How to Test-Drive Friends and Irritate People


Sometimes you need to make friends and influence people. Other times, you should just test drive them and push their buttons.

The art of irritation can, in fact, be just as valuable as the art of persuasion. How so? Let’s start with the problem: people are good liars and actors… up to a point.

What if it were possible to fast-forward relationships, whether with new friends, business partners, or romances? To get past the honeymoon facade of niceties and see their true tendencies underneath all it all?

I’ve been experimenting with methods of “removing the mask” so-to-speak, and it can be done. Relationships cost a premium of attention and time, and I—like most–want people in my life whose real personalities and motives will uplift and strengthen me instead of drain and demoralize me.

Catching bad apples early begins with recognizing a truism:

Adversity doesn’t primarily build character—it reveals it…

Therefore, by putting someone under pressure or in an adverse situation, you can pull back the covers and get a glimpse of what’s in store a few weeks or months down the line.

The little things are the big things. Josh Waitzkin, 8-time national chess champion (and the subject of the film, “Searching for Bobby Fischer”) explores the surprisingly accurate cross-referencing of behavior in his book, The Art of Learning:

“As I moved into my late teenage years, many of my tournaments were closed, invitational events where ten to fourteen very strong players gathered for two-week marathons. These were psychological wars… It was during these years that I began to draw the parallels between people’s life tendencies and their chessic dispositions. Great players are, by definition, very clever about what they show over the chessboard, but, in life’s more mundane moments, even the most cunning chess psychologists can reveal certain essential nuances of character. If, over dinner, a Grandmaster tastes something bitter and faintly wrinkles his noes, these might be an inkling of a tell lurking. Impatience while standing on line at the buffet might betray a problem sitting with tension. It’s amazing how much you can learn about someone when they get caught in the rain! Some will run with their hands over their heads, others will smile and take a deep breath while enjoying the wind. What does this say about one’s relationship to discomfort? The reaction to surprise? The need for control?”

Here are a few options for doing your own behavioral cross-referencing with a new potential friend, partner, or mate. All of them happen naturally over time, and the concept is to pick/create circumstances here and there to get an advanced read. Before you label me a bastard, read the whole post:

1. Meet them for dinner or lunch at an appointed time, and indicate upon their arrival that you made a mistake and set the reservation for 30 minutes prior. See how they respond to the change in plans. (Testing: how they contend with mistakes on your part)

2. Same as 1, but tell them that the reservation was accidentally made for 30 minutes after their arrival. Alternatively, travel with them and purposefully orchestrate things so that you miss a bus or train. Obviously, you then fix the problem and cover costs. (Testing: how they deal with waiting and unexpected changes in plans)

3. Take them to a restaurant with good food but bad service. (Testing: how diplomatically they contend with and resolve incompetence, which is the default mode of the universe)

4. Invite them to an event or function and then profusely apologize when you realize you’ve forgotten your wallet. Offer to repay them later or treat them the next time out. (Testing: how they relate to money issues. Wonderful people sometimes turn into irrational monsters as soon as even a few dollars are involved. It drives me crazy to keep a running ledger of who owes whom for a few dollars here and there, especially in social settings. Repaying the favor is mandatory, but dwelling on differences of pennies is tiring.)

5. Take them somewhere extremely crowded where they’ll be inadvertently bumped, preferably where they are exposed to people of different races and of lower socio-economic classes. Large outdoor markets are good, as are subways during rush hour. (Testing: biases against specific races and social classes, which are usually fast to emerge after there is any physical contact.)

6. Explore the most controversial topics until you find something the two of you disagree on. Ask them to explain why people have the opposing viewpoint. I use this mostly for potential romantic partners and potential travelmates. (Testing: how well they listen and both consider and summarize points-of-view or feelings opposite their own. I always look for both friends and girlfriends who fight well. Not in the physical sense, but in the intellectual and emotional sense. If I travel with one of my best friends for even a week straight, there will be times when we butt heads and fight. It’s inescapable. In those cases, are they civil and good at listening and finding compromises? Good at identifying common ground, picking their battles, and laughing off the unimportant? Or, do they lose control of their emotions and make hurtful personal attacks or generalizations? Do they use guilt or other negative emotions instead of taking time to discuss things logically? Hold grudges?)

Needless to say, I’m not recommending you cram all of these into a single meeting (not unless you want a punch in the mouth), but the premise is simple: life is both too long and too short to suffer through toxic relationships. The sooner we have an accurate read on someone, the better.

Rather than hoping for the best and getting trapped in relationships you are unwilling to end due to guilt and inertia, you can test drive using a few specific situations and get a taste of what’s in store. I realized how revealing the above scenarios were while traveling, as they came up organically with the inevitable mix-ups and occasional bouts of bad luck. The question then became: can you go about glimpsing someone’s true personality in a more reliable way? That said, there is no need to orchestrate bad service at a restaurant, for example, if you can achieve the same end doing something fun but uncontrolled. A good long weekend of getting lost with someone will reveal most of the character you need to see. Just ensure you expose them to adverse conditions or awkward situations.

