Anytime we describe or comment on someone’s personality, we are doing an assessment. Yes, it might not qualify as a formal psychological assessment, but it can still help us. More than likely, we are interpreting people’s responses to certain events to arrive at this assessment. This is very similar to projective personality assessments (also known as “free response” assessments). The most famous one is the Rorschach (inkblots).
In reality, people’s actions, decisions and words tell us something about them. For instance, the music, movies, books, clothes, cars and food they like give us insights. The challenge is figuring out what they tell us. Moreover, just because two people like the same book doesn’t mean they have similar personalities. The key question is, “Why do they like it?” Their answers are the clues.
When they answer, we listen by pretending they are now describing themselves. Many times the attributes we like, we will tend to like in other people and things. Conversely, the ones we don’t like, we will tend to not like.
For example, someone who says she liked the book because it was well organized is very likely to like organization in people and other facets of her world. If another says he liked the book because it made him think differently, he is very likely to like thought-provoking people and ideas. Usually, people’s first response is the most telling.
It’s important though that we continue to question and listen to see if we get other responses that tend to support our initial observation. Maybe something else besides personality drove the response such as education, upbringing or rules. That’s why I like doing this with everyday discussions because they tend to be less encumbered by other factors.