Next-Level Relationships. 10 Ways To Vet The People In Your Life
I am ordering a coffee at a local coffee shop. A woman walks in and says to another woman standing in line behind me, “Hey sugar! How arrrrrrre you?”
Southerners like to draw out their words like that, and they love to use words like sugar, honey and darling (daaarlin if you are trying to say it with a southern accent).
I smile internally. It’s one those smiles you get when you know a secret. The secret I believe I know is that these two women probably are not even friends, and are just as likely to be talking shit about each other at next week’s Christmas parties as anything else.
I am next in line and the young twenty-something barista, who seems offended by my general look, gives me an annoyed “what-the-fuck-do-you-want look.” She does not ask me what I want, just looks at me like I am the bane of her existence. She perfectly personifies the name of the coffee shop, Krankie’s. I get the point and quickly order my coffee.
I smile internally at this as well. This I understand. This, I think, is genuine. I would not want to be up this early serving people coffee either.
As you know, I am a student of psychology and love observing people. I mostly like to observe my own biases, assumptions and stories. In this situation I question myself as I am known to do.
“Jade, how do you know that lady is not a genuine sweetheart rather than a bullshitting gossip?” The answer is, I don’t.
“How come you reacted more negatively to the pleasant woman compared to the annoyed barista?” The answer is, I don’t know.
In the time it takes me to get my coffee and go sit down, I have decided who the real asshole is in this scenario: ME.
My past history in dealing with southerners tells me they are pleasant, but not genuine. They are gossips. My past experience living in bigger cities like New York City, Los Angeles & Seattle make me not only tolerant, but understanding, of authentic people; even if they are being rude.
The truth, of course, is I have know idea who these people are. Some of my favorite, most genuine people in the world are from the south. Some of the biggest bullshitting, lying assholes I have ever encountered are from the cities I just mentioned. And, when I think about it more deeply, I prefer kind Southerners over rude Northerners.
Or do I? I know, its confusing right? And, given you are human, you likely have the same contradictory reactions regarding people.
10 Ways To Assess A Next Level Human:
This question has been coming up a lot for me, and apparently you too. I have gotten at least 10 variations on the question of vetting friendships and dealing with people in the last few months. Of course, these are prompted by a lot of my writings on what my friends and I call “next level humans,” And the upcoming Next Level Man and Next Level Woman events I will be putting on in 2018.
Also, given it is the holidays (I started writing this email days ago, and now it is Christmas Eve), this time of year is one inundated with family, close friends, old friends, acquaintances, coworkers, Christmas parties and all the rest. In other words, it is the perfect opportunity to watch others and ourselves. Are we assholes or are they?
I thought I would give you my formula for really vetting people, and getting beyond snap bias and judgments. Here are my go-to strategies for evaluating people in my life and checking my own asshole tendencies:
- Their History. This one is tricky because people change. As a matter of fact, part of the difficulty many people have with family and old friends is insisting on seeing them as they were instead of who they currently are. Still, history matters. If they have been a lying, cheating, bullshitter in the past you might want to keep a closer eye on them. Divorce? Lots of broken friendships? Family drama? I realize I am calling myself out here as well, but the fact remains, history does tell you something. It can’t be ignored, but if a person has changed for the better, that is a great sign they can grow and get better.
- The way others talk about them. What do other people say? Do they sing their praises? I have one close girlfriend who I have literally never heard anyone say anything negative about. In fact, they all say the same thing. “Oh my God, Jane is the sweetest person in the world! I just love her.” I have another girlfriend where the comments are not as friendly. I have had to defend her when she was not there on a few occasions. Most people who know me well, know I do not tolerate anyone “talking shit” about a friend of mine. Still, there is a stark difference in the way these two are talked about and I do notice the difference.
- The way they talk about others. This to me says more than most anything else. There are three types of gossip; venting, gossiping and talking shit. Venting is respectful and focused on the person talking, like “Mary said X and it got me to thinking. Can I get your opinion?” Gossiping is more detail oriented, like “I heard Mary got divorced. Do you know anything about what happened?” Shit talking is malicious in intent, often outright mean and attacking in nature, like “Mary is rude as hell, never picks up the tab and I heard so-and-so say she cheated on her husband.” We humans spend greater than 70-80% of our time talking about other people. People who vent, I don’t mind. People who gossip, I am suspicious of and keep my distance. People who shit talk, I avoid and will engage with as little as possible.
