It’s not that easy to be a good judge of people. Can you really tell if a person has positive character traits based on first impressions?
The thing is, it’s easy to be impressed by someone’s level of education, talents, income, social status, job title, and even the number of followers on Twitter or Facebook.
But the qualities that make a person’s character stand out are not related to any of these external credentials.
More often than not, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.
It takes a lot of careful observation to read the “whys” and “hows” behind a person. The good news is, it’s a skill that can be learned and mastered.
Here are some specific ways to judge a person’s character.
Let’s jump in!
1) The way they treat people they don’t know
Do they show the same courtesy and respect to all? How do they make other people, especially those who are different from them, feel about themselves?
Do they smite a waiter with an “I want to speak to the manager” just because of a simple mistake? Or do they say please and thank you and take extra steps to be kind?
How a person treats cab drivers, cleaners, food runners, and other service professionals says a lot about who they are.
You’ll know it when a person thinks they are inherently better than someone whom they refer to as ‘just a busboy.’
A kind person will be kind and respectful to everyone, not just to those who can give them something in return.
2) Their body language
Actions speak louder than words, and those subtle nonverbal cues — gestures, facial expressions, and posture — reveal more about a person’s inner self than we think.
Here are some ways body language reflects a person’s character:
- Steady eye contact can mean a person is confident, friendly, honest, and genuinely interested. On the other hand, avoiding eye contact may mean a person is shy or disinterested.
- A genuine smile — one that you can see through the person’s eyes — almost always conveys a positive attitude.
- Standing tall can mean a person is confident and happy with themselves, while someone who is slumped and slouching can send the message that they are reserved or insecure.
3) The way they listen to (and talk about) others
Think about this for a minute: When you’re communicating with others, do you talk more or listen more?
I believe the best conversations happen when two people take turns to talk and everyone feels heard, appreciated, and valued.
You see, people who actively listen engage in meaningful conversations. They don’t interrupt, they don’t judge, and they ask the right questions.
In other words: They listen to connect.
And speaking of talking, you’ve got to pay attention to how a person talks about others. Do they talk about people behind their backs?
Someone with great character will be more interested in lifting others rather than bringing them down.
4) The way they handle conflict
Adversity and conflict can bring out the best and worst in a person.
Do they resort to knee-jerk reactions or verbal tirades when faced with disagreements?
Or are they the type to pause and calm themselves so they can identify the root of the problem?
Do they resort to toxic behavior such as criticism and contempt that add fuel to the fire?
Or do they respond from a place of responsibility and share their side of the story without being aggressive?
Learning to resolve conflicts and deal with emotions in a healthy way are signs of maturity. Whether we choose to master emotions or let them take over can determine our character.
5) The way they take responsibility for their actions
Accountability — or the lack of it — is also a key indicator of a person’s character.
Here’s the deal: We’ve all done things we’re not proud of. The bigger challenge for anyone is determining what to do if they’re in the wrong.
Do they own up to their mistakes, accept the consequences, and do their best to correct them?
Or do they immediately shift the blame onto others?
It’s easier to do the latter, but it shows a person’s ignorance, arrogance, and selfishness.
It takes a great deal of courage to face the consequences of our actions. But it teaches us a valuable lesson — doing the right thing even if, and especially when, it’s difficult.
6) The way they maintain their honesty and integrity
If there’s one character trait that’s very difficult to develop, it’s integrity. This is crucial especially since we’re living at a time when many people don’t take honesty as a priority.
And this lack of integrity can be seen in both words and actions. Do they break their promises? Do they say they’ll meet you at a certain time and then be late?
Do they say they’re sorry but not make any attempt to change their behavior?
Are they consistent in their emotions and actions?
People of integrity will stay true to their core values and principles regardless of the situation.
They will live by integrity every moment of their lives — even when it is inconvenient or unpopular.
7) The way they handle failure and success
Even the most successful people have had their share of rejections and failures.
How did they get their big breaks? They did not let their failures stop them from trying again.
People of strong character don’t view setbacks, challenges, and failures as deal-breakers but as powerful learning opportunities.
They seek these growth experiences that give them the confidence to bounce back from failure.
And once at the top, they never forget to thank the people who gave them the major boost to get to the finish line.
They are quick to share credit for good work, celebrate others’ success, and take care of those around them.
8) The way they empathize with others
A person’s level of empathy is another important indicator of their character.
The thing is, empathy is more than just being sensitive or feeling other people’s pain.
It’s also about looking at the situation from the other person’s angle and understanding what they’re going through from their physical, social, and psychological perspectives.
Do they genuinely care for another person’s well-being? Can they recognize others’ feelings?
Can they identify and understand their emotions — both positive and negative — when they’re going through a difficult time?
Do they offer support and learn more about other people? Or do they dismiss their problems and invalidate their feelings?
9) The way they respond to criticism and feedback
Ok, I know what you’re thinking: There’s no easy way to go about this.
Criticism, whether constructive or destructive, will most likely hurt our self-esteem at one point or another.
But a person with strong character will handle criticism like a pro. They can receive feedback without getting defensive or going into a tailspin of self-doubt.
They’ll be respectful no matter what. They’ll look at the feedback objectively, rather than reacting emotionally.
More importantly, they’ll approach criticism with a growth mindset. They’ll be humble enough to recognize that they are not perfect and there’s always room to change for the better.
10) The way they forgive
Making a conscious decision not to hold a grudge is something that I’ve been working on for many years now.
I’m slowly learning that clinging to anger, bitterness, and disappointments doesn’t do me any good. They just bring out the worst feelings and thoughts in me.
That’s why it takes a person of strong character to forgive and let go of a grudge.
They know that it’s a very difficult process, but they choose to be the bigger person.
They understand that forgiveness doesn’t have to mean forgetting, reconciling, or excusing what the other person did.
It’s about loving their selves and achieving a sense of peace.
11) The way they maintain relationships
As the saying goes, “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.”
I do believe that choosing our friends is one of the most important things we’ll ever do in life.
Our peers — the people in our inner circle — can define who we are and who we could become.
Simply put: Traits can be contagious. We don’t always notice it, but we can easily pick up on our friends’ habits.
Does the person have relationships that are positive and healthy? Do they have genuine friendships — the kind that will have their backs when life gets tricky?
12) The way they stay true to themselves
This one’s connected to my earlier point about integrity. You see, there’s nothing quite like a person who just feels authentic.
You know, the type of people who always come from a place of truth.
They know their strengths, passions, purpose, and uniqueness, and they live that way all the time.
And the best part? They show their strength of character by being honest about who they are.
They’re not out to impress others or live by someone else’s standards or rules.
They let their values guide their choices in life, even if that means taking the road less traveled.
It is this quality that earns the admiration and respect of everyone they meet.