Spending even a short amount of time with someone can often lead you to understand a lot about their personality, mentality, patience, politeness, courtesy, money management, general behavior and temperament. People generally have one of two overall types of personality – they either focus externally on other people or they are focused inwards on themselves. If someone is externally focused on others they are generally considerate, empathetic, compassionate, caring, kind, temperate, sensitive and possibly introverts. I’m not talking about a “used car salesman” external focus as in “I want to sell you a car,” but in the way a grade school teacher gives all of her children specialized attention like a mother hen taking care of her chicks. It’s the same as a mother cares for her children, or a volunteer assists the elderly in a retirement home. For these types of people “it’s all about them” – meaning the focus is on other people and not themselves.
When people have the behavior traits and personality to focus mainly on themselves, their motto is, “It’s all about me.” They are generally extroverts, and to a varying degree – loud, aggressive, driven to get ahead, arrogant, rude, pushy, self absorbed, hot tempered and all about themselves – classic “Type A” personalities. There are many shades of temperament and everyone falls somewhere on a sliding scale between considerate and arrogant. It’s along this graduated scale of temperament that our behavior falls and we can be “pegged” by others as to who we are and what our behavior is – from only spending a short time with them. Whether choosing a business associate or colleague, a future spouse or partner, a friend or mentor – to really understand them you have to know their personality – and the clues are always there very early on in any relationship, but you have to choose to pay attention to them. When people say that love is blind, they often refer to the fact that when people fall in love they only see what they choose to see in their partner – when everyone around them can see the person for who they really are – because you can’t disguise your personality to everyone, all the time.
Personality traits are like fingerprints – every one of us has a personality template or overlay that describes who we are to anyone that observes us. Our personality traits are not set in stone, but over time they begin to settle in gradually like the lines on our face as we get older – until we become our personality as our personality becomes us. It is possible to change our personality, just as we can change our heart – if we want to. It’s hard work and not many attempt the transition, but if you find that you don’t like the person you’ve become, or are becoming, you can decide to modify your behavior and actually become the person that you really want to be. It is hard work – but worth the effort!
Our faces shape to conform to our personality over time, and by the time you reach middle age if you are a happy and smiling person you’ll have nice upward turned smile lines at the corners of your eyes. Everyone that meets you can tell instantly that you have a bright and sunny outlook and personality – and that you’re most likely an optimist. If you have a frowning, glum and “sour puss” disposition in life, your mouth is bound to carry a permanent frown – from how the muscles of your face are formed and contoured over time. Because women have finer facial features, they seem to have more pronounced personality traits etched into their faces than men do. However, an angry man will develop an angry face over time – because that’s the way the face conforms to personality as we age.
People are creatures of habit, in that “we are what we think and do.” Over time we can’t separate our thoughts and daily actions from who we really are. Tendencies turn into habits. Habits become patterns of behavior. Patterns of behavior evolve into character. Character defines a life. One of the most radical notions for society over 2000 years ago, was that Jesus spent as much time explaining that what we think on the inside of us matters as much or more than what we do on the outside. For the first time the focus was on the interior life, on our thoughts and what we hold dear in our heart – because what we hold in our heart is what will be displayed on the outside – either directly or indirectly.
When people are being considered for a high level position, during the job interview and evaluation process, the company often takes them out to dinner. It is during this dining out experience that the company’s executive officer can see the candidate in a different setting that perhaps will reveal more about their personality, behavior and temperament. Since we are creatures of habit it is hard to “change our spots” in a public setting, unlike during an interview when we’re on our very best behavior. The company can evaluate if the candidate is ready on time, follows directions to wherever they are to meet, is dressed appropriately, is courteous to everyone they come in contact with – especially the restaurant’s hostess, kitchen and wait staff. How you treat other people says everything about your personality in only a moment’s time. Is the candidate pushy, rude, impatient, boastful, arrogant, or abrupt with people? Or are they patient, considerate, helpful, polite and gracious? Do they have proper table manners? Are they clumsy and awkward? Can they carry on polite conversation and discuss topics, events and subject areas that are unrelated to the job they are interviewing for? And lastly, how do they handle money and tipping? Generosity and consideration in money matters is a strong clue to overall behavior. The entire world of dating and falling in love is essentially a prolonged special interviewing process in and of itself, and restaurants happen to be the safe destination of choice for many first dates – precisely because you can clearly see someone’s overall personality on display.
One reason so many business meetings take place on the golf course is that a round or two of golf is another classic case where personality is very evident and on display for everyone to see. Does the golfer show consideration and temperament, or does he curse and blame everything else for his bad shots – besides himself? Is he honest in keeping score? Does he discretely kick the ball to get a better lie – in order to avoid an awkward shot? Does he wrap his putter around the closest tree when missing a putt? Is he patient and polite to other golfers or insist on playing through and barging ahead of them? Is he courteous in driving the golf cart or in treating his caddy – and does he tip the caddy well? How we play games, whether a round of golf or Monopoly, Clue or Risk – clearly shows our temperament to others.
