I stumbled across a useful article in the “Harvard Business Review” by Anthony K. Tjan, entitled “Becoming a Better Judge of People” (June 17, 2013). The article caught my interest because I am frequently struck by the way people tend to discount important clues about others, brushing them off as if they are not important. Invariably, they wonder why they were disappointed or let down when they have missed signs that are often obvious to others. There are several tips toward becoming more attuned to people’s attitude, intentions, work ethics, interpersonal interactions and overall personality profile. The author collected key questions that improve one’s ability to accurately judge personality characteristics. I am sharing the ones that I believe are most striking below:
- What is the talk-to-listen ratio? Ask yourself if this person is talking about only himself and not inquiring about you. You want to be around people who are confident but not “full” of themselves and forget that the world does not revolve around them. Someone engaging in a monologue of chatter may also be exhibiting nervousness.
- Is this person an energy-giver or -taker? Surround yourself with people who emit positive versus negative energy. If you become mindful of yourself and your surroundings, you can feel the difference in this type of energy. You will be in a healthier and more successful and productive environment if you interact with energy-givers.
- Does this person feel authentic or overly deferential? Consider whether a person tends to overuse praise and flattery when they communicate with you. Such people typically are insecure in their abilities and/or confused about their loyalty to others. Confident people don’t feel the need to exhibit these behaviors; they are comfortable with their abilities, open to constructive feedback, and pleasant to work with.
- How does this person treat someone she doesn’t know? Oh, this is a good one. I have witnessed many clients, workers, bosses, and socialites who “suck up” to those they believe are more successful and powerful than they are, in attempts to get ahead in life (or so they believe). Observe whether someone is kind to a waiter, secretary, or a taxi driver. Is this person kind to such personnel, or does she ignore them or treat them rudely? Who would you want to spend time with in a social or work setting?
- Would you ever want to go on a long car ride with this person? The answer to this question is a very telling of your feelings of this person. If your initial reaction is “No way!,” then it probably would not be in your best interest to befriend this person or work with him. On the other hand, if you could envision looking forward to such a drive, then you have your answer about your feelings and thoughts about this person’s character.
- Do you believe this person is self-aware? We all witness and cringe at the contestants on “American Idol” who think that they are good singers when, in fact, it is quite painful to hear them sing. Is this person truthful about her strengths and limitations? Does she seek constructive feedback to make her a better person? The author suggests looking for humility and congruence between what the person thinks, says and does to accurately judge their true nature.