Most people spend more time planning their weekends than their relationships. Don’t make that mistake. You are the average of the 5 or so people you associate with most.

Choose wisely.

[Postscript: There have been some very strong comments on this post! Could it be that I’m using this entire post to see how people respond to a controversial viewpoint? Hmmm… 🙂 To see my responses, just search ### in the comments by using Ctrl+F.]


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I just received the Dutch version of the 4HWW! Yay! Can anyone translate the subtitle and quote? “Leid een rijk leven zonder veel te doen” and “Geweldig! Dit boek zal je leven veranderen. -New York Times” Here is the Dutch cover and the other 24 publishers, in case you want to find someone who’s working on your language or country:


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222 Replies to “How to Test-Drive Friends and Irritate People”

  1. The examples you provide are a collection of things that happen normally over time. If we focuses on these examples within a short span of time, we can save a lot of pain and heartache. By focusing on these examples were aren’t necessarily creating a contrived environment – instead we’re choosing to pay attention to behaviors that many of us wouldn’t consciously process otherwise.

    I don’t want my friends, or blogs I read, to paint the world in a monochromatic rosey-colored palette!


    Hi E,

    You are exactly right — these are a collection of things that happen naturally over time. There is really very little engineering required. We’re just taking unique situations, usually spread out over time and circumstance, and planning them in advance.



  2. Tim,

    You cease to amaze me and keep life extraordinarily interesting. You have undoubtedly become very wise through your searching. I have always thought that patience and reasonability were good traits in any relationship.

    A few questions:

    1. How do you convey trust without breaking it yourself through these prying methods?

    2. Do you ever worry that your latest test (or victim) will feel like a lab rat and tire of you.

    3. Most importantly, once you put someone through the ringer and you approve, how do you prevent from getting bored with them or your surroundings?

    They way I see it, the only adverse side of adventure and testing the limits is the ease at which you get bored, tired, constantly looking for something new. It becomes more difficult to feel that need, much like some people’s drug habits spiral out of control as they are searching for a stronger high.


    Hi N!

    Thanks for the good questions. Here are my answers:

    1. How do you convey trust without breaking it yourself through these prying methods?

    I would never use all of these, and — in fact — I usually just opt for a lunch/coffee, then day trip, then long weekend. Most of the situations (or similar tests of personality) will naturally come up if you look for unfamiliar surroundings or take someone outside of their comfort zone.

    2. Do you ever worry that your latest test (or victim) will feel like a lab rat and tire of you.

    No, for the reasons above. I might fast-forward situationally, but I’m not hitting them with 5 or 6 “tests” at a time. I’ve never had this happen and wouldn’t let it. All good things in moderation 🙂

    3. Most importantly, once you put someone through the ringer and you approve, how do you prevent from getting bored with them or your surroundings?

    One of my top criteria for friends or other relations is curiosity and an eagerness to learn. It’s hard to be bored with someone who has both.

    Hope that helps!


  3. Gee – I almost missed this post! And I say, if you are talking an untried travel companion, bring it on early. At LAX, waiting to get on the plane for Gatwick, I turned to my travel buddy, only to see she was flat on her back on the floor, announcing she couldn’t handle the stress of getting on the plane already. I so wish I had let her stay there. She does too ;D

  4. I know from experience, this is a very important and overall harmless test. It helps warn you from getting too close to people who will only be trouble.

    Unfortunately, some people are very good at pretending to be okay with everything, and being logical and ready for compromise when arguing, in the beginning stages. And then once you grow close, their true colours show, and they’re real selves are extremely emotional, and constant courters of personal drama.

    Some have commented that there are people worth the patience. To each your own, obviously, but over time, I find these supposedly-minor character flaws reflect a much larger problem.

  5. I was unconsciously using some of these tests already but seeing them laid out in this fashion really brought the point home. It’s important to be mindful of the impact of any relationship on our lives.

    As to having high standards, I see nothing wrong with expecting the best for myself and those around me. Why not challenge those around us to do the same?

  6. I appreciate this post, mainly because it’s . . . well, different. I find the comments interesting, insightful, and at times overly emotion, as would be expected for a blog topic dealing with relationships and how to relinquish them if they don’t meet our expectations.

    I have to agree, from personal experience, that reflecting on the nuances of a friend’s character in diverse settings is beneficial. W/n these scenarios are manufactured really isn’t the point in my book. Obviously, said blog writer isn’t going to perform them on his friends to the point of exasperation and the possibility of looking like a jerk himself. Let’s give him a LITTLE credit huh? 🙂

    Thanks for the post and the challenge to possibly see our relationships in a different way. How boring life would be if all relationships and the ways with which we deal with them were based on the rules of a righteous few.

  7. Very thought-provoking post. Would have been handy before I married my first husband. Five years with him and I never saw beyond the polite facade until 3 months after we married and the shields came down. That said, what bothers me about this post is the manipulation factor. If a potential mate will try to manipulate me before the relationship begins, it’s a bad, bad, bad sign for later.

