Casual every-day questions that reveal a persons true personality?
August 30, 2010 9:20 PM   Subscribe

Casual every-day questions that reveal a persons true personality?

What are some questions that wouldn't come off as creepy / stalker-ish that would reveal a persons true personality? This could be useful in a dating, work or random scenario to learn for instance how responsible a person is, what they are like when they get stressed ECT!
posted by servix to Human Relations (40 answers total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
 
What are you looking forward to today/this week/this month?
What do you recommend? (See today's Taxi Gourmet post on the blue.)

You may want to get a deck of Scruples cards and see if any of those ring a bell.
Dating sites like OKCupid have scads of questions designed just for this purpose.
posted by carsonb at 9:27 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


This thread may give you some good questions.
posted by lilac girl at 9:31 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


At the risk of going all recursive on you, answers to "What are some casual every-day questions that would reveal a person's true personality?" strike me as potentially very revealing.
posted by .kobayashi. at 9:36 PM on August 30, 2010 [18 favorites]


Do you like my hat? (whether or not you are wearing one).

Also, "Which way is the quickest to get to ---, or should I take the scenic route?"
posted by emhutchinson at 9:36 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


What is the most interesting thing you've ever encounterd/done?

An ex's friend asked me once: "Tell me something true you feel about Madonna" (he was obsessed). I always thought that was one of the best questions I'd ever ben asked. I wish I had answered it more interestingly.
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 9:44 PM on August 30, 2010


Not a question. But if you want to get to know someone, watch how they treat wait staff, taxi drivers, people are in a position of service. Also people who are not in a position to give them anything they want. And I find it interesting to see how men treat old women, and how women treat old men.

And: Listen to them talk about their parents -- do they speak of them with love, or hatred, or unresolved maybe? Do you really want to spend time with someone with unresolved anger at their parents? Ooof. You're going to be hearing about their parents the rest of the time you know a person, may as well find out soon.

And I like to ask them when their birthday is, or mention birthdays in general, and maybe they'll ask me mine, so they can determine what sign of the zodiac I am. This is particularly helpful, because as soon as they say this I know I'm never, ever going to consider them seriously at all, and while we may enjoy the rest of our time together, this date is over, and I can think about important stuff, like wondering what is on the blue in the time I've wasted with her.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:00 PM on August 30, 2010 [19 favorites]


There's a This American Life episode that looks at the implications of answering the question: "What superpower would you rather have: the ability to fly or the ability to be invisible? What would you do with it?"

It's been a while, but I think the gist of it is that people who choose flight are interested in straightforward convenience and fun, while those who choose invisibility use it for sneakier thrills. It's really worth a listening to the entire act to hear people think through the pros and cons of each and how they would use their powers!
posted by erstwhile ungulate at 10:01 PM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Realistically, how people behave varies based on several factors. To get a good read on someone's personality you need to be around them multiple times and observe their behavior.

Imagine you, really tired after a hard day at work and a bad night's sleep, having just been cut off in traffic. The waiter forgets your order and you're a bit crabby. That doesn't mean you're an asshole. Catch you on another day, you just got paid, the weather is good, long weekend--the waiter forgets your order and you laugh it off and make it clear that you have no hard feelings.

Everyone is like this, to some extent. We all do things that are out of character on our worst (or best) days. Or we're simply distracted when someone asks us the question, or we're thinking about what we're doing next, or we're superfocused and we've already rehearsed an answer.

There are also a significant number of people who can effectively spin their answer to make themselves look (good, rebellious, kind, smart, stupid, experienced, conservative, wealthy, down-to-earth). Or they simply answer in a way that affirms their idea of themselves, but that doesn't accurately reflect how others see them.

So it is very unlikely that a question (or questions) posed in a casual setting could reliably reveal someone's personality.

But, if we must, I like to ask people what they think of [current female celebrity who is commonly considered to be a mess]. Not because Britney Spears is particularly interesting to me, but because I like people who are thoughtful and empathetic instead of "LOL CRAZY".
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:56 PM on August 30, 2010 [10 favorites]


You should have your potential date take the MMPI-2. See about ordering it here, though it might be for sale to clinicians only. If you can't order it, have a Psychologist administer it for you. It's the smart move. You don't want to muck around with amateur tests ("I am an ESTJ!").
posted by mlis at 11:09 PM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Beware of questions that are directly or indirectly designed to trick people into "revealing" their true selves. Lots of people are very quick on their feet; lots of others are slow-to-warm-to types. Both groups--and everyone between--include good people who are worthwhile to know.

