You're in the break room with a new coworker you don't know very well, and that person strikes up a conversation. You're a little guarded, and on top of that, you're an introvert. Is this someone you can trust enough to want to build a connection? How can you tell?
As it turns out, science has got your back. You can find out plenty about a person with one magic question with the power of a Vulcan mind meld. But before I give it to you, here's some quick background on the research.
How positively a person you're getting to know sees other people has been linked to how happy, kind-hearted and emotionally stable that person is. This is according to 2010 research by Wake Forest University psychology professor Dustin Wood.
"Your perceptions of others reveal so much about your own personality. Seeing others positively reveals our own positive traits," says Dr. Wood, lead author of the study.
The study also found that how positively you see other people shows how satisfied you are with your own life, and how much you are liked by others. Now I'm itching to give you the magic question for that new coworker in the break room you're not sure about, but bear with me.
On the flip side, if someone's tendency is to speak and describe others in negative terms (even if the person being described does have negative traits), it's a bigger tip off that the person you're speaking with will have higher levels of narcissism and antisocial behavior.
Here's Dr. Wood: "A huge suite of negative personality traits are associated with viewing others negatively. The simple tendency to see people negatively indicates a greater likelihood of depression and various personality disorders."
The Magic Question
Here's where it gets really interesting. Asking that new coworker in the break room you're not sure about what he or she thinks about someone else... reveals much about his or her own personality. The reason? People tend to see more of their own qualities in others.
Now that you've got your secret weapon, lets get back to the break room scene with that new coworker. Your question should sound something like this: "So tell me, how are you liking it here so far?" Followed by, "How do you like working with [coworker/boss name]?"
You'll find the study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2010.