Anyone who is blatantly narcissistic or psychopathic, has a hair-trigger temper, gets their jollies from swindling people, lies even when the truth is easy and/or robs banks is obviously short on character.
And on the flip side, people who have a well thought out belief system that’s the cornerstone of their lives, deliver on what they say they’re going to do, do the right thing even when nobody else is watching and generally believe in leaving the world a better place than they found it are considered to have good, strong character.
All of the that isn’t generally up for debate.
But in the middle there is a massive gray expanse, isn’t there? Nobody can be a paragon of perfection at all times, of course. Nevertheless, here are ten indicators of character deficiency that tend to fly under the radar.
1) Double-Talk Or Backbiting Before Your Very Eyes
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who openly says something different to you than what you just heard them say to someone else?
Or have you ever watched someone be friendly and cordial to someone, only to go on about how much they can’t stand the person after he or she disappears?
If so, you probably wondered to yourself what the person you’re talking to really thinks of you, or how they really talk about you when you’re not around.
Your thoughts were perfectly natural and valid.
2) Attempts To Confide In You When Speaking Negatively About Someone
This is a bit of a twist on the first point above. But in this case, the person will seek to differentiate you as a trusted confidant.
The desired effect is to have you believe that he or she treats YOU with respect and integrity, even while disparaging the person he or she is talking about.
You may at first feel special when this happens, but really it’s just a ploy to gain your trust at the expense of others who aren’t there to hear what’s going on.
So whenever someone says, “don’t tell so-and-so I told you this”, feel free to assert the idea that if it’s not suitable for the main subject of the conversation to hear, then it’s not suitable for you either.
3) Writing Checks They Can’t (Or Won’t) Cash
Some people will pledge virtually anything to get what they need at the moment, or claim they can do anything to get the approval they want.
They’ll have to pay the proverbial piper later, but for the time being they enjoy a measure of temporary satisfaction. Or at the very least, they avoid short-term drama at the extreme risk of greater pain down the road.
Moreover, hedging the truth up front often leads to big-time pain later for everyone involved, and that’s not cool.
This may be controversial to some, but I believe that such short-sighted desperation points to a lack of character. It’s a sign that integrity is openly negotiable.
4) Overpromising, Under-Delivering
The subtle difference between this one and #3 is intent.
Whereas the person in #3 is talking as fast as he or she can out of desperation, the culprit in this case makes a big promise knowing it will never be fulfilled upon.
This is, of course, stereotypical of how unscrupulous salespeople do business.
What a rare and unexpected joy it is nowadays to do business with someone who delivers more than he or she promised up front. Yet, it’s the absolute best way to guarantee repeat customers.
5) Inability To Say “No”
This may be another controversial opinion, but I believe that being a perpetual approval seeker is a sign of low character as well.
That’s because one can’t possibly be true to one’s own cornerstone belief system while attempting to appease everyone else’s in the process.
Not having the personal strength to set clear boundaries is a primo indicator of People Pleasing Syndrome.
None of us can possibly meet every demand from every person who would have us do something for them.
But in order to admit that, you have to say “no” to someone in order to make good on the promises you’ve already prioritized. When you say “no”, someone is going to be disappointed, and you therefore run the risk of losing their approval.
So be it. You’re only human, and having priorities based on what’s truly important to you means setting boundaries.
6) The Cycle Of Lashing Out, Then Apologizing
This one wasn’t immediately obvious to me. It was only after watching two clear examples happen in real time over the past couple of weeks that I realized how closely aligned this phenomenon is with low character.
Let’s say someone gets perturbed with you, and in their anger calls you names.
Then, a short while later he or she calms down, feels badly that they insulted you and asks for forgiveness.
Before long, however, you piss them off again somehow. The other person then says, “You know what? I was right all along. You really are a so-and-so!”
But soon thereafter comes another apology.
Lather, rinse, repeat…right? Who knows what this person really thinks when their blood pressure is stable?
7) A Hidden Agenda
The notion of the “hidden agenda” is a staple of pop psychology. But beyond the buzzword, what are we really talking about here?
Essentially, it comes down to social manipulation related to wanting something. Associated behaviors are actually quite predictable. They include, being “Mr. Nice Guy”, flattery, small favors designed to elicit reciprocity, etc.
If you think about it, why would any agenda need to remain hidden? Why can’t we all just openly state our desires and intentions?
The simple answer is people often fully realize that their selfish desires will only be met at the expense of someone else. That’s why they believe the end result needs to be surreptitiously navigated toward rather than openly negotiated.
8) Telling People What They Want To Hear
This is a tried and true black-hat persuasion technique. If you know what a person or group of people want to hear, all you really have to do is say it in order to win them over.
But what if you subsequently find yourself in front of someone else with a different mindset, or even a flat-out opposite point of view? No worries…tailor your message in the moment to please them instead.
The secret is to be opaque enough in your delivery that there’s wiggle room if you’re overheard by the wrong people.
Politicians are famous for this, of course. The frustrating part is they tend to get away with it every election year, even when deep down people know what’s going on.
The reason why is tied to our next and penultimate bullet point…
9) Jumping On The Bandwagon
This is a bit like the mirror image of #8 above. In this case, however, the person is gravitating toward the message he or she wants to hear, even if the person or cause delivering the message shows signs of lacking character.
What’s truly breathtaking to watch is when someone is willing to change their baseline philosophical allegiances based simply on what’s in it for them. Yet, such happens all the time in the real world.
In essence, it all comes down to “everyone having their price”. For all too many, the cost of selling out is cheap indeed.
Also, never forget that the desperate will change the fabric of their character at the drop of a hat if it means getting their urgent needs met.
10) Not Being Honest With Oneself
If you can’t be true to yourself, who can you be true to?
Yet people often try to rationalize thoughts and behaviors that they already know are contrary to who they really are at their core.
Men and women of character are well acquainted with the truth that any pain caused by missing out on something tantalizing pales in comparison to the pain of having a black mark seared into your soul.
My challenge to each and every one of us (myself included) is to tighten up our own resolve to be men and women of strong character.
That’s the absolute best fast-track to being admired and respected by everyone in your life: peers, MOTOS, contractors, your boss (or those who work for you) and even your kids.
How important is that to you?
Let this list serve as sort of a character “tune up”, and watch in amazement as tangible results follow.
P.S. P.S. Going over this list, did you recognize any that you may have indulged in at times with your fingers crossed behind your back?
Or were there any others that you’ve shrugged your shoulders and excused when seen in others?
Maybe you’ve seen one or more of these so many times that you’re sick and tired of it.
And hey…are there any signs that I clearly missed? If so, add to the list in your comments below.