How to judge another person

We all do it. We judge the appearance of a new member of the team or a new person in our community in 1/10 of a second according to research by Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov published in Psychological Science. Thoughts like, “he’s not a good looking person”, “she doesn’t look smart”, or “I don’t think I would trust this person” are used to label people we haven’t even formally met yet.

You have to admit, there is something intriguing about the process of blink judgement. It’s labeling quickly to simplify and act fast if necessary. Experts identify it as an early human survival mechanism. lion-976388_1280Cavemen had to determine immediately from appearance that the lion is dangerous though it may have been the first time they saw one. That’s fine for when it comes to quick judgments to save your life. However, understanding another person is a huge iceberg of information; a lot more under the water than showing on the surface. And it’s not right to judge the whole iceberg by its tip.


So how do you stop the blink judgments in safe environments? Watch your quick thoughts. Question them. And then dig deeper by using the Big Five Personality Traits to better understand the person.

Ask yourself, is the person…

1: Open to experience

inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious

2: Consciencious

efficient/organized vs. easy-going/careless

3: Extraverted or intraverted

outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved

4: Agreeable

friendly/compassionate vs. analytical/detached

5: Neurotic

sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident

Try not to make blink judgments. But you also don’t need to give the individual a personality test with several questions to analyze their traits. Instead use the approach outlined above as a guideline to understand the person better. You are not going to share it with them so there’s nothing to worry about if you’re wrong. Time will show you otherwise and teach you better.

Of course, there are pros and cons of every trait. The value is that this approach focuses on defining and understanding the personality rather than labeling the person with blink judgments like worthy or not.

The fun part is that after a while you will be better able to see how another person’s personality matches yours.

How have you been judging other people lately?



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