    I’ve had dates “test” me (unintentionally) in some of the ways you’ve described, and we’ve fast-forwarded to GAME OVER very quickly. I can be flexible, compassionate, and cooperative, but repeatedly allowing someone to disrespect my time would only cause me to disrespect myself. Those are standards I won’t lower.

    I’m going to take your advice to a little different level for my own life. When I get to the point of “investing” in a new relationship again, I’ll suggest that we plan a long weekend in a situation that will be intentionally uncomfy for both of us but potentially a lot of fun, and work on our ebb and flow so we can figure out how to handle the blips in life in a positive atmosphere. The biggest difference is the honesty factor and that we’ll both know what we’re working toward. Even if the other person does this wearing a facade, true chaos will dislodge it long enough to give a glimpse of what’s underneath.

  8. if i had tested more relationships in my past, as you and the book are suggesting, i would have avoided many painful relationships and innumerable experiences over the years – including my recent trip to the scottish highlands with a “friend”(which i would have previously described as a “nightmare”, however, practicing gratitude i’m changing that to “adventure”)… cheers!

  9. No doubt there is a time/place for this type of behavior. Probably best to just accept members of your family without testing them. But in the case of developing contacts where your looking for a mutual relationship where you both uplift each other, and both have something to offer each other, for the sake of you both getting personal gain out of it (note this isn’t what family relationships are about, although some people might have family memebers they can do this with) this is a great technique.

    It’s proactively building strong relationships that better both of your lives. It’s viewing your relationships with certain people as investments rather than doodads. 🙂

  10. Very interesting post. First, I fully appreciate that what you are suggesting is for each person to think about and experiment with as they see fit. Thanks for the thoughts because I find it stimulating regardless of whether I fully agree with it or not. I can certainly think about these ideas in terms of my own actions more.

    Secondly, the manner in which people react can depend on context quite a bit. There are certain things I certainly wouldn’t put up with if I saw early on, such as being rude to someone in a service role. But on the flipside, which I’m sure you are well aware of, people might react like valorous heroes in one context and cowardly a-holes in another. Often, it’s not such a strong contrast in one person–but I do think that context plays a large role (hence the concept of pet peeves). If someone saw me in traffic, they wouldn’t see how patient I can be with people in other instances. Perhaps a multitude of mini experiments would be called for, but I do agree with some of the other blog posts in that this kind of behavior could be thought of as deception in many instances and I think the “default incompetency” and spontaneous state of the world is enough to generate challenging circumstances without our help. Just doing something different than a date and a movie might be enough to open the floodgates of possibility.

  11. Well Tim, thanks for another thought provoking post.

    Disturbing, but thought provoking. Very you.

    IMHO, it is precisely this gumption to voice politically incorrect but factually intelligent ideas like that that made your book such a big hit.

    Unfortunately, I have to disagree with it. Though I have to say I’m sure I have acted in a similar way in the past subconsciously to be able to recognize this behaviour in other people now.

    No doubt it is very you. Which is part of the reason why the reality of the world around you reflects it. And why I think (though it is really none of my business) you are still single and searching.

    Seems like the way you do market research (suggest posting ads for products that are not yet ready for sale) and the way you find friends / date is similar. Has it ever occurred to you, that might be the problem there?

    Forget the ethical quandary around selling / posting products that you don’t really have on hand to test the market. (And one wonders if that chapter wasn’t printed on dead trees for more than just a space / word count reason.) And the fact you are so afraid of wasting time and energy and getting hurt that you err on the side of choosing short cuts that are really cutting out things / experiences that could be both negative and positive. Yes, 80 percent of the thing we do in life is sometimes pointless, but there is meaning in the details and some of that pointless / community / average / mundane stuff sometimes.

    Reading your post is like watching someone very smart experiment with throwing out the baby with the bath water.

    Maybe you are not ready to just jump in and trust someone without making them jump through the hoops first, but I think you’ll find the ones who are willing to and able to get through your pre-screening likely has a million and one other issues and history that shaped them into the type that can jump through those hoops. I think you’ll find it is not a chicken and egg question, people in a happy, loving, meaningful relationship likely didn’t get there by being wary, defensive about getting hurt and distrusting.

    Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.

    To me, it seems like there is this disconnect between what you say you want and what you want that seems like an intellectual / behavioural paradox.

  12. This post tells me everything I need to know about you, and I couldn’t see being friends with someone like you.;-)

  13. Nice Tim. I love how your blog topics are so expertly crafted to expand the minds of people who are open to accepting the concepts as a tool for growth.

    My first reaction was to examine my own relationships. I don’t really care if your method is right or wrong – it seems right for you so who am I to judge that? What I really want to examine is if it is useful for me and I believe it is.

    Thank you for opening my eyes to an aspect of my life I hadn’t thought about for a while.

  14. Tim,

    In my opinion your tests reveal more about you then about your ‘friends’.

