Says one thing; does another.
This applies to both big and little things. It’s a form of lying, even if it’s not deliberate. Even if the lie does you no harm, it tells you something about the person’s relationship with him- or herself.
Make rational distinctions. For example, some people usually say and do what they mean. On the few occasions where they don’t, they acknowledge it. The people to watch out for are the ones who do this most of the time, and never acknowledge it.
The essence of the right approach is, ‘Say what you mean, and mean what you say.’ If you actually find someone like this, then you’ve found someone you can trust.
Talks about people badly, while nice to their faces.
If Jack talks badly about his friend Joey to you, then in Joey’s presence acts like he loves him—watch out. Yes, he could be doing the same to you, behind your back. But it’s more than that. He’s wasting his time by faking it with Joey. Why would he do this to himself, much less Joey?
If you value people, you treat them well as an extension of the fact that you value them. Time is precious. If you respect your time, you won’t spend it with people you feel compelled to put down in their absence.
Doesn’t like to be alone–ever.
You’d think someone strange if they never wanted personal contact or connection with anybody. You’d probably think such a person weird, odd and you wouldn’t likely trust them. Well, it works in reverse, too. Someone who cannot seem to stand time alone has revealed something about his view of himself.
More than that, it suggests he doesn’t know how to cope with his own mind. People like this generally need the validation of others to feel that they’re OK. You can’t trust someone like this. If they need the approval of a majority to get through the day, and if you happen to go against the majority in some context—well, that will be the end of you, at least behind your back.
The most trustworthy people are the ones most secure with themselves. This includes having the ability to spend time alone, entertain oneself and think. To be a rational, thoughtful person, you have to sometimes be alone with your thoughts. I trust people who seek to do this regularly.
Can’t talk about their emotions.
Everyone has emotions. Rational people experience emotions, but they also think about them. They don’t live their lives on knee-jerk reactions or other prejudices. They’re willing to think, reason and reflect—not merely feel.
If you find yourself in a personal association with someone who thinks with their feelings, I can guarantee there’s trouble ahead. A person who attempts to judge and form conclusions with feelings is the equivalent of living in a society where there are no courts, no individual rights, no due process of law. You’ll experience the equivalent of such instability and even madness when, sooner or later, you’re subject to the emotional reaction of a person who feels no need to objectively reflect.
Unwilling or unable to provide examples.
Any personal association is subject to misunderstandings or hurt feelings, at times. If you’re trying to clear up a disagreement, chances are it was based on some kind of a misunderstanding; most personal conflicts are. The best way to resolve a conflict is through examples. ‘I felt like you were ignoring me.’ Examples, please? When someone provides examples, you’re in a position to at least understand how and why they came to the conclusion they did. Without examples, you’re lost at sea and have to take their word for it.
Examples are not only important for resolving conflicts. They’re important for all kinds of life experiences. Money, jobs, career, where to spend personal time, opinions about any number of subjects? They all require examples. Examples enable clear thinking, and clear thinkers make the best friends.
This list is not exhaustive. ‘Five’ is not a magic number or arbitrary limit of any kind. I chose five because it best fit the space restraints for this article.
My purpose isn’t to foster or encourage a climate of walking on eggshells around one another. They’re just guidelines to keep in mind, and to apply to the full context of your experience with people in your life. To avoid judgmentalism without sacrificing rational judgment, try to evaluate people you know in the full context of everything you know about them.
One of the major concerns people express to me is how to find trustworthy people. If you have conscious and explicit standards to go by, you’re less likely to waste time on people who rarely live up to any of them.
Even with conscious attention to these things, people will still sometimes let you down. There’s nothing you can do to completely avoid that risk. But it’s a wise insurance policy to minimize the risk by applying rationality to everything you do, including your personal life.
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