People Reader: 5 Ways To Become a Better Judge of Character


The clamorous approach of summer blockbuster season begs the perennial question: Which superhero crew reigns supreme? The Fantastic Four, you say? Perhaps the X-Men? Or the Justice League of America?

I suspect most meeting planners would place their money on the Intangibles.

Who’s that? Consider it a catch-all term for the super powers within our best co-workers that can be difficult-to-impossible to recognize in a job interview, yet pivotal to team success when the hair-pulling commences.

How can you suss out Intangibles to join your team? Here are five cagey tactics that Real Simple magazine collected from folks who should know.

Ask a direct question: Jury consultant Leslie Ellis says that when empaneling jurors, her vote usually goes to those who answer her questions directly. “When someone immediately answers the question, we usually feel she is being honest with us,” Ellis explains. “When someone talks and talks in a roundabout way, giving 15 explanations for what she’s about to say, and then gives you the answer at the very end, she might be telling the truth, or she might be wrestling with it. It hurts your credibility if you’re not immediately direct.”

Ask them out to dinner: New York City waiter Darron Cardosa sizes up his customers best by the way they treat him during the course of a meal. “If they’re engaged and personable with the people at the table but then don’t look me in the eye or say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ I think that reveals a lot,” he says. The true litmus test? How the prospect reacts if their order is delayed or the restaurant is out of a dish. “When people get upset, it tells me they sweat the small stuff,” he says.

Ask them to repeat a story: Los Angeles matchmaker Jessie Kay says there’s so much fabrication built into electronic communications these days that it can be difficult in her field to find trustworthy matches. “One of the things I look for is consistency when someone tells me a story,” she explains. “I’ll say, ‘Hey, remember that story you told me? What happened at the end?’ Getting the same response – or not – says something about his (or her) honesty.”

Ask if they’ve broken a bone: Vanderbilt University hearing and speech professor Stephen Camarata, author of “The Intuitive Parent” and father to seven children, says bone breakers tend to be risk takers. “Which can be a good thing. The others are more cautious and deliberate,” he says. And he should know: three of his kids have broken multiple bones; four have broken nothing worse than a fingernail.

Ask what they “actually” mean: Annemarie Dooling, who handles audience correspondence for the New York City news site, says Intangibles don’t begin every sentence with “Actually,” especially online. “When someone starts a comment with ‘Actually,’ he is trying to correct you. Or ending a comment with ‘Right?’ He wants you to engage,” she says. “What I tell people, especially female writers I work with, is that when a person comes back more than once with an ‘actually’ or a ‘Right?’ … that person is trying to cause trouble.”

Tip of the hat to reporter Rebecca Webber at Real Simple!

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Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald is an award-winning journalist, author and blogger who incorporates humor and human interest into a broad range of topics. Follow him on Twitter @omnisaurus

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