    It shows that you are more or less judgmental, controlling, and easily irritated, and that you have difficulties with the flaws in people.

    Some friends can find it hard to be totally comfortable around you if they hear about the tests. They will wonder which other character-flaws you dislike.

    The tests are useful if you need a travel-companion or somebody to work with.

    But they are an insult to true friendship.

  15. Super interesting topic, so I will add to the very long list of feedback.

    The premise of the post seems to be that the only relationships worth having are “deep, meaningful” ones. This is simply not true. I treasure my deep, meaningful friendships, of which I have only a few. However, I have learned to be patient with people I would have found frustrating, boring, or inconsiderate a few years ago, and found it very rewarding. Almost everyone has something really valuable to contribute, tucked away under their mask that they put up as a result of their experiences. It doesn’t mean you will become best friends or that they will become your soul mate, but you can find happiness in people with very different values than your own.

    Don’t underestimate the value of casual acquaintances. They are valuable because they teach you more about your own limitations and weaknesses. Even from a purely practical standpoint, those casual relationships will help connect you to the deeper relationships you seek. Think, “Oh, you’re into hiking? You should meet so-and-so.”

    All of this said, there are some people whose shells simply cannot be broken. They refuse to open up, or they are dishonest or just plain evil. I don’t even bother with them, but they are in the minority, not the majority.

  16. Hi Tim.

    My very strong opinion on the subject of testing people: it doesn’t work.

    At least it doesn’t work if the person you’re testing is perceptive enough to sense they’re being tested, because then the person will most likely react in a way that’s very different from the reaction they would have if the irritating situation arose naturally. In other words, a person who senses that you’re attacking them, albeit in a very indirect way, is likely to react to the attack instead of to the situation you created.

    I know that’s the case for me anyway. I can’t stand testers. I call a tester a person who does the kinds of things you suggest in this posting. When I sense I’m being tested, I tend to react with extreme hostility, whereas I’m rather easy to get along with in normal circumstances.

    I have this rather unflattering perception of testers: I don’t believe they’re really trying to find out the truth about the people around them. They’re just trying to prove to themselves that they’re more intelligent than other people, the same way the scientist in the laboratory is more intelligent than the rat he performs his tests on.

    I don’t mean to say that this applies to you. I don’t know you. Let’s just say that, if I were bold enough to make a suggestion, it would be this: I would invite you to reflect on whether, with your strategy of testing people, you’re not eliminating the most perceptive people, i.e., the ones who are smart enough to sense they’re being tested.

    By the way, I’m far from convinced that a person has to be all that brilliant to sense, at least on some unconscious level, that you’re being deliberately mean to them, in which case, by testing people, you’re eliminating a lot of people from your circle of potential friends.

    My personal philosophy concerning testing: tests occur naturally; nobody has to create tests. It’s better to have patience and wait for difficult situations to arise naturally, and then get the right answer to the question “how will this person react in a tense situation?”, than to provoke an artificial test and get a potentially false reaction that’s induced by the artificialness of the situation, and not by the situation itself.

    Best wishes.

  17. I’ve been thinking about this post since I happened on it yesterday, and I have put my finger on what’s wrong.

    What all these tactics do is put you in a one-up position where you know what’s going on, and they don’t, and you meant it to be that way. So whatever you may learn about the other person by manipulating the situation, what they have learned about you is that you’re manipulative, willing to deceive them, and very keen on controlling the relationship rather than engaging in it yourself.

    I had a couple of control-freak boyfriends, and I have control freak tendencies myself (which I do my best not to give in to), and that’s what all of this sounds like, from long experience. And the one thing I can tell you for sure is that control freaks cannot manage a decent relationship. It wasn’t until I finally let go of my efforts to control my interactions that I finally had a decent relationship (now a 10 year marriage, and 2 children).

    The only way to have a good relationship is, frankly, to have it. That is, treat the other person as well as you can, make sure that you are being treated well too (this one is crucial!), deal with problems as they come up, and be prepared to recognize if a problem is insoluble, and the relationship needs to be over.

    if you do this, you will not have a bad relationship that lasts for years, I promise. You may have a couple of relationships that last for a few months, but you will never waste more than 6 months on something that isn’t working, because you’ll be paying attention. And if a good relationship is possible, you have created the best possible circumstances for one to grow – something that your tactics will not do.

  18. With each new comment I read, I feel the point of Mr. Ferriss’ post has been lost. I especially find these comments interesting because he’s already tried to explain his intentions.

    As well, I keep reading the same politically correct responses. Reminds me of the Oprah show, all feel good and appropriate. Imagine how boring this blog would be if every post agreed with the sentiments of us readers. Tim’s book is a hit for a reason. He thinks outside of the box. This is why we all bought it.

    I’m wondering why so many have taken Tim’s post so literally and, most of all, personally? Interesting?

    What makes us want to write long comments, disecting his intentions and basically trying to explain (better than the previous person’s comment) the right way to go about friendships when we all have something to learn about them?

