To get a better understanding about people and try to avoid making mistakes about who we think they are, we need to learn how to read people and profile them. When I say “profile” people I don’t mean by race or social class, as a matter of fact we need to take those preconceived notions and throw them out the window if we want to get an accurate picture about a person.
There are plenty of low income people who would give anything they could to help anybody, and there are plenty of middle class or upper class people that would steal the shirt off your back if it meant their survival.
As a matter of fact, I think that the unprepared middle class entitlists pose a bigger threat in a SHTF situation than someone with a lower income because entitlests are used to having everything given to them.
I’m not going to get into a whole psychology lesson here, but I will go over some of the basic things we can do to get a better picture about how someone might react in a crisis.
Peel Back the Onion
Getting to know someone is like the layers of an onion, the more layers we peel back the more we get to know them. It’s then up to you whether or not you decide to stop peeling that onion, or get to know that person a little better.
Profiling someone and knowing how to read them will give you a better idea about whether they will be an asset or a threat in a disaster situation.
This holds true in our everyday lives as well, sometimes it is better to “cut bait” than to become friends with someone who is not good for you.
I am always trying to keep my children from hanging out with the “wrong crowd” because even if they don’t realize it now, these people are bad for their growth, (not to mention the trouble that comes when they get home) and it becomes more difficult to separate themselves from the situation the closer they get to it.
Here are a few things I do when I am trying to read someone…
Keeping with the onion analogy think of this in layers. Knowing these 4 layers will give you a good idea about whether or not you want to peel back the next layer or just “cut bait” when you meet someone new. This can also be applied to people you already know.
Layer 1 is the outer layer.
This is the layer that everyone in the world can see. You can get a few clues about someone’s personality by simple conversation and asking questions that will help you get a better idea about that persons ideals.
Don’t straight out ask someone “what do you think about preppers?” ask icebreaker questions like…
“What do you think about this Ebola thing? Pretty scary right?”
Or “did you see this article about illegal immigrants? I sure hope this situation doesn’t get out of hand.”
If the person says “Get out of hand? It’s already out of hand!” you know you might want to get to know them a little better.
If the person says “It’s been going on for years, besides, what can we do about it anyway?” it might be time to cut bait and make sure this person never find out where you live.
Associations play a role in this as well. Associations develop into habits and habits streamline our everyday lives. When I think of the word “prepping” I associate it with supplies, off the grid, bugging out, survival and self-reliance.
Someone else might be thinking crazy, conspiracy theory, extremist and hoarders. Because of shows like Doomsday Preppers this is a preconceived notion that most people have, it’s up to us to change that.
It’s important to remember this when you are talking to someone because not everyone thinks the same. How we react to something is going to be completely different than someone who has not taken the time to research preparedness.
Layer 2 is based on building trust.
These could be coworkers, people from church or for children classmates. We need to pay attention and not let our opinions become swayed by someone’s “sparkling personality” or even our own willingness to trust people.
This is the gateway layer. It might seem ok at the time to give out a little more information about ourselves than we usually would because this person seems alright, but the truth is it takes time to get to know someone’s true colors.
Layer 3 includes relationship bonds
Relationship bonds such as best friends and marriages. Once you reach this level of trust with someone you are pretty sure that this person has your best interest at heart.
This can also be dangerous because relationships change and friendships fall apart. Because we have let these people in they know more about us than most people do.
Because these people know so much about us, they probably know how prepared we are and depending on how the relationship ended they might have less reservation about taking what we have in a survival situation.
Layer 4 is the inner circle or “the core.”
Each person has a “core” where their thoughts and secrets aren’t shared with anyone but themselves and people who they trust 100% and without question.
Extended family members (whether we like them or not) are usually included in this level because regardless about our feelings for them, for most of us family comes first. The people in our inner circle are the reason we do this.
Never Judge a Book by Its Cover
This is all great, but how do we read someone that we have no intention of getting past the first layer with? Or how do we read someone that we casually come across in our day to day lives.
This could become especially important in the aftermath of an emergency. We could be bartering for goods or we could all of the sudden get a knock on the door from a mother and her child begging for help while her husband is around the corner waiting to force your hand if they get turned away.
We have all heard the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” and we have all heard the stories about a perfectly harmless man that turned out to be a serial killer or sexual offender.
Take Ted Bundy for example, Ted Bundy was known to all who knew him as a charming man. He was a volunteer at a suicide hotline and a college graduate. We all know who he really was now, but how many of us would have been able to see through is facade before we knew about his crimes?
