Unlike Judge Dredd, we can’t all be THE LAW, but we can be great judges of the characters who enter our lives on a daily basis.
On the Harvard Business Review blog, Anthony Tjan, CEO, Managing Partner and Founder of the venture capital firm Cue Ball, has some terrific suggestions for sizing up people more accurately and making more informed choices about job candidates, partners, and clients.
Among the highlights:
What is the talk-to-listen ratio?
You want to interact with people who are self-confident and assertive, but if the talk-to-listen ratio is anything north of 60%, you should ask why. Is it because this person is self-important and not interested in learning from others?
Is this an energy-giver or -taker?
Certain people carry negative energy. Alternatively, there are those who consistently carry and share a positivity and optimism towards life. There is a Chinese proverb that says that the best way to get energy is to give it. Energy-givers are compassionate, generous, and the type of people with whom you immediately want to spend time.
Is this person likely to act or react to a task?
Some people immediately go into defensive, critical mode when given a new task. Others jump right into action and go into problem-solving mode. For most jobs, it's the second kind you want.
Does this person feel authentic or obsequious?
There is nothing flattering about false praise, or people trying too hard to impress. Really good people don't feel the need to suck up. Those who can just be themselves are more pleasant to work with.
How does this person treat someone she doesn't know?
Observe how a person treats someone she barely knows. Does the person have the openness and kindness to have a real conversation with a waiter at a restaurant or the driver of a taxi? Or does she ignore them or treat them rudely?
Would you ever want to go on a long car ride with this person?
This is a variant of the airport test, which says that in hiring a candidate you should consider if you could stomach sitting with him all day in an airport. In a similar fashion, is this the type of person with whom you could imagine going on a cross-country drive?
In my opinion, there is also no substitute for a gut reaction. When the person walks into the room, does he put you at ease or are you uncomfortable? Does his non-verbal demeanor communicate warmth or coldness? You’ll be a better judge of character if you always strive to read between the lines.
While it’s a good idea to keep all of these pointers in the back of your mind, you do want to be careful that you’re not too critical of other people. Especially if you are first meeting them, perhaps you want to give them the benefit of the doubt. For instance, someone who talks a lot in the interview may just be nervous and not obnoxiously self-involved. It will likely take you more than a single interaction to reliably assess another human being.
What are some of your tell-tale signs of character?