We All Fall Into the Trap of Judging a Person’s Character by Their Appearance: Here’s What to Do Instead
It is human nature to quickly judge people based on their physical appearance, behavior in a social setting, or their general demeanor. But, how wrong we are! The real character of a person is only revealed when they face a challenging situation, or when they have to deal with something negative. This is when hidden traits emerge, and we get to see who they really are. In some cases, it can be a pleasant surprise, but in others it can be a shock, particularly when a person we thought we knew turns out to be extremely toxic.
A frightening example of this is given in James O’Toole’s book, Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. He tells the story of a charming and well-dressed neighbor who was discovered to have installed a torture chamber in his garage, where he would systematically abuse kidnapped women. This is an extreme case, but it illustrates how we can be deceived by a person’s demeanor, clothing, and behavior, without any understanding of their true nature.
The question then arises, how can we assess the personal qualities of a colleague, a new acquaintance, or a potential friend in a way that enables us to know whether they are kind, compassionate, reliable, honest, and able to persevere? The answer lies in a reserved judgement, in taking our time and, most importantly, in observing them in different settings.
Here are ten things to observe that can help us judge a person’s character in a better way:
1. Evaluate Their Anger
Anger is not always negative, but it can be a warning sign that there are underlying issues with the person. If a person is prone to snapping and throwing their weight around, mentally, or physically, they might have deeper issues. While everyone loses their temper occasionally, if it is a frequent occurrence for someone, it is a sign that they might use violence or aggression as a solution to their problems. It is better to stay away from such people who don’t know how to manage their emotions.
2. Observe Kindness
Kindness is a virtue that reveals much about an individual. A person’s behavior towards the weak or disadvantaged members of society can offer a clear indication of their character. Observe whether they are willing to donate to charities, do voluntary work, or help people by sharing the planet’s resources with the rest of the world? Someone who is not considerate towards the weak and vulnerable is a poor choice for a friend or even an acquaintance.
3. Evaluate Their Accountability
It is natural to make mistakes, and it is essential for one to own up to the errors they have made. Observe how the person reacts when they are responsible for a screw-up in the office, or elsewhere. If they cannot take responsibility for their actions and start blaming their colleagues or traffic, it is not a good sign. A person who cannot take accountability for their mistakes is unlikely to be honest and reliable.
4. Don’t Use Facebook as a Benchmark
Today, we often use social media profiles, such as Facebook, to assess a person’s personality. However, this is not a reliable method. Research has shown that Facebook usage does not necessarily reveal anything meaningful about a person’s character or future performance in any workplace.
5. Read Their Emails
Reading emails can offer some insight into a person’s character as people often unconsciously express their true emotions when typing online. The use of particular punctuations and symbols can indicate specific personality traits; such as, frequent errors indicating apathy, too many question marks indicating anger, and too much use of capital letters implying shouting. Paying keen attention to such details can help us assess the individuals’ real character.
6. Avoid Show-offs
Listen to how the person talks about themselves; do they mention their achievements and promotions often during conversations? People who are obsessed with their achievements and boast about their successes give us a clear indication that they have an overinflated view of their accomplishments. It is unlikely they will show modesty and humility in other areas of their life.
7. Check for Perseverance
Perseverance is a sign of strength and tenacity. Observe individuals who show persistence in achieving their life goals, even when faced with enormous difficulty. The ability to never give up when confronted with obstacles is a powerful indication of grit and determination. Great historical figures such as Einstein, Edison, and Mandela bear witness to the power of perseverance.
8. Empathy Matters
The way a person treats the less fortunate members of society offers a powerful indication of their character. If they are compassionate and have empathy, they will talk about the disadvantaged members of society in a way that displays their empathy. People who show zero empathy will never discuss the plight of the disadvantaged or will steer conversations away from this topic. People with zero empathy are unlikely to be loyal, compassionate, or empathetic, and in extreme cases, they may be psychopaths.
9. Learn to Be Socially Interactive
Humans are social animals, and the ability to interact with others is a defining characteristic. Individuals who prefer isolation or are loners might have something negative going on in their lives. An individual who is social knows how to develop trust, honesty, and loyalty, which are great qualities that help in building healthy relationships. The ability to share problems and successes with others is a sign of emotional intelligence.
10. Avoid Toxic People
Toxic people often attempt to control others while failing to manage their own problems. They are envious of others’ success, habitually criticize others’ achievements, and blame others for their failures. When communicating with such people, you will notice that they exhibit the following negative behaviors:
Envy or Jealousy
Criticism of partners, colleagues, and friends
Constant Complaints about their own lack of success
Blaming others for their bad luck or failures
Obsession with themselves and their problems
Awareness of these traits can help you identify toxic people, but more importantly, it can help you understand the type of person to avoid.
In conclusion, it is not always easy to judge a person’s character. We are often wrong in our first impression of a person as appearances can be deceiving. The key is to take our time and observe them during different situations. Pay attention to how they talk, react, and their general behavior. These ten ways outlined can help us judge another’s character, but it is equally important to reflect on how others may perceive us. Building relationships with people with good character can help us in leading happier and more fulfilling lives.