    Why do we care so much about a simple strategy that someone we don’t even know has implemented in order to make better use of his valuable time (which happens to be his right w/n it’s agreed with)?

    I think more fascinating than his simple post are all these comments. I still can’t believe someone wrote that they were glad Tim wrote this post because now they know they would never be his friend! Amazing. Such strong words from a stranger.

    Maybe, we need to look at ourselves and why we’re responding so emotionally to a post that was done for informational purposes. We don’t know Tim from Adam, so therefore we can’t really judge him based on a blog post, and I seriously doubt he’d completely judge us based on one of ours as I believe he’s human and not as cruel as some would belive his post reveals.

    I believe his post wasn’t meant to be take so literally. You can implement one of his ideas without being a jerk. Come on folks, we do it all the time w/n we want to admit it. He just put words to actions/strategies we already do, everyday and with everyone we meet, to some degree.

    Maybe we don’t forget our wallets on purpose, but we do judge. So what’s the difference? Sounds like the pot calling the kettle black to me no matter how we try to sugar coat our way of doing things.

    Once we get over the fact that we act no differently with our relationships, maybe we can stop making Mr. Ferriss out to be a monster because I doubt we’d ever think of ourselves as monsters.

  19. Great pointers on friendships! I like learning knew ways of seeing things. I don’t think you’re a bastard. 🙂

    Also I agree with Wendy. Her post is a bit long but it makes sense. I couldn’t imagine going to somone elses blog and bashing them over a post that doesn’t bash me or my ethnicity or culture or has nothing to do with me.

  20. I agree with what the intention of Tim’s post – life is too short to be all diplomatic and polite when it comes to picking a life mate. I broke up with my last boyfriend after taking a (rock) band workshop with him. Off stage, he was pretty mellow and quiet. On stage, he was a pushy prick who turned his guitar amp up too loud and pushed me (the bass player) to the side of the stage. In 10 weeks, I saw the icky traits that would have taken me years to see.

    If you’re a musician and you’re dating a musician, I recommend playing together in some sort of limited duration arrangement that ends in a public performance. You’ll learn tons about the other person.

  21. Save time! Get ’em drunk and their true personality will come out. Right as rain, every time. If they’re a jerk, they’ll be belligerent and argumentative. If they’re good folks, they’ll get sentimental and sappy.

  22. Not even sure how I came across this, but interesting so I thought I would comment.

    Firstly, maybe he does these things, and maybe he doesn’t. But saying he was “just kidding” or “just testing for response” is either a cop out, or another manipulative trick. If he said, hey, I was thinking about doing this, what do you guys think, fine. But posting that he does it, then getting all defensive when people tell him what he thinks of it seems kind of nutty.

    As far as the tests, while I fully agree with the idea that we should watch our friends carefully, and have little tolerance for behaviour that is not positive and uplifting to us, I think there are plenty of opportunities if we watch and observe. I think we should do this and sometimes be a bit merciless in cutting unsuportive people from our lives. But we also need to be accepting of other peoples foibles sometimes because god knows, we all have them. As far as testing them, it seems manipulative nad kind of obsessive. It doesn’t take long hanging out wiht people to figure them out.

    Besides that, what is the point of hanging out wiht someone if you are not there to enjoy hanging out. Just relax and enjoy the ride, and if they show signs of being someone you do not want to be around, salute the goodness within them, and move on.

  23. Great post. One of the best I read lately. There are some things I should test myself 🙂 not to mention being tested by my friends :))

  24. Another way to test people for the first time is to see how they react and carry themselves during a recreational sports league.

    It’s amazing how some people will act like total jerks with each other and the referees over a meaningless game. Sometimes fights even break out, but most of the time it’s the immature, whining and complaining like a little child to the referee that seperates the leaders from the people with low emotional control.

    And, you will notice some people behave like perfect gentlemen even when the referee makes an obvious bad call. They may question the call in an assertive way, but always respectful.

    Sports will bring about the best in us or the very ugly very quickly. You can spot the true leaders using this method. I always take notice when I play or observe people in sports leagues.

    Basketball and soccer work really well.

    Louis Moore

  25. Hi Timothy, thank you for writing and everything. Hands down one of the best books of the last years. Now straight to the point: I just got a headache searching for 20 minutes after translated languages of 4HWW. I knew it was available in Russian but even your search could not find it within this site correctly. SUGGESTION: remove the minus (-) after each language in the list –> the Google will do the rest. THANKS!!!

  26. Your wrote:

    One of my top criteria for friends or other relations is curiosity and an eagerness to learn. It’s hard to be bored with someone who has both.

    hmmmm. Is there a way that we can gather all of these people into one place?

    That being said, I’m one of those girls who would punch you in the mouth.

    but just for a laugh.

