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Sizing People Up

A Veteran FBI Agent’s User Manual for Behavior Prediction

By Robin Dreeke and Cameron Stauth
13-minute read
Audio available
Sizing People Up by Robin Dreeke and Cameron Stauth

Sizing People Up (2020) explores the subtle behavioral clues that reveal someone’s true character and intentions. From divining people’s mindset to analyzing their language to understanding common behavioral patterns, these blinks reveal who you can trust – and who you definitely can’t. 

  • Recruiters looking to up their game
  • Psychology buffs seeking fresh insights
  • Sales people wanting to develop their skills

Robin Dreeke is the former head of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Program and has over 30 years of experience in the science of behavior and interpersonal relationships. Dreeke is also the founder and president of People Formula, LLC – a consultancy that helps people hone their communication and rapport-building skills. Cameron Stauth is an author and journalist who specializes in nonfiction and science writing. 

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Sizing People Up

A Veteran FBI Agent’s User Manual for Behavior Prediction

By Robin Dreeke and Cameron Stauth
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
Sizing People Up by Robin Dreeke and Cameron Stauth
Synopsis

Sizing People Up (2020) explores the subtle behavioral clues that reveal someone’s true character and intentions. From divining people’s mindset to analyzing their language to understanding common behavioral patterns, these blinks reveal who you can trust – and who you definitely can’t. 

Key idea 1 of 8

People's behavior can often be predicted by their circumstances. 

How well do you really know your coworkers? That’s the question author Robin Dreeke asked himself on September 11, 2001. At the time, he was a young FBI agent working in New York City. As the horror and confusion of that day unfolded, some of his fellow agents didn’t hesitate to run toward the burning twin towers to help. But others hung back and quietly dropped out of the rescue effort. 

Afterward, Dreeke realized he couldn’t have predicted who would behave heroically and who would think only of themselves. That day taught him the importance of being able to predict people’s behavior. If you can do that, you’ll know who you can rely on when the going gets tough. 

The key message here is: People's behavior can often be predicted by their circumstances. 

When you’re trying to predict how someone will act toward you, consider this: How much immunity does he have from the consequences of his behavior?

It’s often said that power tends to corrupt. Sadly, that seems to be about right.

When someone has a lot of power, perhaps in the form of wealth or a high-status position, then he has the freedom to behave badly. Why? Because he is protected from the consequences of his behavior. It’s harder to predict how a powerful person will behave because, in many situations, he can do whatever he likes. 

The flip side of this is that it tends to be easier to predict the behavior of someone who is highly vulnerable. A vulnerable person is easier to punish when he breaks the rules, so he often feels that he must behave in a certain way. And that makes his actions more predictable. 

To accurately size someone up, you should also bear in mind how long your relationship with that person is likely to last. This matters because, in shorter relationships, people are more likely to behave badly. After all, they won’t be around to face the consequences of their unreliable behavior, so what’s stopping them? On the other hand, a longer relationship leaves a lot more time for them to be either rewarded or punished for their actions, so there is a stronger incentive to behave well. 

But what about just going with your gut instinct about people, and trusting your intuition

Well, intuition is unreliable; it usually means we trust those we like and distrust trust those we don’t. But you’ve probably known someone you liked but couldn’t trust. Or someone you didn’t really get along with but whom you could rely on in a crisis? If you have, then you’ll understand why intuition can’t predict behavior. 

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