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Hawaii_Jake's avatar

How can you tell what another person values?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (25804 points ) May 31st, 2012

When I meet someone new, I often ask them what they’re reading. I get a lot of information this way. I get information about likes and dislikes. I can follow up with a myriad of questions that tell me a lot about what a person values.

If they’re reading nothing and follow up questions reveal they’re unlikely to read anything in the near future, I gain the most knowledge.

When visiting a new home or place of business, you can assess the pictures on the walls for clues about values.

Do you have ways of telling what another person values?

Please, enlighten us.

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10 Answers

Nullo's avatar

Conversation, observation of their behavior. Sometimes the setting will narrow things down a bit.

Sunny2's avatar

Working together, talking about all kinds of things. If you have something you particularly want to find out, say, political party, ask.

Kayak8's avatar

I agree with you asking about books, it often tells me a great deal, particularly when the other person indicates that they don’t read books. I also agree with @Sunny2 about just asking the person, but I am a big observer. I look at people’s clothing (particularly shoes) to tell me how much they care about fashion or comfort. I look at the wear pattern on the shoes to give me a sense of how much money someone spends on shoes (a practical item in my book, not a fashion statement).

I also look at teeth and fingernails to see how a person cares for him or herself. I can usually tell the guitar players and can gauge the hard-workers by the callouses when I shake hands. I look at hair to see if it has been recently cut, did the person style it, add product, etc. I also take in the jewelry choices: earrings, wedding rings, other rings, bracelets, etc. to give me a sense of the other person’s interests.

Perhaps I should also tell you that I am OCD and observations and assessments are a big part of how I look at the world. When I was in about 8th grade, our English teacher was sitting at his desk when a man entered the room and assaulted him. It was an unexpected lesson in observation (for use in creative writing). We each had to describe the person. I nailed it, capturing the clothing, gender, hair, etc. Many other students missed a number of critical elements of identification of the assaulting party—gave me a very keen understanding of the problems with “eye-witnesses.”

josie's avatar

A good starting point is to watch them interact with children and old people.

stardust's avatar

Observation. Interaction with those around them can tell one a bit about another’s character. As many people express their personality through the clothing they wear, that can also be helpful. The way a person carries themselves is important as it indicates confidence or a lack thereof.
Conversation. I too think a lot can be said about one’s values through the books they read or, as has been said, through those they don’t read. The things a person chooses to talk about tell me a lot about them as a person – if someone spends a huge amount of time talking about themselves, their life, their dramas, etc, it is a red flag to me.

lynfromnm's avatar

Hi Jake: I agree with you about the type of books a person reads revealing values as well as elements of character. Other cues to me are whether the person treats others courteously, whether the person is on time, and what the person is passionate about—what makes their eyes light up.

rooeytoo's avatar

I rely on my gut feelings. It is wrong occasionally but not very often. It doesn’t necessarily tell me what another values but it seems to let me know if it is worth my time to take the relationship any further and find out what they value.

augustlan's avatar

Interesting question. Observation (not in the case of a one-time meeting, though… over time works best) and casual conversation go a long way, but the best is when you can have a really deep conversation that lasts long enough for natural barriers to drop.

Nullo's avatar

Seeing what they gravitate towards in conversation.

foraginggirl's avatar

Ask them. “So, what are you interested in?” They’ll talk about sport or crafts or travel or whatever it is they’re interested in, and by the way they talk about certain things, you can tell what they value. I wouldn’t be comfortable if someone asked me what I was reading, personally. Asking, “Do you read?” is a better question, since it leaves it up to the person answering whether they want to tell you what they’re reading

The reason the Kindle and other e-readers taking off so quickly is because people can’t tell what the person is reading.

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