  27. Tim, I could not agree with this one more. I have used the “cold wet and muddy test” for a long time with potential partners. After spending eight years adventure racing, I got to see close up how people’s personalities really truly emerged under stress. I saw teams blow up 3 hours into a race under mild circumstances and others still smiling 5 days into a race in the best of spirits after enduring the most brutal conditions. One of my proudest moments was being awarded the “Team Spirit Award” for a five day race I did with my brother and his wife and their friend, after we traversed four glaciers and 350km in four nights and four days of racing on 10 hours sleep. I learned a lot about myself in that race and a lot about my fellow racers whom I came to appreciate even more then when we started.

    Stress and pressure are the BEST way to understand people.

    Don’t let the flamers get you down. They’re living in a fantasy world.

    Nice work.

  28. I’m trying to put my finger on the difference between going for a wet, muddy hike with a prospective partner, which strikes me as an excellent test of character, and doing some of the other things Tim suggests – showing up half an hour later, half an hour early, deliberately picking a lousy restaurant etc etc. And I think the difference is the degree of deception, manipulation, and superiority Tim is going for.

    If you ask a prospect if he/she would like to go for a five hour hike, they know that a certain degree of hardship is a possibility, and are agreeing to that, if they go. So both partners are on the same level of knowledge and agreement about the trial they’re putting themselves and each other through.

    If you do the “tricking them into stuff” things Tim suggests, the thing they all have in common is that HE’S in control; the partner is being deceived that what they thought was a mutual pleasant night out (for example) is really a test where they’re being deliberately put at a disadvantage – and Tim isn’t.

    What I would learn from going on a muddy hike with a new friend is how we both react to that. This would be fine; we’d both learn useful things, but we would be on an equal footing, which is what you want in a partner. Even if we decided on the basis of that hike that we didn’t suit, we could at least part friends and equals, where I would hope we started.

    What I’d learn from someone showing up half an hour late and taking me to a crappy restaurant “just to see how I’d react” (if I figured out that that was what was going on) would be that this man has no respect for my time, no taste in restaurants, and wants to manipulate me to see how I like it.

    And the answer would be, no I wouldn’t. And I wouldn’t think much of him, either, for trying it.


  29. Hi LBowman, thanks for responding to that. I hear you. I’m not sure I agree with you.

    Another one that my business partner and I use is the “doofus test” named by Dan Pena, a business coach. He suggests booking meetings at incredibly inconvenient times with prospective business partners – during rush hour, 5am on Saturday mornings, middle of their birthdays, etc. The point being that in a business partnership, all hell WILL break loose and the crap will hit the fan and your business partners and joint venture partners need to demonstrate that they will do what it takes and do it happily to get a deal done, to follow through on a business venture, and to get things done. I tend to agree. We do put our prospective business partners and employees through stress tests so that we can more quickly understand their character.

    Character only shows up when things go horribly awry. It is never demonstrable in the “good times”. So, while I can see your point and understand your lack of interest, I would question if it’s because somebody tested you, or because you just don’t like surprises?

    Life IS a test. The only thing we can do is accelerate our learning about ourselves by putting ourselves and others outside of our comfort zones and understanding how we work.

    That’s MY philosophy anyway. I can understand that others may not share it.

    Thanks again Tim for prompting the discussion. I find it interesting how people respond to these types of issues.

  30. Interesting point. I would say that a business partnership is a different sort of thing, in which different rules of engagement apply, so doing deliberate difficulty-testing in advance of serious issues might be a good idea. Though even in a business relationship, I would expect partners to behave considerately to each other when at all possiblIf it’s necessary to schedule a meeting during someone’s birthday, for example, then it has to be done. But if it wasn’t necessary, and was just done to see how the guy would react, I would say that however he reacts, the people who have scheduled the meeting have failed an important test – they are not considerate of each other’s time – and I would not want to work with them.

    I don’t mind surprises, as long as they’re mutual. I mean if we’re both caught in a rainstorm halfway up a mountain, I was as capable as anyone else of seeing what the weather was likely to do that day, and I went up the mountain anyway.

    But if I am the only person who’s surprised by negative events, then I was set up. And I will very likely pass the test fine myself (I deal with crises well). But I will draw my own perfectly justified conclusions about the person who set me up, and I won’t want to see them again.

    The point Tim and perhaps you seem to be missing is that it’s courtship we’re discussing here; and in courtship BOTH people are on trial, not only on how they deal with a crisis, but much more importantly, how well they treat each other. Someone who starts out by being dishonest with you has failed that test early on.

  31. Yes, I understand your perspective. You’re saying that relationships are two-way streets and that it is important for both parties to understand the other and expose each other to the other’s personal traits mutually.

    Unfortunately, most people have to wait years to see each other under pressure and in poor situations. And then when they finally do see the person in that situation and get to understand what that person is like under the surface when the dung hits the fan, both parties have invested a lot of time needlessly if it turns out that there is not a fit on a deep and fundamental level.

    Also, many people are not aware of the conversation we are even having. In other words, they live and go about their day. They do not analyze how they act, what made them act that way, what emotions made them act that way, what thoughts they had that made them emotional and hence act that way. Few people are self-aware enough to examine themselves or others in this way.

