The world often appears as a mirror of what you are inside. That might sound unrealistic and highly generali­sed, because you see so much wrong with the world around you and you wouldn’t want to relate all of that to yourself. But we’re talking perception here. We’re talking about the general tendency of people to analyse others according to their own inherent traits. A recent study in human psychology says that the way people judge others is a reflection of their own personality — because people tend to view their own tr­aits — subconsciously — in oth­er people. What’s more, positive evaluations of others showed not just positive traits in the evaluator, but also a tendency to be happier in life.
The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. In it, people were asked to judge the positive and negative characteristics of three other people. The more positively they judged, the happier, more enthusiastic, capable and emotionally stable they turned out to be th­emselves. They also turned out to be more satisfied with their own lives. Set against this, those, who judged others more negatively had higher levels of narcissism and antisocial behaviour. The researchers even returned to the same people a year later and found the results were the same.
So basically, what that means is if you view yourself as a trustworthy person — you usually make an effort to be trustworthy and keep secrets or keep your word—you’re more likely to trust others around you and view the world less sceptically. If, on the other hand, if you have a habit of manipulating people or messing around with confidential information, you would be extremely wary of the world and view it with much greater suspicion (even though you’d consciously never accept that ).
But then, there are also life-situations that change our beliefs about the world, regardless of how we view ourselves. A person having suffered deceit at the hands of trusted co­mpanions would be extremely suspicious of the world, irrespective of how trustworthy they might be themselves. Fr­om mildly unpleasant experiences to downright horrific ones, every interaction with the world tends to define your perspective about it. In that se­nse, there are deep limitations to judging people on the basis of their views about others. However, even in trying situations, the forgiving and optimistic soul would be that much more likely to overlook the faults of others and ascribe their behaviour to situations rather than inherent personality fla­ws. The negatively inclined person would, of course, attribute negative intentions ev­en where situations played out to the contrary.
Dustin Wood, the aforementioned stu­dy’s first author, writes: “Individuals displaying behaviours typical of paranoid personality disorder may believe that others are malevolent and untrustworthy, even though they may not see themselves that way. Machiavellianism is usually measured in part by asking individuals the extent to which they perceive a lack of sincerity or integrity in others’ actions and narcissistic behaviour is prompted in part by a belief that other people are inferior, uninteresting and unworthy of attention.”
So, perhaps, the next time we frame a negative image of another person, it would be a good idea to ask ourselves if we’re not just looking in the mirror and flinching from the ugliness we see there.
(The writer loves to write)
Zehra Naqvi