One Tiny Observation That Can Tell You a Lot About Someone
I try not to judge people too harshly too quickly. We all have our good and bad days. Sometimes people are just off. You never know what’s going on with someone when you’re interacting with them, especially if you’ve just met.
But there are ‘tells.’ There are seemingly small things that can tell you quite a bit about someone. You can pick up on these tells in a matter of seconds. While you don’t want to take every little observation you make about someone and use it to judge their character, it’s a useful social and life skill to pick up on these things.
I have one rule for judging behavior that seems to be spot-on pretty much all the time. I use this rule to get a glimpse into your character, your self-esteem, your relationships, everything.
So, what’s the rule?
I Carefully Watch the Way You Treat These People
I pay careful attention to the way people treat service staff. Whether it’s a server at a restaurant or a clerk at a retail store, I constantly watch the way people interact with them.
Do they greet them? Or do they dismiss them and simply bark their order or request? Are they friendly with them? Are they rude? Yes, people have their good and bad days, I know, but I still judge people who take their bad days out on strangers who are doing them a service.
How do they handle a situation like their food order running behind at a restaurant? How do they make requests? Do they treat service staff with dignity, or like their personal servants?
I’m borderline superstitious about this rule. If I were at a lunch with someone who I was interested in doing business with and they treated the servers poorly, I literally wouldn’t go into a deal with them.
I pay attention to the way people in my real life engage with service staff and I use it to determine how much I trust or want to associate with them. You don’t have to be extremely cheery, polite, or over-the-top nice. But you do have to treat them like human beings. And bonus points if you always go out of your way to show them, love.
Let’s take a look at the reasons why this is such a huge tell for someone’s character.
It Matters How You Treat People Who Can’t Greatly Benefit You
Anybody can treat someone kind if it’s of great benefit to them. Like that example above, the person who wants to do business with me would treat me nicely because they want to make a deal with me that makes money.
But why would I work with someone who only treats people well when it benefits them? This shows a lack of integrity and you don’t want to deal with business people who lack integrity.
It might not even be that deep. Sometimes those who are dismissive and rude to service staff aren’t doing it out of malice, but to me, that’s even worse. It’s almost like a step below treating them like servants. They’re not just treating them like servants, they’re treating them like they don’t even exist.
I like to associate with people who get along well with people on every spectrum of the ‘totem pole’ — this status hierarchy that shouldn’t exist in the first place but does, even if subconsciously.
It Shows Me How You Deal With Being in a Position of Power
When you’re dealing with service staff, you have almost all of the power. Unless you’re completely belligerent, you’re the customer, so you’re always right. This means you have a pretty long leash for the things you could get away with. I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it. We’ve all seen it.
If you’ve worked in a service staff role, there’s a one hundred percent chance you’ve experienced it. A customer complains about something to the point of berating the staff member. I’ve been in that position many times. And I always thought the same thing:
What kind of sad life does this person live that they have to Lorde over a stranger like me?
And that’s where the energy comes from that drives people to abuse the little power they do have. Insecurity. Someone who feels small in their day-to-day life takes advantage of the rare time they have control. This person is either someone who craves a leadership position but can’t get it, Or someone who does have a leadership role and undermines their team because of their insecurity.
Either way, people who can’t handle a tiny bit of power definitely shouldn’t be trusted with a lot.
On the Positive Note, It’s a Sign of High Self-Esteem, Integrity, and Social Savvy
The type of leaders we love are those that tend to be a little magnanimous. They’re confident and command attention through positive feedback instead of negative feedback.
Whenever I come across someone who is always chatting it up with service staff, respects them, treats them like human beings, tips well, etc, I envision a person who focuses on their own personal growth instead of tearing down others. Someone who respects other people, regardless of their station and life, and does it naturally.
Often, people who tend to treat service staff well either are or have been service staff members themselves. This means they’ve done demanding work and developed the social skills it takes to deal with customers (it’s a useful skill!). I’d trust someone like this to be a good leader because they’ve been at the lower rung of a company. I feel like all citizens of the country should be forced to work a service staff role for a few years Our society would be much better off.
Am I making too big of a deal of such a tiny tell? Like I said, it doesn’t tell you everything about someone, but it does tell you quite a bit. What are some other tells for people’s behavior that you think are important?
Ayodeji is the author of Real Help: An Honest Guide to Self-Improvement