    I still say that these approaches are a good way to learn about somebody. No, it may not be fair or mutual. But if it is mutual, then part B is probably testing ME at the same time. If so, hallelujah. I hope so and expect so on both a personal relationship and business relationship level. I welcome it. If they aren’t, then how are they making decisions about who to engage with?

    Thanks for the lively debate… Have a great day.

  32. <>

    I agree, but I also agree with Lbowman that one-sided tests aren’t particularly fair in that you’re primarily testing the other person’s ability to deal with manipulation, not surprise.

    As I noted in a comment up like 20 comments, I took a band workshop with my last boyfriend, thinking it would be fun to play music together. Hardly! Under the stress of learning 12 songs in ten weeks with an alcoholic drummer and a bossy singer, my guitarist (ex-)boyfriend’s true colors were revealed to me. He became uptight and greedy, not thinking about anybody in the band but himself. (I play bass.) I didn’t set out to use the workshop as a test, but it turned into one. I think that’s why people say – take a long trip together – before you commit to a permenent relationship. Or just do something outside of the box that requires teamwork and commitment, like cooking school or team sports or planning and taking a week-long hike. Soon enough, one of you will be outside your comfort zone and you can see how you each handle it, without resulting to artificial, manipulative set ups.

  33. There’s no need to deceive someone to ‘test’ them, or your relationship with them.

    If someone used this skulduggery on me, I would be glad to know the manipulative sort of person they are.

    So even though I disapprove the motives and the execution, I heartily encourage this behavior on the part of people so inclined.

    It makes winnowing out the rejects that much more efficient.

  34. Hi All,

    From a recent email from a friend:

    I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles four things:

    a rainy day, the elderly, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.



  35. @ Tim – 142

    LOL, but the only things you can tell about me in those situations is if I slept well the night before and/or if I had sex that night.

    There are just two things I would like to know about future friends: if they have a good heart and if I can trust them.

    If they help an elderly person finding their lost luggage on a rainy christmasday they are okay with me.

  36. tim-

    first time poster – on anything, actually…a bit late to the game… but i’m reading your book and had to thank you for writing it.

    how can i get a japanese copy in the US?


    Hi Geoff,

    Thanks for the post! The only thing I can suggest is getting in touch with the closest “Kinokuniya” or ordering from them.

    Pura vida,


  37. If you had two people who both read this article, performing the same test against one another, they would both fail, and stop being friends.

    Sometimes the means undermines the ends.

    The problem is that in order to test others, you need to perform the same actions which you are trying to root out in friends.

    Without a disclaimer such as this article, you’re actually weeding out people that can tolerate the things that you cannot tolerate in other people. Their reaction to it will affect your outcome. Worse, if they read this article, which is your disclaimer, it may actually make matters worse, because of the testing.

    And yes, I am calling it a hypocritical theory.


    1. Actually, what would hypothetically happen is that both parties would recognize that they are testing each other because both parties would be noticing that while observing the other, he would be in return observing him.

      They would both fail, that is true, but it doesn’t mean that they would stop being friends. What is more likely to happen is that both would form a bond over testing

      Maybe you would stop being friends with me if you caught me testing you, however I would be flattered if you were testing me.

  38. Finally a technique that I can use to verify my intuition! I’m always the one that plans the vacations, takes care of anything that comes up and generally makes things move smoothly! So it always takes a long while before some of these issues come up because I’m always fixing it quickly. I’ll lay off the superwoman routine for a while with new friends to make sure they are worth the effort!

  39. I call it “the nature of the beast”.

    I have been doing this for years although over longer periods and more naturally occurring situations (although I have to admit that sometimes a little bit of needling on my part helped it along). After you’ve seen it come out a few times you start to notice the traits that go along with the various different natures. As the years go by you are able to spot the traits of the underlying “nature” faster and more accurately. Of course there are always exception the rule and that’s what makes life interesting!

    P.S. A note about the crowded subways test, it might just be a safety issue or a bad situation that has happened in the past in a crowded place.

    Sometimes it is worth taking a little extra time to open the book and read a few pages.

  40. Wow what an interesting post. First let me begin by saying that I read your book and it was one of three events that changed the course of my life. If you are familiar with the Enneagaram, I am a 7 and after reading your book I suspect that you are too. I think you would enjoy reading about it if you have not already.

    I loved your book, however I do not agree with this post. If Joe Schmo is testing Suzy Q, he is disconnecting from her. It’s as if he is on one side and she is on the other. This sounds very fear based: fear of “wasting his time” and fear of not being in control and fear of not having his needs met by her.

    If I reflect on life, I see it as an opportunity to experience being alive. That’s it. There is no purpose, there is no meaning. Just an opportunity to be conscious to what is. Noticing what naturally wants to be expressed and allowing that to be expressed. When one is caught up in testing, she is disconnecting from the other person as well as herself.

