Learn to size a person up and you’ll go much further in life.
Small acts reveal everything. They are ripples that live in harmony with a thousand larger decisions. You can learn all you need to know about a person by the things they do.
When we learn to appreciate the power in small things, we learn to appreciate them in ourselves, and in that recognition, there is a virtue. There is change waiting to happen.
Learn to size a person up quickly and you’ll go far in life. You’ll know who to learn from, who to keep around, and who to steer wide of. If you wince while reading any of these points, it might be you.
1. The law of 13-year-old YouTubers
I have a general rule of life that, no matter how good you are at something, there’s a 13-year-old on YouTube who could totally own you at it. It’s no surprise many of the top earners are teenagers. Think you are good at guitar? Search YouTube for ‘13-year-old shredding guitar’. Think you are strong? Somewhere out there, a kid with a high-pitched voice is benching 315 lbs on video.
When I was 15, I routinely walked over to the military base and played basketball with the adults. I was no prodigy. It was just my way of getting better.
Seven basketball courts filled this huge warehouse. As I stepped into the building, the sound of bouncing basketballs from all distances and decibels greeted me. In my months there, I saw grown men shout, scream, and even fistfight over a recreational game of basketball. There wasn’t a single day I didn’t see a heated argument.
How a person reacts when someone is their better reveals much about their character. Fighting and making excuses is a digression from the basic lessons in sportsmanship. I want people in my life who can check their ego and ‘take the L’ in any form life dishes it out in.
Accept that there are 13-year-olds who can dunk on you at most things. It’s a good exercise in humility.
2. A simple dating poll revealed this insight
Three years ago, I was doing a research project for a client and sent out a big survey to female readers. It was mostly dating questions. One of the questions was, “What do you find most attractive in a man?”
I was expecting a certain set of responses: he’s nice and smart, he’s hot, he’s funny and ambitious. Yes, those responses were mostly there. However, the answer that came back most was one I wasn’t expecting. It was some version of, “He does what he says he’s going to do.”
It was like a light had been flipped on in my memory bank. I suddenly saw all of the flaky people I’d struggled with:
“Yeah, I’ll get that to you.”
“Sure! Wednesday night sounds good.”
They cancel. They are consistently late. You have to hold them to the fire to get anything done. How people honor their word, particularly in an informal setting, says a lot about them.
Most people are smart enough to honor their word to their boss. But do they have the character to honor commitments to friends? Some people would be late to their own mother’s funeral. If you hate flaky people, channel that revulsion into treating your word as gold. You’ll stand out in an otherwise frustrating population. Being untrue to your word can reflect a lack of respect for other people.
3. The words they choose to use
There’s a person in my immediate circle that I periodically spend time with. I met her a few years ago. I’ve been on vacation with her (as a group). There’s been ample time spent between us. And not once has she asked me a question about my life. Not a single question across the wide spectrum of small talk and real talk. She also has a personality that comes off as egotistical. She makes lots of egocentric, judgemental, self-congratulatory comments.
Social psychologist, James W. Pennebaker, conducted a study analyzing speeches, interviews, and papers by thousands of people. He discovered you can learn much about a person simply by the words they choose.
For example, when people are telling the truth, they frequently use singular pronouns, ‘I’ alongside excluders like ‘except’ and ‘yet’. This is because the person is drawing lines around what they did and didn’t do. Someone who is lying will struggle to draw lines and nuance. Complicated lies are harder to build.
The big idea
Focus on the things a person says in a conversation.
- What does it say about them, their concerns, and their ambitions?
- Are they thoughtful of other people’s feelings when speaking?
- Do they listen to what you have to say and ask about it?
A person’s thoughts, and how they frame them, provides powerful forensic evidence of their character. What a person says is often less important than how they choose to say it. Every sentence has an origin point in a person’s mind with an intention that drives it.
4. The most obvious sign
The grossest personality type I’ve ever dealt with always seems limited to two gears:
1. They are super kind and ingratiating
2. They are total jerks to everyone around them.
The thing that separates those two modes is whether the person they are talking to is important or has power over them.
How a person treats a stranger, or someone who has nothing to offer them will reveal much about who they are. Showing kindness and curiosity towards ‘the little guy’ is an indicator of empathy. If they are rude to subordinates, it reveals a situational value system. More plainly, you’ll be expendable to them after you are no longer useful. Run to your nearest exit.
I don’t particularly like ‘judging’ people or drawing quick conclusions. But much of life mandates getting a read on a person’s character. If you get burned a few times, you’ll appreciate the value of developing a good ‘people compass’. You can assume people are good while also having a healthy level of cynicism with strangers.
This isn’t a perfect science. Everyone has a bad day and can misrepresent themselves. But generally speaking, if you see these things in people, you’ll be able to get a good read on who they are.
Recap for your memory: four things that reveal a lot about a person
- How they react to people who are better than them (or criticism)
- How true they are to their word (even with the small things)
- The things they say and the words they choose (all words have an origin)
- How they treat people who have nothing to offer them
Source : Youngsters