I've described myself on a2k as growing from shy, amazingly shy and self absorbed, to looking around and understanding others (no, not always, even now, but sometimes I understand others more than others do), and would like to find where I described that, but I don't tend to save my own posts and there are a lot of them.
So, in short - reading helped me understand others, before I began to on my own. That can depend on what you read, I suppose, but even back then I read a lot of stuff.
Working when I turned sixteen, in a hospital, helped me. At first I was a watcher, but there was no time for shy re tasks to be done.
Then I had friends I'd never even guess I'd be interested in - there was the woman in the cashiers office who was keen on horse races, and I liked horses and followed some few races, who could guess. She would ask me to pick horses for her coming races.
I also dealt with patients, as that first job was taking tiny xrays after school and on weekends. Patients can bring you out of yourself at my then age, or any age.
The trick is to look around.