Life Advice


Health & Spirit

Person to Person: Small clues give big insight into relationships

Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen, Tribune News Service on

Published in Helping Yourself

Have you ever had a friend or lover who ended up surprising you? Maybe you had great confidence in this person at some point. But eventually, he or she acted ugly. Or, maybe this person eventually stole money from you or abandoned you.

We've all been involved in business relationships, friendships, and casual relationships that went sour. When we do a review, we always ask: How did things go from good to bad? Were there signs I didn't see?

In order to judge personality or character, it pays to look at the small stuff. The clues are always there.

Most of us are familiar with the concept (and book by Richard Carlson) about not sweating the small stuff. But, in relationships, we have to pay attention to small details about how others act and react. It all matters.

"It used to bother me that my stepmom didn't put the grocery cart back in the supermarket parking lot," says a friend of ours we'll call Dana. "She didn't worry if the cart got loose after we drove away. I was only six, but I knew she wasn't thinking right."

Another friend of ours says she recently found out her executive assistant stole money from her church. We'll call our friend Jessica.

"My assistant, Jean, was arrested in my office," says Jessica. "I was mortified because two of my real estate clients were there to close on their new homes."

Jessica says Jean had given off telling vibes for years. Jessica says, "Jean would keep the change when we ordered out for lunch, and she was rude to people on the phone. All the signs that this woman didn't have the qualities of a nice person were in place. I ignored them."

Here are some tips for judging the kindness and manners of other people:

-- Watch how they treat other people. If someone is trying to impress you, they'll be on their best behavior. But, watch how they treat others -- especially under stress.


-- Listen to their language. While anyone might use profanity if we hit our finger with a hammer, people who neglect and abuse others can use words like a fist quite often. How people speak is very telling, and remember that having "class" is all about what you don't say.

-- Take notes about their actions when no one else is around. Remember: we are who we are when no one else is looking. If your boyfriend steals a tip belonging to a waitress or your fiance "borrows" money from his roommate's wallet, these signs are giant red flags.

-- Look at someone's circle of friends. We all choose friends who share our common values.

"I married my first husband fully knowing he'd cheated on his first wife three times," says a friend of ours we'll call Allison. "Why was I shocked when he cheated on me? I am now divorced from him with two small daughters to raise. It's crucial to pay attention to character issues!"

The manners that your potential marriage partner displays, not to mention their solid faithfulness to their friends and family, will impact you every single day later on. Ask yourself, "Would I recommend this person to my best friend as a good, close friend? Would I want him or her to be my children's other parent?"

Honesty with yourself about other people is always a great protection plan. Listen to your inner voice.

(Judi Light Hopson is the Executive Director of the stress management website USA Wellness Cafe at Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.)

(c)2018 Person to Person

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

--Sponsored Video--


blog comments powered by Disqus

Social Connections


Dog Eat Doug Archie Steve Benson Shoe Andy Marlette Chris Britt