by Richard Davis –
Whether you are looking to hire someone, decide whether to trust someone, or enter a business partnership, the better you are at judging people, the better off you will be. Unfortunately, most people are just plain bad at reading others. Several decades of research among psychologists has indicated all sorts of blind spots, biases, and judgment errors we make in assessing people. Much of that research has focused on the mental processes we use to interpret what we see or hear. But errors also occur way before that – the problem can begin with the questions we ask to understand people in the first place.
When you want to get a read on someone, what questions do you ask? Most people have go-to questions. The ones I hear most often are open-ended questions like, “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?” “What do you want to be doing in five years?” and “What motivates you?” Some savvier questioners ask behavior-based questions, like “Tell me about a time when you….”. Sounds great, right? Now, ask yourself if you have ever once actually learned the truth about someone by their responses to these questions. How many times have you relied on people’s responses to these questions only to see later that those responses meant nothing at all? Most people ask a question like this and then move onto another topic, seemingly satisfied that they heard what they needed to hear. In reality, they learned nothing about the other person.