In learning how to read and get to know people, there is nothing more old-fashioned and perhaps effective than asking questions. Whether the questions are direct or indirect, one can gather a lot of valuable information on someone through the nature of their answers. Job interviewers, personality test makers, interrogators, and professional profilers all know the right questions to ask people to find out details that will help their cause.
While there are hundreds of questions, and scenarios in which they’re asked, there are some key foundations that will give great insight into the mind, character, and intentions of another. Building upon this groundwork starts with finding out one’s principles, values, and beliefs.
Once we have this kind of intelligence, the rest tends to fill in itself. From here we can see if language, behavior, and actions all line up with the picture an individual paints of him or herself. Human behavior is quite complex, and it’s important to note, that while the information we gain from the following questions will help us in reaching defining qualities of another, they are never absolute.
There are many influences and experiences that we encounter in life. Certain situations may and can cause change in our ideals and self-concepts; for better or worse. But to know what an individual finds important right now, through these foundations, will reveal true priorities and character.
Answers to our questions then become more of a helpful guide in the journey of getting to know those we are interested in, and those that we learn we’d rather stay away from.
Shall we begin then? (The answer is yes)
Principles – Self-evident guidelines recognized and applied in personal and social situations by an individual. They are associated with respect to self, others, and the understanding of action and consequence. They can be learned or adopted rules of conduct as well.
Principles will help us to predict what actions a person will take in a given situation. Five leading questions to further reveal these qualities are:
- How would you react if you were treated like…?
- Do you agree with this (opinion, ideal, action, other principle)…?
- What makes you angry?
- Why did you choose (the red pill)…?
- Why is your time* important?
Principles tend to be centered around right and wrong, good and bad, and to be outstanding and rise above in precarious or testing conditions; for the betterment of yourself, others, and the world we live in.
For example, it is a common esteemed principle to find justice rather than seek revenge. It is a communal behavioral understanding and practice.
Many that have worked in the service industry, on principle, will tip their server regardless of the quality of service. They have been there, understand the dynamics and stresses of the job, and can empathize with other restaurant and service industry workers. In principle, it is a form of respect and known to be appreciated by the server when compensated well for their time taking care of you.
It just shows great practice of taking care of other people when given the opportunity.
People have revealed that they judge a person by the way they treat a waiter. The theory of principle goes, if this person has ill-regard for another human, it speaks bigger volumes of that individual’s character and behavior than it ever would of the person being in a server position.
People like to reply, “I would do this or that on principle alone.” At this juncture, we can ask directly, “What is that principle?”
We may learn something new to adapt to and expand our own principles, or be repulsed by the low standards in which a person feels they have to treat others, and move on!
*Though time may be associated with a value, how we operate within it can help define and expose the principles we live by.
Getting In Touch With Values
Values – What one has been given, awarded, taken possession of, or earned through inheritance, nature, study, creation, or discovery. Values are held with intense care and guarded passionately.
To learn what values a person might have, five questions to ask are:
- Where are you from?
- What are your goals?
- How is your relationship with your parents?
- What do you look for in another person when dating?
- What lessons has life taught you?
When we find out the answers to these questions, we start to see a heart felt personal care of life accomplishments, concerns, and desires of the individual. One of the answers to the above questions, knowing where a person is from, can start to paint a geographical picture of traditional upbringings and town reputations of its people.
Of course, not all citizens are going to have the same track record or be in line with the vibe of their hometown, but it will nonetheless give us an idea of our subject’s growth environment. Which is a key factor in understanding why a person may value things differently or the way that they do.
For example, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the average local is known for being a huge fan of the city’s NFL team the Steelers. Deciphering this dominant trait of the city’s people, one will find that the community as a whole is proud of its city and history.
Most that live in the city, because of the Steeler-pride centered mentality, have a common bond and understanding through the tough hardworking reputation that their sports team represents of the town. Knowing that a person is from Pittsburgh may tell us that they value their hometown, are strong in character, and prone to have good family relations.
We can really start to see the power in getting the answers to these questions!
Beliefs – A personal relevance and truth based on experience, education, upbringing, probability, and a measure of hope in the unknown. It’s a confidence in the truth of existence that a person bases the meaning of life on.
(With this quality, sometimes it is not the right time and place to ask, but paying attention or listening may give us this information when it is otherwise an awkward situation to ask.)
Beliefs will help discover the ways a person will translate events and possibly react in the face of challenge, adversity, or difficult decisions. Five questions to effectively probe are:
- What is your religious view?
- How did you come to those conclusions?
- Were you raised in that belief or faith?
- What is your view of other religions
- Do you believe in God?
These questions can give us an understanding of what another believes their, and life’s purpose, to be. It also gives further insight into the reasons why a person adopts certain principles and values.
If a person is a nihilist, for example, they may not value life as much or add any importance to it (based on the principle of no ultimate benefit or purpose). Conversely, they may value life even more if they feel this one existence is all that there ever will be (and they want to live it up to the fullest).
To have a belief in no god does not leave one void of principles and values. In reaching conclusions of another, if we want to know them better, must be open to their point of view; whether we believe in it or not.
This doesn’t mean that all will be accepted and fall into harmony. Beliefs alone can make people incompatible. Humans tend to be attracted to drama. Conflicting beliefs are one of the biggest contributors to this behavior.
In a case where a person has hope vested in a god versus a person who has no care to even acknowledge the existence of a god, it can start immediate conflict or discomfort. It is socially understood treating all with respect and try to be as accepting with of people’s differences as possible. So we may have to learn to be able to respectably go our own way.
If we know what a person believes in, then we can better gauge how to read, treat, and understand them. Naturally, always be yourself, but once again it comes down to respecting other of people’s differences and know when we are wasting our time with the wrong person.
Unfortunately, there are those who front a belief. They can be the exact opposite of what faith they falsely claim actually stands for. This is why we have to make sure all three qualities are in sync with behavior, language, and also their nonverbal communication.
Learning to ask questions in all three qualities at multiple angles and scenarios, we may catch a person slipping with proper consistency and expose their true intent and character.
If you want to get a fast track course into a person’s character, ask them their political view! All the principles, values, and beliefs will usually be incorporated into a person’s political view. There are many situations where it is frowned to discuss such matters (in a bar especially).
So carry through with discretion. But the answer to this question may give you all you need to know in a matter of minutes. And now you have the foundation on which to form your healthy conclusions of a person!
What Do You Think?
This three part blueprint of qualities and the associated questions encompasses various underlying tones of human interaction and intention. Attaching genuine answers in this questioning and examining of the three foundations of principles, values, and beliefs, forms a guideline in learning of people’s personality, character, history, and patterns.
Upon the understanding of these social and personal matters of another, one may read a person, and with fair accuracy, predict the conduct of the subject and general reactions to his or her world.
By way of the complex nature of humans, one answer will not give everything we need to know about a person.
(In some cases though, especially in the conduct of victimizing others, one answer will give all that we ever care or need to know about someone.)
The conclusions we seek in another may end our questioning right there, or be the beginning of a beautiful relationship with plenty more questions and experiences to come!
What did you think about the article? Do you agree with these ways to question and learn to read people? Let me know and if you would add anything. Thank you for your time and I hope that you learned something valuable and applicable!
– Mark G