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Use This One Question To Tell Someone’s Personality

By asking someone just one question you can reveal a lot about their personality, according to a recent study by Dr Dustin Wood published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and reproduced in the excellent Psyblog.   

The one question to ask is what they think about other people and the reason this question is so revealing, according to Dr Wood, is that people tend to see more of their own qualities in others. As a result, the positive and generous person sees others as positive and generous and the selfish and negative person sees others as selfish and negative. 

He suggests, “a huge suite of negative personality traits are associated with viewing others negatively. The simple tendency to see people negatively indicates a greater likelihood of depression and various personality disorders.” 

The conclusions come from a series of studies where people were asked to judge the positive and negative characteristics of other people.  The more positively they judged those people, the more happy, enthusiastic, capable and emotionally stable they turned out to be themselves, and also more satisfied they were with their own lives.  Conversely, those who judged others more negatively had higher levels of narcissism and antisocial behaviour. 

The researchers even returned to the same people a year later and found the results were the same, which suggests that what people’s ratings of others say about themselves remains stable over time. 

Of course, you don't even have to ask the question. Just listening to and observing others in the work place over only a short period time will reveal who thinks what about whom and indicate who is positive in their outlook and who is negative. 


Paul Lyons is an experienced CEO, Coach, Speaker, NED and MTQ48 accredited.  As CEO of Mental Toughness Partners, he assists individuals and organisations to develop their mental toughness to improve performance, behaviour and well-being.  You can find him at paullyons.com and mentaltoughness.partners 

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