- Do they take responsibility. There are two types of people in the world. If you tell them, “I apologize for my part in this matter,” one type of person will say, “I am very sorry too. I also had a role to play.” Or they will say “Yeah, well you should be” (saying nothing is the same thing). If you tell these same people, “Thank you so much, I could not have done it without you,” one will say, “Don’t be ridiculous, of course you could have. I am just happy to help.” The other may say, “Yeah, good thing I could help.” See the difference? The first type of person displays awareness, consideration, humility and generosity. The second person displays the opposite of these behaviors.
- Politics. Many people insist you should not talk about politics. It is actually my favorite topic. You might think I am looking for someone who aligns with my political team. Instead, I am looking for a person who does not align with a political team at all. If they jump on a team, it tells me something. If they focus on a single issue, it tells me something. If they say nothing to “get along,” it says something. If they watch only Fox or MSNBC & use team-talk terms like “fake news,” “liberal media” or “all conservatives are dumb,” it tells me they are probably dumb; or at least not smart enough to think for themselves. If they say they are for family values and a good Christian, but then vote for, and to continue to support a racist, sexist, bigoted liar, nothing speaks louder than that. Watching someone engage in political discussions tells me almost everything I need to know about them.
- Driving. Do they let other drivers merge? Do they tailgate? Are they unaware and cut people off? Do they act as if everyone else is stupid and they are the only ones who know how to drive? Do they get anxious and angry in traffic? Do they backseat drive? Are they oblivious to other drivers and asleep at the wheel? All of these things tell me about their tendency toward consideration, awareness, patience and control.
- Other people. How do they treat wait staff, valet attendants, bellman, flight attendants & baristas? How about the homeless or those asking for handouts? How do they behave in long lines at the bank or coffee shop? Is it all about them? Or do they notice those around them. Do they treat people as equals or as if they are above them? This tells me about kindness, humility, generosity and humanity.
- Arguments. How do they behave with disagreements? Do they hold a grudge? Do they make the first effort to reconnect and apologize or is it always on you? Are they always right and you always wrong? Do you ever hear them say, “I am sorry, I was wrong and I understand your side.” Can you be in the weeds with them, yell & scream and then have them come back to talk, apologize and reconnect? This tells you about self-awareness. This tells you about respect. It lets you know they care and it lets you know they can meet you half-way.
- Truth, integrity & loyalty. Do they blow smoke? Do they avoid? Do their words match their actions? Isn’t it funny how all of us hate to be lied to, yet so many of us do it to others? Can you trust the person to be straight with you? More importantly, can you trust them enough to be straight with them. Are they able to be honest and compassionate at the same time? Do they mean what they say, say what they mean and do what they say? This tells you about integrity, honesty and loyalty. I have asked at least 100 people if they would prefer honesty or loyalty. It is always a tough choice for people, but loyalty usually edges out honesty. It is like we think, “Sure, if you have to lie to me I can forgive you if it is in the name of loyalty.”
- Communication. This is THE number one behavior to assess in people. Good communication requires self-awareness, self-confidence and self-respect. It is THE quintessential skill of all relationships. Do they talk? Talking, even if it is yelling, is always better than silence or withdrawal. Even the closest of romances and friendships dissolve in the face of non-communication. Do they tell you how they feel, even if they are still unsure about it? Do they include you in their thought process? Is it important to them that you have all the information and are not left in the dark? Do they answer your questions? Do they make you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts as well?
It is about you first:
These are the chief ways I assess and vet the people in my life. More importantly, it is the way I assess myself. To me, self-awareness is THE skill that comes before all others. I can never hope to be accurate in my assessment of another if I have not evaluated, and continue to evaluate, my own behavior.
In the end, it is about you. If you see the same patterns repeating over and over again, it is you. If this person is the only one you have difficulty with, it is likely them.
If you find yourself calling everyone an asshole, you are probably the asshole. If you are reluctant to call anyone an asshole ever, then you may be right in your assessment of the one you think might be.
The point is, judge yourself first. After you have done that, use these 10 principles to honestly evaluate others.
Is this helpful for you? Did I miss anything? Do me a favor and leave a comment to let me know.
If you want more out of your relationships, want to level up in interactions with people and know what it look like to be in a Level 10 romantic relationship; then check out Dr. Jade’s complete