However, I believe the most honest snapshot analysis of someone’s behavior – especially if they don’t notice they’re being observed or are under observation – is in the way they drive and behave when behind the wheel of a car, van or truck. I always say that everything that you ever wanted to know about someone can be observed through watching them drive – and it’s true. Every stage of the driving experience provides a clue or two in the overall picture of someone’s behavior. Let me walk you through various steps along the way and I’m sure that in time you will be able to add your own clues and situations to someone’s behavior analysis.
Why is this whole behavior analysis important, you may ask? Much of life is about safety, security, good decision making and making the right decisions concerning who to date, who to choose as a partner in life, who to marry, who to trust your life with and who to do business with. So often, people get involved with someone only to have major regrets down the road – from broken hearts, broken marriages, broken partnerships and dangerous situations that could have been easily avoided. In the “love is blind” example, all of your friends and family may see that the person you are dating or about to marry is a self-centered jerk – but you. To be able to read people’s personalities and behavior traits right from the very beginning of a relationship can help you avoid bad decision making down the line.
First impressions really do count, and in only a few minutes you can read someone’s personality and have a very high probability of understanding exactly who they are from only observing their behavior. Add into the mix what they say and how they say it, their background, education, grades, accomplishments, hobbies, entertainment choices, religious beliefs and practices, family and friends, living arrangements, and their credit and money management history – you then have enough information to know with certainty exactly who they are. If a partner in a new relationship displays a troubling personality trait like heavy drinking, anger management issues, risk taking, honesty issues, sadistic tendencies, money issues – then run – it will only get worse over time when they are no longer on their best behavior. It is not your job or duty to play psychologist and psychoanalyst to sort out all of their problems for them – that’s for professionals to do. Don’t let them break down and appeal to your charity to help them through their issues – unless you really, really, really want to go there with them. If you know who they are, understand their issues, get them some professional assistance, study up on the issues and feel that you can take them on – then do so with your eyes wide open. Set down some rules and insist on their cooperation. Don’t become an enabler or a crutch to finance them while their issues continue on without resolution. If you do choose to help them in life, remember you get all of their issues, problems and baggage in a “package deal” that may remain with you for years and years – and if you’re not strong enough as a person to deal with it all, they may just break you in the process of trying to help. If you are successful in helping them through their problems, then congratulations are in order – because you’ve just accomplished a very high and noble thing. But most people aren’t strong enough to deal with their own issues and someone else’s as well – especially if they are serious and psychologically or biologically based.
I can’t tell you how many times in life I have seen a pretty young woman who has everything going for her in the entire world, choose to be with a really terrible guy, who in time misuses and abuses her in any number of ways – mentally, physically, financially, emotionally, etc. It turns out that many of these young women suffer from low self-esteem issues that one would never have guessed in a thousand years. They say that “nice guys finish last,” and I have never understood the choices women often make in men. That tough guy who lives in the fast lane, drinks hard, doesn’t respect education or work – often gets the girl – and predictably the relationship turns into a disaster – for her. So knowing who people are does matter – because relationships and lives often hang in the balance.
So let’s get started with the driving example – and we’ll use a first date as an example. Say a guy asks you (the girl) out on a date to dinner, and you agree to be picked up at 7:00 pm. Even though he should be on his best behavior, his personality traits will come through his behavior because we are all creatures of habit – even when on our best behavior. Your first clue about him, is does he show up on time, perhaps a few minutes early? Where does he park? Does he come properly to the door and ring the doorbell, or does he honk from the street or bang on the door? Is he dressed as expected and well presented? If your parents or roommates are home, is he polite, introduces himself and has a few minutes of polite conversation? Does he look everyone in the eye? Is he confident, self-conscious or cocky? Does he crack jokes at other people’s, or particularly your, expense? Does he swear and use vulgar language? Does he have a firm but not painful or wimpy handshake? Does he say goodbye to everyone and walks you to the car – with you leading the way or at his side? Does he open your door for you? Does he slam your door or his door? Is the car clean, washed and vacuumed? Does he buckle his seat belt and insist that you do as well? All of these actions indicate a personality trait on a scale somewhere between one and ten – careful, courteous, gracious, thoughtful, respectful, and compassionate; or rude, thoughtless, careless, aggressive, arrogant, and self-centered. People who’s traits center near the middle are harder to be certain about – but all sevens on the scale during their best behavior can turn into eights and nines later on when they let their guard down – as everyone does over time. An act, if it is an act, can’t be continued forever without slipping up here, there and then later – everywhere.
