Want to Read People like a Pro? Ask Them This 1 Question

In interviewing, networking and life, it’s often difficult to read people without really knowing them. However, a 2010 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows that asking 1 simple question can reveal a lot. 

The question was this: Can you rate a particular positive (or negative) personality trait of three people you know? 

By asking this question, the researchers found that how you perceive others reveals so much about your own personality. For example, if someone judged another as happy, thoughtful, kind and respectful, then it’s likely they hold those same personality traits too. 

In essence, how you see others is what you express in yourself. As the researchers write, “Seeing others positively reveals our own positive traits.”

Although, the same is also true on the flip side. Says the researchers, “A huge suite of negative personality traits are associated with viewing others negatively. The simple tendency to see people negatively indicates a greater likelihood of depression and various personality disorders.” 

This question is less invasive or awkward than asking someone to describe their own personality traits. However, how they describe other people reveals just as much about themselves.

In an interview, for example, the question could be posed like this: “If you think of a previous boss you’ve had. What would you rate as their most prominent personality trait, and why?”

If they talk about someone being a good leader, then they tend to be a good leader themselves. If they see someone as understanding, then they tend to be understanding themselves. 

As we’ve been saying, this is a simple question that can reveal a lot about someone without asking very much. So, why not give it a try?