I learned a good lesson from listening to myself talk one time a handful of years ago. I was saying something about one of the many attributes that I once claimed to possess. I then realized that what I was saying about myself was far the truth.
That I was showing myself to be what I wanted to be rather than what I was.
I soon applied this rule to other people. I looked around, listened, observed, and realized that a lot of other people do this too. I soon tried an experiment: I would listen to what someone says about themselves, believe the exact opposite, and then compare the two stances to see which was closer to the truth.
If someone proclaims loudly that they are smart, the first thing I think is that they are dumb.
If I hear someone tell me that they are a good person, I know that there is a good possibility that they are really a shit.
If someone needs to try to convince me that they are attractive I have found that they may very well be a dog.
If a person tells me that I can trust them, I assume that they cannot be trusted.
It seemed to work.
I then began realizing that self created descriptions are often designed for putting up fronts alone — to get me to think what the person wants me to think. Sometimes these fronts are created to hide an insecurity, sometimes to impress me, sometimes to deceive me.
But I learned to believe the exact opposite of what a person says about themselves. Real friends have no need to describe themselves to me. All too often a self description is a sign of deception.
“The first rule of anthropology is that it is pathological to believe what somebody says,” I paraphrase a comment that a reader of this travelogue once submitted (maybe Rich in Oman).
I soon found that following this rule could also keep me safe in travel.
You meet a lot of strangers when traveling, you come to find that you make a lot of acquaintances along the course of a journey. The trick comes in trying to sift through them: immediately being able to pick out the good from the bad.
[adsense]One way to detect the bad is to believe the exact opposite of what they say about themselves. I have found that very few good people feel the need to proclaim that they are good — they know they are good, there is no need to convince you of it.
A person with nothing to hide will not put up a front — they will let you see right in, they will usually not often make self defining proclamations, they will not try to prove their valor.
Only a crook will feel the need to tell you that they are not a crook.
If someone starts trying to convince me that I should trust them, I suspect that they want to f’ck me. If someone walks up to me in the street saying that they want to be my friend, I suspect that they have less than friendly intentions. If someone tells me that they are good and that other people around me are bad, the first thing I do is get away from this person.
I initially believe the opposite of what people say about themselves. I make them prove their words. It is a person’s actions which speak the truth, not their words.
I am speaking generally — there is nothing absolute in generalizations, but that does not mean that a traveler should not use them to guide their course of action. To do otherwise is to leave yourself floating on a sea without any bearings.
More travel tips on sizing people up
- How to Deal with Hotel Runners, Sharks, Touts
- Beware of Friendly “Gypsies ” in India
- Travel Tip #5- Not Your Friend
- On Moroccan Touts Travelogue Post