From the moment two people meet, they’re sizing each other up, looking for signs of qualities like honesty, intelligence, and altruism.
Whether it’s a date or a job interview, the small stuff matters — from the firmness of your handshake to how often you check your phone.
We checked out the Quora thread “What are the really small things that tell a lot about a person’s psychology and personality?” and the latest scientific research, and highlighted some of the most common behaviors people use to judge you.
1. Your handshake.
Several Quora users admitted that they judge people based on their handshake.
“Strong handshakes usually reflect a strong and confident character, whereas weak handshakes usually indicate a lack of confidence and are almost always a characteristic of people who would look for an easy way to do things,” writes Julian Parge.
Research backs up the idea that your handshake can reveal certain aspects of your personality. One study found that people with firm handshakes were more likely to be extroverted and emotionally expressive and less likely to be shy and neurotic.
2. Your punctuality.
Late for a very important date? The person who’s waiting may be forming a negative impression of your personality.
“A proactive person will be there on time, because he is self-motivated, mentally organized, and values time whereas a procrastinator will be running here and there at the last hour,” says Humaira Siddiqui.
According to science, those who are chronically late aren’t necessarily inconsiderate people — but they’re probably more laid-back, “Type B” individuals.
3. Your handwriting.
Whether you’re writing a to-do list or a love note, your handwriting can say a lot about you.
Ramesh Nagaraj believes that “people who put a lot of pressure on pen and paper to write something are usually stubborn in attitude. They have a lot of confidence.”
Meanwhile, professional graphologist Kathi McKnight says that large letters indicate that you’re people-oriented, while small letters suggest you’re introverted. Letters that slant to the right can mean you’re friendly and sentimental, those that don’t slant at all might mean you’re pragmatic, and letters that slant to the left suggest you’re introspective.
4. Your favorite color.
Shivani Jha has a theory on what your color of choice reveals about your personality. For example, if your favorite color is red, she assumes you desire physical fulfillment. If your favorite color is yellow, she thinks you need logical order and value individuality.
Industrial psychologist Bernardo Tirado breaks it down slightly differently. Writing in Psychology Today, Tirado says that red lovers are tenacious and determined, while yellow lovers enjoy learning and find happiness easily.
5. Your taste in music.
The study found that people who listen to “reflective and complex” music tend to be open to new experiences and politically liberal. Those who listen to “upbeat and conventional” jams are more likely to be extroverted and athletic.
6. Your eye contact.
Munje says that a limp handshake and a lack of steady eye contact “shows lack of self-control, required drive to follow through, and a weak will.”
Alternatively, psychologist Adrian Furnham, PhD, writes in Psychology Today that extroverts tend to look more often and for longer at their conversation partners than introverts do. And in general, people who look at their partners more often are more confident and socially dominant.
7. Your choice of pet.
People may make inferences about you based on your pet. For instance, Joe Waldron believes that people who do not like cats have control issues, and he warns against dating women who have big dogs, believing that they are not interested in long-term relationships.
Meanwhile, one study found that people who prefer dogs are generally more energetic and outgoing, while those who prefer cats tend to be more introverted and sensitive. The same study also found that cat people tend to be more intelligent.
8. How you ask a question.
Even if someone doesn’t say anything about themselves in conversation, you can still learn about their personality.
As Khaliana Schmitz says: “When meeting someone for the first time … see how long it takes for them to ask you a question in return. You’d be surprised how much this reveals in terms of a person being a ‘giver’ or a ‘taker.’ It will help you distinguish between ‘people who like you’ and ‘people who like what you can provide them.'”
9. Whether you bite your nails.
Sushrut Munje has strong views on people with bitten nails, saying that it’s a sign that “the person eats away at himself.”
Meanwhile, research suggests that those who bite their nails — or pull their hair or pick their skin — tend to be perfectionists, unable to fully relax.