

“I call this ability to rise above your own and others’ circumstances and objectively look down on them ‘higher-level thinking,'” Dalio wrote on Facebook a year later. “Higher-level thinking gives you the ability to study and influence the cause-effect relationships at play in your life and use them to get the outcomes you want.”

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