- Michael Thompson
That can’t be right. There was a notification on my phone saying that a meeting I’d begged to get was starting in 10 minutes. There was only one problem: I was sitting uncomfortably on my couch an hour away from where I needed to be.
“Shit! Shit! Shit!” I said to myself, desperately scanning the messages in the vain hope it’d be his fault, not mine. But sure enough, it wasn’t. In my elation at scoring the big meeting, I’d put the wrong date in my calendar.
There are only so many ways to say sorry. I shot off the best apology I could muster and waited for the blowback with a pit in my stomach like I was next in line to go into the principal’s office.
“Relax Mike!” That was my mom’s wisdom, later in the day. “He may not know you well, but he does know you. When you see how he responds, you’ll have a unique chance to get a read on his character.”
One hour passed. Then a second. Just as I was about to try and wind-down, my phone buzzed: “Thanks for canceling,” the message read. “I didn’t realize how much I needed an afternoon off.” After letting me know he’d be free the following Friday at three, he said goodbye in the form of a picture of him and his daughter eating french fries together.
The world is full of advice regarding who to watch out for — and for good reason — who we decide to let into our little worlds is one of the biggest decisions we’ll ever make. But for every cue that makes you question someone, there are positive signs that let you know they’re solid.
Taking the time to observe how someone responds when either you personally — or anyone for that matter — does something wrong, is one way to get a read on this. Below are a half dozen other examples to keep an eye on.
They’re honest (even if it’s to their own detriment)
My friend Marta’s roommate from college grew up with the funds to do whatever she wanted whenever she wanted. Her friend, who is now in her mid-30’s, decided at the beginning of last year she wanted to chase a childhood dream of becoming a professional singer and proceeded to throw thousands of euros into renting studio time and equipment.
The first day with her new voice coach, though, didn’t go as planned. Moments after hearing her sing, she pulled her aside and said, “No matter how much you train, you’re not going to be the next Rosalia.”
Her potential coach could have made a killing. But instead of saying an easy yes, she gave a hard no. As a result, they’ve not only built a strong friendship but the woman is also singing the coach’s praises everywhere she goes.
They keep your bad moments to themselves
I thought for sure what I’d said to my buddy’s friend in a moment of unnecessary hot steam would travel fast. But it didn’t. When he told me it was forgotten about, despite not knowing me that well, he meant it. To this day, after shoving my foot way down my throat, my secret lapse has remained in-house.
Some people love nothing more than waiting for someone else to screw up so they can tell the world the “truth” about them. At times, they may even go so far as to lay down the bait.
Other people, however, the ones with a solid character, understand if a cop follows anyone long enough they’re bound to find a reason to pull them over. But that doesn’t mean their infraction is deserving of being splashed all over the news.
They understand the time isn’t always right
I was walking to dinner with a friend who’d just been accepted into a well-known accelerator for his business. The guy was over the moon. When we arrived at the apartment of the host, however, he didn’t say a word about it.
“It wasn’t the time,” he told me later. “Jamie clearly wasn’t in a good mood and I didn’t want my great news to make him feel worse.”
After reaching a goal, a lot of people say, “Hey, look at me. My day was superb!” And don’t get me wrong, it’s good to celebrate. But keep an eye on how and when people respond when they hear their own victory bell. People with solid characters understand the world doesn’t revolve around them and they take a moment to ask themselves if now really is the best time to break out the champagne.
They make “out on a limb” recommendations
“Life isn’t only about creating opportunities for ourselves. It’s also about doing what we can to create them for other people. This is especially true if they didn’t begin at the same starting point as you.”
Out of all the wise lessons my friend Denise has taught me, the one above tops the list. It’s easy to refer people you’ve worked with intimately for an extended period of time. It’s also easy to connect people who are playing at the same level or a step above.
Putting your name behind someone isn’t something you should take lightly. But at times — when they see potential — high character individuals name drop those who they think could do some good if given the opportunity to step through a cracked door.
They aren’t stingy with their ideas and resources
When I was shopping for help with my business, I ran into two very clear, yet distinct styles. On the first call, the first type would talk about their past successes and how they operated while being very cautious of the time — “Our 30 minutes is up!” they’d say. “I have a lot of people interested in my services. Do you want to work together or not?”
The second type, however, treated our first call as potentially our only call. They not only immediately dug in with me despite it being a free consultation. They also mapped out a game plan I could use with or without their help.
When it came time to make a decision, the choice was easy — the generous ones who gave me their best ideas and resources for free ended up earning my loyalty.
They defend you when you take an unpopular stance
My friend Marina was the yearbook editor at her high school. When it came time for the end-year class photo, she made a very unpopular decision. The next day, when she saw the bulletin-board full of people bashing her choice — including strong words from people who’d backed her in private — her heart dropped. But she didn’t stay down for long as a lone classmate had the stones to leave his own note — “I’m with Marina!”
There are bigger issues in the world than what we should wear for our yearbook photos. But two decades later, Marina would gladly support the person who stood behind her if he ever ran for office. He’s one of the few people around who’s willing to stand up when others sit down.
As you go through your daily interactions, in addition to following the typical advice of seeing how people treat the waitstaff, kids, and how pets respond to them — keep an eye out for people who demonstrate the qualities above.
Observe who’s generous, patient, and knows how to keep their mouth shut. Take note of who has the courage to defend other people and gives others the benefit of the doubt when they screw up.
Most of all, observe those who are willing to pass up a chance to become more popular, score points, or make extra money in favor of doing the right thing.
They may not always get everything right. But it’s a solid sign they’re someone you can trust — which is the quality that sets the foundation for everything that’s good in this world.