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3 Quick Tests to Better Decide Who to Spend Your Time With


“Oh, Michael, it’s so disappointing! I’d guestimate that eight percent of the guys I’ve chatted with — after offering an extremely low-hanging piece of fruit — have responded with the words I’m looking to hear.”

My friend Marta recently began dating again after a bit of a hiatus and decided to give the online world a shot. Like most people, she’s got a lot going on and the last thing she wanted to do was play a numbers game. As a result, she sat down to identify a way to effectively vet the guys who showed interest. 

“Whenever someone I’m chatting with asks me what I’m up to, I tell them I’m reading,” she told me. “All they have to do to keep the conversation going is ask me which book!”

Marta then went on to tell me that no matter how many other boxes someone may check, if their knee-jerk reaction isn’t to talk books for a few minutes, she’s not wasting another minute of her time on them. 

Who we decide to let into our lives is one of the most important decisions we make on a regular basis. I’ve never personally done the online dating thing and I hope my ten-year marriage lasts another hundred and seven. But like Marta, I don’t have the time or headspace to let every person that comes into my life become a part of my life. 

In addition to what Marta so eloquently described as “The Moron Test,” and other more typical ones like imagining you had to sit next to someone on a plane, below are three other suggestions to better navigate the often slippery slope of deciding who to spend your time with. 

The “Two Beers and a Puppy” test

In his book, “Works Well with Others,” author Ross McCammon shared one of the better pieces of advice I’ve come across which he aptly named the “Two Beers and a Puppy” test.

When thinking about someone, ask yourself the following questions: “Would I share two beers with this person?” and “Would I allow this person to look after my puppy for a weekend?”

Some people will be an automatic no and no, and if that’s the case, they should be avoided at all costs. 

Other people, however, can be a bit trickier. If it’s a yes and a no, according to Ross, you should cautiously trust them, whereas the people who are a yes and a no, despite being good for humanity, may not be someone you want to commit to spending long periods of time with.

Lastly, you have the people who are a resounding yes and yes, and you probably don’t need Ross to tell you that you should enjoy and spend as much time as humanly possible with these people.

The “11 p.m. Phone Call” test

A Hollywood executive presented Anthony Bourdain and his business partners an opportunity that would have made them all filthy rich. Before jumping at it, however, Bourdain pulled his team aside and asked his team a simple question — “If your phone rang at 11 p.m., would you want it to be that guy on the other end?” Without hesitation, despite the hefty payday, they all said “No way!” and decided to walk away.

“I want to keep the assholes in my life to an absolute minimum, if not zero. That’s worth real, real money — to not have assholes in your life.” — Anthony Bourdain

Like a lot of people, I get tunnel vision when presented with opportunities. Instead of taking the proper time to clarify my feelings for the person in front of me, I have a tendency to follow my lust. Needless to say, this has caused quite a few headaches in my life. Being conned out of $250,000 thirteen years ago still comes immediately to mind.

We’re all going to be presented with opportunities in our lives. But keep in mind the world is full of people who know how to pull at your emotions to get what they want. So before jumping, steal a line from Bourdain and imagine how you’d feel if they called you late at night. 

If you think you’d hesitate or your stomach drops even an eighth of an inch, it’s a sign you may want to do some digging to get crystal clear on what it is about the person that’s turning you off. 

Quick but important aside — 

Whenever anyone says something like “It’ll be easy money,” run. There’s a good shot that I’d be retired at the old age of 42 if I hadn’t fallen for that god-awful phrase.

The “Can’t Say Seven” test

I stumbled upon this exercise when reading “Tribe of Mentors” from author Tim Ferriss a few years ago. Upon learning about it, I immediately began to use it to prioritize my work and interestingly enough, make more sales. But it’s also an extremely valuable resource for deciding who to prioritize.

In short, when thinking about someone, do the standard “on a scale of 1 to 10” test, but instead of defaulting to “7” like a lot of people do when they’re being indecisive or don’t want to commit, listen hard to your gut and give a 6 or an 8.

It’s only a simple movement in one direction or the other. But it can help you determine who’s better off as a casual acquaintance from those you want to spend more time with.

Much like the “Two Beers and a Puppy” test, this exercise isn’t bulletproof. Some people need time to reveal their true selves and it’s not always easy to assign a number to someone’s name. But the last thing you want to realize when you’re old and grey is you settled for good instead of chasing great.

Pulling it together

My friend Fred offered a solid suggestion also. When thinking about who to prioritize, he simply asks himself how good of a listener someone is. This is for the simple fact that if someone doesn’t listen to him, it’ll only be a matter of time before he doesn’t want to listen to them. I think the “First Days of the Pandemic Friendship” test is pretty clever too. 

But I’d love to know your thought process for deciding who you spend your time with down below. 

Like comedian Chris Rock said, “The company you keep is everything!”