When we try to determine whether someone is a good person or a potential threat, we tend to focus on superficial qualities that actually don’t tell us much about that person. We assume that people we work with every day, are just like us, they have a family, a well-kept home and are “normal.” We tend to give them a more credibility because of our preconceived notions.
We also tend to give our intuition more credit than it deserves. People who want to deceive us have a way of making us feel very comfortable. For instance, they’re friendly and courteous and make good eye contact.
Someone avoiding eye contact does not necessarily mean they are being dishonest, I personally have a hard time keeping eye contact over an extended period of time. This is not because I am dishonest, it’s because I have a hard time focusing on the conversation when I am trying to figure out which eye to look into…weird I know, but it is what it is.
To know whether someone is being dishonest and avoiding eye contact requires a “Baseline.” Establishing a baseline requires more than just one random encounter.
To really be able to read someone, you have to know them fairly well, or at least had a few encounters with them. By getting to know someone personally, you’ll have a better idea of what their likes or dislikes are, what their common habits are, and what is or isn’t necessarily a “tell” or a sign of dishonesty.
For example, I don’t like to look at people in the eye, or you may have a friend who is very fidgety. If so, their fidgeting may not be a sign of lying or nervousness. In this case I would be more concerned if this person were completely calm.
Pay attention to people you encounter on a daily basis and be a good listener, many of us aren’t very good listeners at all. The best way to tell if someone is being deceitful or is dangerous is by observing their behavior.
In order to be a good reader of behavior, you have to watch and listen, if you’re too busy talking the whole time, you can miss some key pieces of information.
Appearances Can Be Deceiving
We also tend to admire and even get intimidated by people in certain professions and positions, which additionally hampers our judgment.
We tend to give people a pass if they’re a religious figure, police officer or business person. We subconsciously assign admirable qualities to them without much thought. We assume they’re intelligent, courageous, compassionate and thereby harmless because of our preconceived notions about their profession.
Here are a few more signs to look for when you are reading someone…
Pay attention to body language, body language can tell you a lot about someone, especially when it comes to how comfortable they feel. Here are some things to look for when you are having a conversation:
If someone feels comfortable they might be leaning forward, be relaxed (limbs) and smiling in a way that does not look forced. For example, a person may smile at you but if their lip twitches, it might mean that they are thinking of something negative.
If someone is being deceitful or is uncomfortable with the conversation they might be leaning away from you or be very tense. When someone becomes clenched or tense (even for a second) it can be a sign. A furrowed brow, a tense jaw, it’s all signs of anxiety.
Voice cues can also give you a sign. Listen to the tone of their voice, a person’s voice can tell you a lot about what they’re feeling at that moment. Inconsistencies in tone or pitch can give you clues to whether or not they are trying to cover something up.
Are they talking louder or quieter than usual? And listen to their sentence structure, are they saying “Um,” or “Uh” more often than normal? If so, they might be nervous or lying and/or just trying to buy time.
Listen to their responses, Short, abrupt responses could mean that the person is frustrated, busy or uninterested. While long responses could mean that the person is interested, honest and happy with the conversation.
But remember a long response with a bunch of um’s or uh’s could mean they are basically making it up as they go, but they want to give the impression of honesty.
But There’s a Catch!
Now to make this even more complicated, you need to keep in mind that if someone you are talking to knows how to read people, they could be leading you in the direction they want you to go or reading your responses.
Here is another article that goes a little more in depth about how to read peoples body language. The more you do this the better you get so practice on your family members. On a side note, this is a great tool to have in your tool box if you have teenagers.
When you are speaking to someone and trying to read them you also want to be on the lookout for people who are there for one purpose only…to do you harm. Reading people accurately means going beyond superficial traits (like we talked about above) and observing their behaviors.
A person who has a short fuse in one situation will usually have it in another. For instance, if a person has road rage, it’s a good indicator that they also have anger problems outside the car.
Although this is not always the case. For some reason Lisa turns into a monster when she gets behind the wheel, but in her everyday life she is a compassionate well rounded person. I will admit though, she is getting much better.
Another red flag is if they think that violence is the answer to everything no matter what. A person like this might not have the expressed intention of taking you for everything you have initially, but when push comes to shove you have a good idea what their course of action will be.
When a person is physically aggressive and they mistreat others or act like a bully, this is likely how they deal with situations in other areas of their life.
Do they lack empathy or compassion? A lack of empathy and compassion as important indicators of someone’s character and their generousness. These people will try to refocus the conversation back to them by interrupting you.
Truly learning how to read and profile some one can truly be an art form. But the better we get at this now, the better our chances will be in a survival situation when it really matters.