We are all guilty of judging a person's character based on their appearance. How mistaken we were! All too often, the true character of a person emerges only when a negative event occurs to them or you. Then you might see a toxic person emerge from the ruins, which is usually a surprise.
A truly terrifying example can be found in O'Toole and Bowman's book Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, and well-dressed neighbor was discovered to have installed a torture chamber in his garage, where he was repeatedly abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it demonstrates how we can be completely misled by someone's physical appearance, manners, and behavior.
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So, what are your options? You want to be able to evaluate personal qualities when you meet colleagues, new acquaintances, and new friends who may become lifelong partners. You'd like to know if they're:
- compassionate and kind
- capable of accepting responsibility
- capable of perseverance
- modesty and humility
- pacific and has the ability to control one's anger
The key is to exercise caution and take your time. Observe them in various situations and pay attention to how they react. Listen to how they talk, joke, laugh, explain, complain, blame, praise, rant, and preach. Only then will you be able to assess their personality. This is not a guarantee, but if you follow the ten tips below, you have a good chance of avoiding an abusive relationship.
1. Is it common for you to be angry?
All too often, angry reactions that appear to be out of control are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not believe that everyone who snaps and throws his or her weight around mentally and physically is simply reacting normally. Everyone has an angry outburst now and then while driving or when things go wrong.
However, if this is almost a daily occurrence, you should investigate why and possibly avoid that person. Anger, all too often, leads to violent and aggressive behavior. You don't want to be around anyone who believes that violence can solve personal or global problems.
2. Are you able to witness acts of kindness?
How often do you notice this person being considerate and kind? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, volunteer, or in some other way demonstrate that they are willing to share the planet with approximately 7 billion other people?
When a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the poor and disadvantaged people in our town, I was astounded. She pretended to be religious, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.
“The best indicator of a person's character is how he treats those who can't help him and how he treats those who can't fight back.”
Van Buren, Abigail
3. How does this person accept responsibility?
Perhaps you are aware that s/he is to blame for a blunder at work or for failing to show up on time for a date. Take note of their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, it's a sign that they're unwilling to accept responsibility for their mistakes.
4. Do not rely on Facebook as an indicator
You'll be relieved to learn that graphology (the study of that long-forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer regarded as a reliable predictor of a person's personality. Fortunately, neither is Facebook stalking. According to one study, the use of foul language, sexual innuendo, and gossip on Facebook are not reliable indicators of a candidate's character or future performance in the workplace.
5. Go through their emails
Reading the person's emails is now a much better idea. According to research, the use of the following words can indicate certain personality traits:
- Exclamation points in excess may indicate a cheerful demeanor.
- Apathy may be indicated by frequent errors.
- The only way for someone to smile at you is to use smileys.
- The use of the third person may reveal a formality.
- Anger can be conveyed by using an excessive number of question marks.
Excessive use of capital letters is considered shouting. They are a netiquette no-no, but a surprising number of people still use them.
6. Keep an eye out for the braggarts
Pay attention to what others are saying. How often do they brag about their accomplishments, promotions, awards, and successes? If this occurs frequently, it is a sure sign that this person has an exaggerated view of his or her own accomplishments. They are not likely to be modest or humble. What a shame! Another person to stay away from.
7. Look for evidence of tenacity
When a person persists and never gives up when they truly want to achieve a life goal, this is a powerful indicator of grit and tenacity. Look for evidence of them persevering in the face of adversity.
Perseverance is a hallmark of great achievements by scientists and inventors. To be inspired, consider Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times), and Nelson Mandela. The US Department of Education is certain that grit, tenacity, and perseverance will be critical success factors for youth in the twenty-first century.
8. They have a high level of empathy
Pay attention to how they talk about our society's less fortunate members, such as the poor, immigrants, and the disabled. Do you notice how they talk about these people with compassion? The mere mention of them indicates a high level of empathy.
People who have no empathy will never speak about the poor. They will almost never ask you about a difficult time or relationship. They will almost always redirect the conversation back to themselves. These people have no empathy, and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who have no feelings for their victims.
9. Learn how to interact socially
We are social animals, which is what distinguishes us as humans. Isolation or being a loner may be a negative indicator of a person's character. You want to meet someone who understands the concepts of trust, honesty, and loyalty. The only way to put these wonderful qualities into practice is to interact socially. The great benefit is that you can share problems as well as celebrate success and joy together.
“In solitude, one can acquire everything except character.”
10. Stay away from toxic people
These people are attempting to exert control over others while frequently failing to accept their own failures. The following are examples of typical behavior and conversations:
- Jealousy or envy
- Criticism directed at partners, coworkers, and friends
- Complaining about their own lack of achievement
- blaming others for one's own misfortune or failure
- Obsession with oneself and one's problems
Listening to these people talk will quickly reveal that you should avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. Furthermore, as much as you want to help them, you are not qualified to do so.
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