How Well Do You Really Know Someone?

We’ve all had the experience of meeting someone new to whom we instantly feel drawn. The personality is magnetic. The individual is charming. The conversation is good.

After the initial meeting, you get together for other social occasions. You exchange messages. You share phone calls.

The more time you spend with this person, the more pleased you are that s/he is in your life.

That’s perfectly fine. As humans, it is psychologically normal to seek social interactions, and it’s good to have healthy relationships.

(Notice how celebrities, who by definition are well known, still enjoy meeting new people?)

Just remember this:

You cannot truly say you know someone until you have seen how that person handles stress and conflicts, and how flexible his/her integrity is.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a common tendency among most humans to exclusively present the best side of themselves when meeting new people and to maintain that illusion as long as possible.

This can be dangerous when you assume you know someone based on how long ago you met, how many times you have been in each other’s company, how many social media messages you have exchanged, and so on.

Although length of time knowing someone has value, it should not be the primary deciding factor. Important is how well you know her/him.

I say dangerous because we sometimes make major decisions based on what we think something in life will be like.

We assume a company would be great to work at based on how much we like its products and services. We relocate to a city because of how exciting it was to visit. We fantasize about going to a foreign country to do some good despite knowing it is politically unstable.

Likewise, it is easy to welcome someone deeper into your life and/or you enter that person’s life in a deeper way, and you later realize that you only superficially knew that individual.

Whether the connection is a friendship, a roommate situation, a dating relationship, or a business partnership, it is wise to make sure you have a rounded understanding of someone before moving from casual acquaintance to something closer.

This does not mean you are entitled to know everything about everyone. None of us is.

This is about character (“the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing… moral or ethical quality… qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity… reputation”,

Could you write an entire page of factual information (not speculation), based on your personal experiences, about the character of someone with whom you are developing a close relationship?

Or would you find yourself mostly talking about things that really do not matter that much?

These are some things worth seriously thinking about and honestly answering before you move on with a close friendship, dating relationship, living situation (including as roommates), or a business partnership:

(1) Is this someone who handles everyday stresses maturely, exercising respect for others in addition to protecting self?

(2) Does this person resort to tantrums and other juvenile conduct when displeased?

(3) Does s/he think it is ok to use violence and/or degrading speech just because s/he is unhappy about something?

(4) Is this someone who takes responsibility for her/his decisions and actions?

(5) Is this person trustworthy with personal, private information and the property of others?

(6) Does this person practice the Golden Rule (treat others as you want to be treated) in all areas of life?

(7) Does this individual have a habit of keeping his/her word?

(8) Is s/he loose with telling the truth?

(9) Is this someone who is generally considerate of other people regardless of whether it benefits him/her?

(10) Does this individual show as much interest in you as you show in her/him?

(11) Would you trust this person with $1000 in cash to hold for you while you were out of town for one month?

(12) Would you trust this person to look after your children or a treasured pet?

This is not about perfection.

All of us (including this author) have faults.

This is about character.

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    1. Very true, Patti.

      We also need to not overlook warning signs. If something about a person does not feel right, don’t ignore it. Confront it within yourself. Talk to a trusted friend/adviser if a second opinion would help. Ask yourself where this warning sign could lead. Might it be a signal of a serious character flaw? Talk directly to the person about it, and maintain healthy skepticism as you listen to the response and decide how to proceed.

      Over the years, I’ve noticed that people who realize they were swindled almost always later say they knew something was wrong about the person, but they did nothing about it.