The only way to get a true read is to actually log the hours and get to know someone. No matter how clever the question or discreet the test, it is still a bit of trickery as it's designed to be a short cut. Patience and honest communication is really the only way to discover someone's true colours.
posted by parkerama at 11:14 PM on August 30, 2010 [16 favorites]


According to Aaron Swartz, a good question is "what have you been thinking about lately?".
posted by AmbroseChapel at 11:18 PM on August 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


And I like to ask them when their birthday is, or mention birthdays in general, and maybe they'll ask me mine, so they can determine what sign of the zodiac I am. This is particularly helpful, because as soon as they say this I know I'm never, ever going to consider them seriously at all, and while we may enjoy the rest of our time together, this date is over, and I can think about important stuff, like wondering what is on the blue in the time I've wasted with her.

This is why I get very nervous on first dates, and why I hate being asked questions designed to reveal my personality. I think astrology's a crock, but I still might, without thinking, make a mild remark about someone's sign, to keep the conversation going, and by this system, poof! I've utterly failed and am permanently branded as a waste of time. "Questions that reveal a person's true personality" sound like trick questions to me.
posted by JanetLand at 11:36 PM on August 30, 2010 [19 favorites]


Self-presentation is as "true" as anything; it is that person's personality causing them to choose (or disregard) their self-presentation. Even if it could be dishonest somehow, wouldn't that be information enough in of itself?

Observation and interaction should be enough.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 11:43 PM on August 30, 2010


"What's the worst job you've ever had?"
posted by bendy at 12:06 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


And: Listen to them talk about their parents -- do they speak of them with love, or hatred, or unresolved maybe? Do you really want to spend time with someone with unresolved anger at their parents? Ooof. You're going to be hearing about their parents the rest of the time you know a person, may as well find out soon.

Wow, I feel that this isn't very fair at all. Some of us didn't get good parents and have had to deal with decades of crap from them. Does that mean that we have a bad personality?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:51 AM on August 31, 2010 [23 favorites]


My favourite is to ask someone "What's the question you wish people would/would not ask you?"
posted by taff at 1:19 AM on August 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


One of my favourite work related questions, because it was so unexpected and yet so obvious was "What was your favourite project?" Everyone else asks what things I do and how I do them, but nobody was interested in what I had the most fun with!

Getting people excited is a good way to find out something about them. And since you've made that person feel good, he'll probably be predisposed towards liking you now.

You can always adapt it according to that person's job. "What's your favourite thing you ever wrote about?" for instance. Avoid expressing it like "what do you enjoy most" because that sounds like a job interview.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:47 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a This American Life episode that looks at the implications of answering the question: "What superpower would you rather have: the ability to fly or the ability to be invisible? What would you do with it?"

While I really like that question (and its implications) I think this is somewhat well known already. If a stranger asked me that, I'd feel that he were trying to get me to reveal something private. That is, it would make me suspicious of his motives.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:51 AM on August 31, 2010


It doesn't work. Think of the worst people you can possibly think of:
Chick punchers
Kid hurters
Rapists
Murderers
People inciting genocide
Whatever

Get about 100 of them.

Ask them the question you think will work.

They will all give you different responses. They wont give you a response, or a set of responses that will indicate that they are of the same group.

Sorry, thats how humans work.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:02 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


parkerama: "The only way to get a true read is to actually log the hours and get to know someone. No matter how clever the question or discreet the test, it is still a bit of trickery as it's designed to be a short cut. Patience and honest communication is really the only way to discover someone's true colours."

This is the truth. Or, maybe, The Truth. Spending the time is the only way to really know someone. But (you knew there was a but coming, right?) but while spending that time, I think it's pretty important to be awake, to listen closely, to observe. People will tell me whatever I need to know, in time, but they may have been telling me since the first week, and I maybe didn't hear it because I maybe wasn't listening closely. I mean, it's gotta be fun, too, I'm not sitting over there with secret cameras recording their faces and voices so I can read over it second by second to analyze it after I get home; I'm on this date too, I wanna have fun. So while I don't need CIA grade cameras or whatever, it doesn't hurt any to pay attention, while I'm having the fun.


JanetLand: "And I like to ask them when their birthday is, or mention birthdays in general, and maybe they'll ask me mine, so they can determine what sign of the zodiac I am. This is particularly helpful, because as soon as they say this I know I'm never, ever going to consider them seriously at all, and while we may enjoy the rest of our time together, this date is over, and I can think about important stuff, like wondering what is on the blue in the time I've wasted with her.

This is why I get very nervous on first dates, and why I hate being asked questions designed to reveal my personality. I think astrology's a crock, but I still might, without thinking, make a mild remark about someone's sign, to keep the conversation going, and by this system, poof! I've utterly failed and am permanently branded as a waste of time. "Questions that reveal a person's true personality" sound like trick questions to me.
"

JanetLand, I don't konw what to say here, really; I know dating is, um, difficult, for everyone involved. And it's not as if I'll walk out the door because of a casual reference made to sun signs or whatever as she's snickering about how dopey it is, it's more like someone *really* interested in my birth date so they can see "if "we're compatible or not", because "Sun signs and Water signs should be together!" or whatever jive comes up. I *might* then say "Um, well, hey Myrtle -- I don't believe in this stuff. At all." and try to let it drop, try to move on.

