When I get to know someone, I ultimately only care about one thing: their character. To me, it does not matter whether you are driving a Bentley or an old Ford Taurus (like I used to). What matters is what is underneath it all. Who are you as a person? What is more than skin-deep?
Surrounding yourself with individuals of high character will not only make your life easier, but it will open up countless doors. Conversely, if you find yourself in a group of people that only seem to bring out the worst in you, you might want to rethink who you spend your time with. While we cannot always control our environment, it is important to ask yourself, am I surrounding myself with people that ultimately want the best for me?
Below are five questions sure to tell you the strength of one's character:
1. Do they respect your time?
We all have been late before. But, arriving on time to meet someone truly shows them that you care. You should ALWAYS arrive on time or early in a business setting. Yet, certain situations do occasionally prevent this from happening. If you are a sales professional stuck in traffic on your way to meet a client, give this person a call to let them know the current situation. Doing this will show them that you care and that you respect their time just as much as your own.
On the other side of the spectrum, if your friend or date seems to constantly be blowing you off, take note! While there are a variety of valid excuses, you have the right to stand up for yourself. Still, it is important to note that if you made loose plans in the first place, then you cannot blow up on someone for being late. But, time is a scarce resource. If someone does not respect yours, spend your time elsewhere.
2. How do they treat the janitor?
You can tell a lot about a person by how they treat those that hold less "power" than they do. If a person does not give those individuals the time of day, you can pretty must guess that if you were ever in the same situation, you would be treated the same way.
I try to stay away from people like this. Due to a variety of outside factors, the rich/popular/powerful of this world can easily have their lifestyles taken away from them at any time. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with being any of these things! They are all great! But, they should not determine your friend group. Conversely, your good friends should remain constant regardless of these factors. Would your friends treat you the same way if you were the CEO as they would if you were the janitor?
3. How often do they brag about themselves?
EVERYONE should be able to be happy about certain things in their life and express these sentiments. However, if those in your network only seem to glamorize their own lives, you might want to rethink who you are spending your time with. A person of high character does not need to build themselves up to feel good about who they are. I admire individuals with what I call "quiet confidence". For instance, those that are rich, but you have no idea that they are rich, because they do not find it necessary to tell you.
In the same token, a friend of mine was in Nashville awhile back when he had a long conversation with a man at the bar. This man was telling him how he needed to support the struggling bands that work so hard to do what they love. It wasn't until later that my friend realized that this man was a famous country singer because girls were rushing up to him to ask for his autograph. The man never felt the need to act like he was above anyone. Quite refreshing, if you ask me!
4. Do they talk behind other people's back?
This one is simple: If a friend, boss, or anyone is constantly talking behind others' backs, what makes you think they won't do the same thing as soon as you leave the room? Yes, we are all human and venting to friends is one of the best things on this earth! However, there is a fine line. Your gut will tell you if someone really has your back or not.
5. Will they help you if it has no benefit to them?
I have been stuck in my car in the snow too many times this winter to count. However, someone has always come to help, whether they were annoyed with me or not. This really shows their high character when they had absolutely nothing to gain from pushing my car out of the snow.
Yes, this is a bit of a silly example, but truthfully, you never know when you are going to be in a lousy situation and who will be there. Whether it be your car or something much bigger, it makes a world of difference to be surrounded by people that truly care and want to help you out no matter what!
However, do not expect for every friend of yours to be this good! In your life, you will have a variety of friends. Only expect a few of them to truly have your back at the end of the day. You can either think of this negatively or simply cherish what these few outstanding people have done for you.
In all, asking yourself these questions will help you to surround yourself with more of the right people. Sometimes, this will be out of your control and these people will test your character. But, remember who matters and thank them for all that they have done for you! You never know when you might need someone to lean on someday. Make sure that you have the right people to call when you do.