Now let’s look at the way he drives. Does he drive smoothly and carefully, or does he mistreat the car by the way he drives? Does he follow the rules of the road and speed limits? Is he cautious at intersections and traffic lights? How does he treat the other cars on the road? Does he drive aggressively? Does he signal his intentions to other cars? Does he accelerate smoothly and slow smoothly? Does he ask you if you’re comfortable – music channel and selection, volume, temperature, wind with the windows down, etc? Does he park correctly in a parking spot or does take up two spots? Does he accept a good parking spot that is convenient or does he get agitated in looking for the best spot as close as possible to where you’re going?
Now let’s consider the make and model of the guy’s car, van or truck. People buy a vehicle for many different reasons, but basic transportation needs are generally well down the list of priorities when they decide what make, model and color to pick. A guy’s vehicle is a direct extension of their personality – and themselves. A car salesperson knows this very well and uses this to their advantage in selling a car. They can size someone up in five minutes based on age, gender, and finances. Then from only a few probing questions, they can steer the buyer into the exact car that their ego wants. This is very enticing to the buyer and if they aren’t careful the hook is bated and they really fall into the image trap.
First of all, does he buy something new or used, flashy or conservative, sporty or practical? Has he researched it or is it a spontaneous purchase? Can he afford it? Does he own it outright, lease it, or was it purchased on a bank loan? Was there a trade in, a down payment, or was it with no money down? Does it support their profession, sport or hobby? Do they properly take care of it – or do they spend hours obsessing over it? Is it a sacred cow to them? Does he treat his car or truck better than you? The make of the vehicle says a lot – is it a sedan, sports car, station wagon, van or truck? A sedan is generally a conservative choice. A sports car says their personal image is very important to them. A truck or van can be practical, in that it may support what they do for a living or a hobby – say a carpenter, outdoorsman or sportsman. If it’s a truck and it’s huge, raised and “in your face” – it’s all about aggression.
Black is a color of aggression and that of a brooding, dark and so called “sophisticated” and arrogant mentality. Color always sets someone’s mood, and reveals their mentality – brown or gray is boring; white, silver and gold are upscale; yellow and new vibrant colors are sunny and trendy; blue or green is conservative; red is flashy and black is aggressive and approaches mean spirited. Show me a man’s car and I’ll describe his personality to you. It can be a beater, conservative, practical, environmentally conscious (as in a hybrid), utilitarian, sporty, flashy, intimidating or aggressive – or a combination of types. A Corvette says one thing, a Mercedes Sport Coupe another, a Honda Accord something else, and a Hummer or giant tricked out pick-up truck something yet again.
Bumper stickers or stickers of any type are a whole world all to themselves. In this case they are a very direct link to personality and behavior – because they are intended to direct a behavior or message directly to other drivers around them. Study the messages carefully. They can reflect every type of view under the rainbow. No stickers at all reflect a conservative and non-combative personality. A university sticker displays an educated quiet pride. Political messages are meant to be direct – and reflect a person’s passion of choice. A car with fifteen stickers of every cause from a liberal, conservative or environmental point of view means that they are highly opinionated and not about to change – and will fight to prove their point. One glance at a car’s stickers tells you everything you need to know about the owner.
For the record I own a full size 1995 Honda Accord EX station wagon, burgundy in color, with a gray interior, in excellent condition with about 70,000 miles – and was purchased on a five year bank loan and was paid off 8 years ago. It’s my wife’s car and the family car for trips together. My car for driving to work in is a 1994 Honda Accord Coupe, sort of a petroleum bluish green color with a beige interior, also purchased on a four year bank loan and paid off in 1999. It has a little rust around the right rear fender well, and is otherwise in great shape with about 144,000 miles. Both colors were the only choices available at the time we bought them. We’ll drive both of them just as long as we can, and the coupe will be the first one to be eventually replaced. We contributed to and paid off early, a basic two wheel drive, regular cab, 1995 Dodge Ram 1500, metallic gray pick-up truck for our son, which he has since outfitted with a camper shell and custom set up for camping and mountain biking – with a removable solar panel on top of the camper shell and a battery pack for power when he’s in remote locations. He’s studying to become an engineer. From the vehicles we drive you get a pretty good picture of our lifestyle and values – conservative, practical, reliable, thoughtful, dependable and responsible, and that’s also exactly how we drive – and you’d be spot-on with your analysis. We are exactly as we want to be, nothing more and nothing less. What you see is what you get – and with a little practice, you too can tell everything that you need to know by observing people’s behavior and relating it to their personality. We are all creatures of habit, and how we act and behave – describes to anyone who’s paying attention – exactly who we are like a fingerprint.