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Why am I a magnet for bad men?

 Why am I such a bad judge of character? (Photo: iStock)

Hi Chris,

Several times recently I have met someone new and formed a very good impression of them, only to discover a few weeks later that they are not nice at all.

In fact, by then they had started driving me nuts. So how come my initial ideas about their character were so wrong?

Bad Judge of Character

Chris says,

Hi, Bad Judge of Character!

Making an accurate judgement about someone new can change your life. How else can you find new friends, clients, or a date?

So your brain's wired up to make those judgements instantly and automatically. And generally, it does pretty well, but only with an accuracy of around 70 per cent.

That is pretty good when you think about all the factors that have to be taken into account. But it also means you are wrong 30 per cent of the time. So we all need to be careful about first impressions!

Why might you be making mistakes? Perhaps you are overlooking the possibility that someone's behaviour might be affected by their circumstances. How people in restaurants generally act 'posh' and do not show their normal behaviour.

You probably also only notice other people's more obvious traits, such as their conversational skills, and miss their more private feelings, like a tendency to be suspicious. And you might not be taking your feelings into account. So you are much more likely to like someone when you are feeling good, for example, and to dislike them if you are feeling down.

Our brains have some inbuilt biases. Like we think attractive people are intelligent. People with big eyes are honest. Tall people are good leaders. Someone with a deep voice will be a good lover. The list is endless, and there is not much truth in any of them!

We judge people from our social group more harshly than others, and once we have made an initial impression we only notice the things that back up our feelings. That is also the reason why it is so difficult to recover from a bad reputation, no matter how much you have changed!

All these mistakes occur because it can take weeks to make a completely accurate judgement of someone's character.

So our brain takes shortcuts because it is better to be 70 per cent right in a few seconds rather than sure in six weeks - by which time your new friend's stolen your life's savings...

So remember that 30 per cent error rate! And resist the urge to make up your mind too soon. That way you will make better friends and much longer-lasting relationships.

All the best,


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