If she pursues it, I'm waving her goodbye.

It's just that it's a deal breaker *for me* ie it's something I just can't deal with, I want to leap off the roof when someone brings that out.

And it works both ways, I've been shot down many a time for something some woman or other just couldn't deal with, regardless whatever else. I don't blame her, fact is that the sooner she finds out, the easier it is for both of us to walk away from it without moaning.

I guess I'm just saying that some things aren't meant to be. Dating is hard, and annoying.

The Light Fantastic: "And: Listen to them talk about their parents -- do they speak of them with love, or hatred, or unresolved maybe? Do you really want to spend time with someone with unresolved anger at their parents? Ooof. You're going to be hearing about their parents the rest of the time you know a person, may as well find out soon.

Wow, I feel that this isn't very fair at all. Some of us didn't get good parents and have had to deal with decades of crap from them. Does that mean that we have a bad personality?
"

The operative word in that bit I wrote is "unresolved".

I said nothing about anyones personality, though the fact is that personalities can and do get twisted around some in hellish families -- mine damn sure did. I got creamed by my parents, most people I know have gotten creamed to whatever extent by their parents; in my experience, for most people getting creamed in their family is a fact of life.

But -- have they done the work to get free of it all? Or are they doing the work to get free of it all? Are they willing to care for themselves in this way, or have they already done so, do they expect me to pick up after them emotionally as they careen from here to there?

Which is to ask: Have they resolved their issues with their parents? Not are their parents perfect, not if they are perfect, but have they dealt to such an extent that all they can see (and experience, too) is the damage from their parents, or the anger about the damage from their parents?

If they're not yet resolved, know that you're going to live with what is yet to be let go of.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:55 AM on August 31, 2010


...a persons true personality

What's a true personality? Some people are different at work than they are at home, yet both sides can be equally valid.

Anyway, find out what someone is in to and let them talk about it or ask them questions about it, it should reveal their passions, interest, ambition and level of thinking. How do you find out what they're into? Ask them about politics. They'll either respond well and get into it, or be sort of meh. If they're animated about talking politics, ask them what they're into. If they're 'meh', ask them what they're into if not politics.

Note, that initial subject doesn't have to be politics. That's just a subject I'm interested in, so in terms of connecting with another human being, it makes a good measure, to me, of the level of interest someone would be.
posted by nomadicink at 3:07 AM on August 31, 2010


Imagine you, really tired after a hard day at work and a bad night's sleep, having just been cut off in traffic. The waiter forgets your order and you're a bit crabby. That doesn't mean you're an asshole. Catch you on another day, you just got paid, the weather is good, long weekend--the waiter forgets your order and you laugh it off and make it clear that you have no hard feelings.

Except that to me, it's how you act when you're under stress that really reveals your true personality, moreso than how you are when things are going your way. It's easy to keep showing a good face when things are going your way, it's the you that you show when things aren't going your way that is a lot more accurate.

Which is pretty off target from the question, sorry. I don't think questions can tell you by themselves what a person is like. It's interesting to have the answers to compare to the person's actions though.
posted by lemniskate at 4:05 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's not an explicit question, but listen to what they complain about, and how often, and whether they mention how they'll handle those complaints.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:20 AM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Sun signs and Water signs should be together!"

Sounds like pop-astrology was designed to be short-cut personality assessor.
posted by ovvl at 4:44 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ask them an open ended question about something important to them ("What's new with your family?"). Wait for the first, short answer, "I have two kids." ... Then be prepared to endure an awkward silence, which they will frequently fill in with a more revealing answer...."One of them is living in a crack den in L.A. We haven't spoken in a while." Not that you want to "trick" someone into speaking to you. But I've always found that people are actually very eager to reveal themselves, if only someone would ask. And if they don't want to share, you haven't really pried in an inappropriate way, so...
posted by Buffaload at 4:58 AM on August 31, 2010


"Tell me about your perfect day."

A friend and I played that game for a solid year and a half, and our perfect days changed to reflect what we were thinking about/concentrating on/unhappy about at the moment. The trick is that you have to demand that they be very detailed.
posted by punchtothehead at 5:04 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


MMPI? Really? It's a test to check for traits consistent with mental disorders in clinical settings. Part of the problem is how someone answers those questions depends very much on their mood and, um as much as I appreciate your contributions MLIS I'm not sure I'd be willing to lay on your analytical couch or, any one else's for that matter - heh. If someone wanted to get to know me better by handing me the MMPI I'd use those Y/N dots to say something altogether not nice in Morse code.

