The fireflies are out. I’m fortunate, I think, to live in a region of the country that lives with fireflies (or lightning bugs, depending on where you live) all summer long. We didn’t realize we’d been waiting for them, but we all laughed and gasped when we spotted the first ones in the backyard last week.
Since 6 or 7 years ago, those fireflies immediately make me think of a dear friend, and her husband. She brought him to town on a meet-the-parents-and-old-friends tour right before they got engaged. The day Will and I met him for the first time, we were all saying our goodnights in the front yard as the sun went down, and the fireflies came out. My friend is from firefly country, but her boyfriend is not, and I’ll never forget his incredulity and delight when he first glimpsed the sparkling lights in the evening air.
When we shut the door behind them that night, Will said, You can tell a lot about a person by the way they react when they see fireflies for the first time.
About ten years ago we were fortunate to have a family therapist come to our house every week or two to talk over one of our kids’ treatment plan for motor delays. (Best thing ever.) When our therapist came in and sat down on the couch every week, our normally rambunctious lab would curl up at his feet.
Our therapist assumed our dog did that for everyone, but Will set him straight one day, and explained that Harriet was a great reader of personalities: she only napped near the introverts. Boisterous personalities riled her up. (Our therapist, who knew I was obsessed with personality typing, quipped, So Anne reads the people, and Will reads the dog? Well, yes.)
You can tell a lot about a person by the way our dog reacts to them.
We were standing on the corner in NYC, waiting to cross, when a twenty-something man came up next to me, talking loudly on his phone. He was grinning as he spoke, telling his listener his plans for the day, clearly winding up the conversation. He hung up just as our light turned green. His last words: I love you too, Mom.
You can tell a lot about a person by the look on their face when they’re on the phone with their mom.
Some people collect Jane Austen quotes, or truisms, or zen koans. (Okay, I might do all of those things.) I love to hear the way people finish this sentence: you can tell a lot about a person by the way they ….
Some of my friends have strong opinions about what you can learn about a person by the way they react when they’re cut off in traffic, or the store clerk gives them too much change, or whether or not they return their shopping cart to the corral.
I love collecting answers to this question: you can learn a lot about a person by the way they react to everyday things. (Although I try to observe with a grain of salt: sometimes what you learn about a person is that they really need a nap, or a snack.)
Foolproof? Not even close. But fascinating all the same? I think so.
How would you finish this sentence: You can tell a lot about a person by ….
P.S. I wrote a book about personality coming out September 19, 2017: Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything. Click here to pre-order.