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The One-Step Compatibility Test


One of my favorite quotes comes from Maya Angelou. It’s simple, it’s so easy to implement, and it can help you answer a lot of questions. Want to know what it is?

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. – Maya Angelou

Simply put, you can learn a lot about a person by their actions. When you meet someone new (maybe a new person you’re dating, or a new friend or co-worker), if you are observant, you can learn a lot about their character through their words, attitude, and actions. It’s the one-step compatibility test. You can find out pretty quickly whether that person is someone with whom you want to spend your time. You’ll be able to determine what they’re like and who they are as a person, and the key here is that whatever you see and whatever they show you – believe them. That’s really who they are. I’ll give you some examples.

Your new love interest

Maybe you met someone who you think you might like to get to know better. You start dating, and he comes to your house to pick you up for dinner. At your house, he comments on your decor or “critiques” the art on your walls or questions your taste in books when he sees what’s on your bookshelf. (Yes, this really happened to me!). The guy might be nice in general, and he may be a lot of fun, but do you want to spend a lot of time with someone whose commentary makes you feel compelled to hide the real you?

When I (briefly) dated a guy like this, it didn’t take long before I realized how much he thought of himself. I also started to see that the more he criticized other people, things, and ideas, the more he prided himself on being so much better. Maybe it was a self-esteem thing, I don’t know, but what I do know is that even if a guy looks good on paper, if he’s going to come in your house and criticize your choices, he likely wouldn’t be a very supportive partner.

This guy’s actions were a red flag for me, because I realized how uneasy he made me feel, if not a bit defensive. But really, I should have appreciated it, because it gave me a lot of insight into him.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that we weren’t a match. He showed me who he was, and I believed him. His words were a little window into his true personality, and then I could see how that part of him showed up in a lot of other ways too.

If you’re dating someone new and wondering if you are compatible, pay attention to your gut feeling. If he (or she) says or does something that makes you uncomfortable, look for it to manifest itself in other ways. Don’t make excuses for it or think it’s a one-time thing. It probably isn’t. He’s showing you who he is. Believe him.

New friends

Maybe you’ve been hanging out with some new friends, and you’re trying to determine whether they are people you would like to have in your inner circle. The same one-step test applies. I once started hanging out with a new friend whose company I enjoyed. We liked doing a lot of the same things, so we started doing some fun things together. But early on I noticed she spent a lot of time talking about others in our social circle.

Whether it was rumors or gossip or their sense of fashion or how they spent their money – she talked about it, and she had an opinion of it. And it often wasn’t very positive. I realized that this was a time she was showing me who she was, and negative people will take you down with them. Besides that, I had to figure she was talking about me when I wasn’t around!

This isn’t to say you should critique every new potential friend or seek out the negative side to their personality. It’s just that people are usually pretty good at putting their best foot forward when they are spending time with someone new. You want to be aware of that and make sure you aren’t overlooking something that makes you uneasy. That small thing you noticed about them might actually be a good indicator of who they are. This is especially true if it’s a behavior or action that troubles you, since those are often the most true indications of the real person.

Get to know someone through their actions instead of their words, and you will know the real person. Believe that their actions are who they truly are, and decide if that’s someone you want to be around.

As you can see, you can implement the one-step test in all your relationships. Think about Angelou’s quote, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” If you look back on past failed relationships with partners, friends, and co-workers, can you can see where someone showed you early on who they truly were, but you didn’t believe them?

Maybe you wanted to think better of them. Maybe you thought that person was just having an off day, but now looking back you can see that it really was a sign of her true personality. And possibly you could have saved yourself some headache and heartache if you would have just believed her the first time.