I don't think there is a short cut in getting to know someone better either, just going to have to log in the hours and, observe how they interact with the universe.
posted by squeak at 7:18 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Hello, may I take you order?"

One of the best ways to judge someone's character is how they treat people they don't have to be nice to.

But personality is fluid. Though individuals tend to have a fairly consistant pattern over the long haul, situation effects much of one's everyday behaviour. And most questions that reveal a lot about a person are intrusive by definition. Sure you can find out if they like Jazz over Pop, or think Modern Art isn't art, but the simple is usally superficial.

Also I'm a faithless, fairly logical person but I know a lot about astrology. Belief in all the nonesense about water signs and star charts does not equal knowing what it means or finding it amusing. Granted I probably won't calculate your star sign at the dinner table, but if the subject comes up, I can hold my own in a conversation and joke about it.
posted by Phalene at 7:54 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


How much money would it take for you to kill a puppy with your bare hands?
posted by amarynth at 7:57 AM on August 31, 2010


Except that to me, it's how you act when you're under stress that really reveals your true personality, moreso than how you are when things are going your way.

I think that's silly. Some of the best people I know are total lunatics in traffic. I know someone who devotes 90% of her waking life to improving the lives of other people, is a ton of fun to hang out with, and is devoted to her family, but if you observed her only in traffic or only dealing with incompetent waitstaff, you'd think she's a horrible human being.

Dealing with stress badly means you're bad at dealing with stress. It doesn't say anything about your personality other than suggesting that you're probably not very laid back.
posted by callmejay at 8:07 AM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Talking about books does it for me. What is your favorite? What have you read lately? What books did you hate?
posted by Lame_username at 8:49 AM on August 31, 2010


Would you like it if a date started asking you all these questions with the goal of sussing out your "true personality", to know if you're worth dating? I don't know if you mean it that way, and you probably don't, but sheesh a lot of these answers have become very creepy and judgmental.

If you're looking for a good question to ask to make a deeper connection with someone you often can't go wrong with asking a variation on "how do you feel about that?" / "what was your reaction?" / "and what did you think?"

People usually tell you things that they want to talk about. Instead of asking deep questions or changing the subject or giving an opinion, focus on what they're already telling you.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:55 AM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Usually when someone talks about something they do, or something they like, their favorite movie or whatever, I like to ask what they like about it. For example, if they are an electrician and they love their job, asking why that is can be very revealing. They might say, "I like to fix problems" or "I like going into people's homes and talking to them" or "I am really good at it and can solve anything" or "I don't know/Never really thought about it." This works especially well with books, pets, and places visited.

It's also a nice way to cooperate in a natural conversation and get to know someone's motivations and joysources without coming across like you're conducting a questionnaire.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:58 AM on August 31, 2010 [12 favorites]


Vacations are a good topic to discuss. I get them to tell me about what they'd really like to do for a vacation - where they'd go, who with, how much of it they would plan ahead of time, what they'd spend most of their time doing once they got there, etc.

It would show whether they prefer somewhere new or somewhere familiar (how adventurous), who they like to spend their free time with (friends or family, big or small group - or alone), whether they're planners or more laid-back, and what really interests them - more artistic pursuits/appreciation, food, partying, athletic activities, etc. They might slip into past vacation talk as well, which is also good to see if they talk about things mostly in a positive or negative light.
posted by lizbunny at 9:31 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


I really like iamkimiam's answer, and all of the suggestions similar to it.

I will tell you something else: if someone asked me amarynth's question, I would know that

(a) they didn't listen to me or didn't realize that what I do means working with dead puppies.
(b) they are the kind of people who like to ask 'shocking' questions just because
(c) they are poor candidates for further investment of my time

Seriously, some of these questions are more revealing of the asker than whatever the answer is.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 9:34 AM on August 31, 2010


Some of my standards:
"What's your favorite childhood memory?"
Like punchtothehead's, "If you could spend a Sunday any way you wanted to, what would you do?" (Assume laws of physics and standard monetary means apply. Or not.)
posted by knile at 1:47 PM on August 31, 2010


What's the harm in just asking: "What is your true personality?" You'd be shocked by the response you get.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:32 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


"What's your favorite guilty pleasure?"

You get something nice, like clean sheet day or dog kisses, and you know something about the person. You get something prosaic, like smoking or sleeping late, and you know something about the person. You get a blank look, and you know pretty much all you need to know.

My favorite, though, is when you get a blush and a laugh, and you know you want to know more.
posted by kostia at 11:29 PM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's up?

It's so freeform and nonspecific that the form of the answer can be revealing.
posted by WCityMike at 6:22 PM on September 2, 2010


Explain Ask Culture vs. Guess Culture to them, and ask which they identify with and why?
posted by carsonb at 9:13 PM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


« Older Tea at Claridges?   |   DFW-area LARP-ers? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.