    I think this is a very powerful post and it gave a lot of people food for thought. I certainly used this as an opportunity to digest this post, and evaluate what I think about it. You are entitled to do what you want in your life, and if testing is something that wants to be expressed through you, so be it. There is nothing wrong with that.

    Thank you for writing your book, it is very powerful and inspiring. I am also fear based, so I decided to lie down in the middle of a busy restaurant and walked away feeling very elated and empowered!



  41. Push the envelop. Get personal. Ask unexpected questions. Don’t allow dodging. Repeat if necessary. Don’t be intimidated or embarassed.

    You don’t develop relationships walking on eggshells. You don’t get the girl by not standing out from the rest

  42. Thanks for the “testing” ideas, Tim. It’s unbelievable how few people actually have a grasp of people-skills, and how important those skills really are in the workplace. I would be terrified to have a customer be put off by a coworker or employee because of something as preventable as bad behavior or a misunderstanding of the appropriate protocol.

  43. WOW.

    Lookit ’em reactions!

    It’s like watching a herd of gnu migrating. Sort of head down and charge forward 🙂

    If nothing else your post certainly polarised a few people…

    My take on it is that i sort of do a lot of these type of tests (not as elaborate and not as time-consuming) in many little ways. (I also happen to think it’s a genetic thing that Venetians in general will do more than other people, except the Irish who also do it…) my view is that those who take offense at this type of behaviour are kind of…”weak”. That is unable to handle emotional issues with a certain detachment.

    Keep in mind that personally if the response I get is a punch in the mouth as Tim put it, I might not like it, but I wouldn’t necessarily think badly of the other person. Their response or reaction can be just as off-the wall as my “testing” them by asking some really inappropriate question, or suggesting a weird change of plans or whatever.

    My measure of people is more often linked to how boring or not they are. As a result I know some real freaks of nature, but they are interesting freaks, and more entertaining for it. Now…finding interesting, crazy-yet-weirdly-stable, nymphomaniac-yet-loyal, hot looking and madly in love with you kind of freak…well..that’s a big mission and I understand Tim’s dilemma if that is what he’s still busy doing.

    I think testing boundaries from the get go is good…it immediately sorts timid personalities from stronger ones and that is important to do when you know which type you prefer as a certain friend in a certain context.

    Unlike Tim though, I am not too concerned if people think I am a bastard. Way I see it I can’t be held responsible for my mom not being married way back then, hahaha!

  44. Tim,

    You’ve mentioned “Minerva Publishing House” as the editor of your book for Romania – however I searched their site ( – hope I’ve got it right) and have not found the book – do you know if it was already published, or it’s just “in the planning”? Thanks!


  45. Why are people saying these are harsh tactics? Like these are the worst of all things that can happen in life? The fact is that these are things that happen naturally ALL THE TIME to people, but the problem lies in the fact that you never know when they’re going to happen, so it’s hard to gauge peoples’ reactions (i.e. IT MAY TAKE A LONG TIME, too long for some people to invest–waste), which is the reason for the test.

    I’ve also seen the word “manipulate” being thrown around a lot. Manipulate is a strong word, and sure, this may be “manipulation,” but it’s very small in comparison with other types of manipulation (marrying people for money, taking advantage of a nice guy, leading people on for sex, etc.)

    Right on for a great article, dude.

  46. Bravo for having high standards and a refusal to settle! Its tragic that so many people don’t pay attention to the warning signs and then wonder how they end up in a dysfunctional, draining marriage. Communication is key and stress a great factor in evaluating a person’s character. Although I do have to say that flexibility and patience are also very commendable qualities.

    Lately, I’ve noticed that some of my friendships are “coming to a close”. I can appreciate the person but realize that not everyone is in the same stage of life. Staying in a situation that’s not working doesn’t serve our potential or capacity (and the other person’s).

    I even told my mom that I would never travel with her again after our last trip in 2005. Sorry ma. This doesn’t mean I don’t see her. I just refuse to travel long distances or internationally. Yes, blasphemy. I know.

  47. Wow… this is from a year and .. a month ago. If someone did this to me… I would probably freak out. Try it to a scientist… most like me are control freaks. 🙂

  48. Heya Tim,

    An interesting post. I’m into multiday endurance adventure sports, many of which are team sports. 3am, second night, sleep deprived, hypoglycaemic and cold… you learn interesting things about people.

    I always tell people new to the sport never to race with best friends, long time friends, colleagues or partners. It is sometimes better to know and enjoy the company of these people in your common environment as the stresses of the sport may reveal a side you won’t like. Friendships have been ruined.

    Another point is that “unfavourable” traits in friends and partners do occur in situations unorchestrated by you. The main thing is that when that trait shows up in glowing neon lights, it is up to you to deal with it. That trait is part of who they are and either you can live with it, or you can’t. They won’t change (and nor should they because it is who they are). Your call. They will probably not see anything wrong with their behaviour if you bring it up.

    So, your options are to either avoid being put in that situation again with that person (like putting a bandaid on the underlying issue) or you terminate the relationship; the latter is likely to happen at some stage because those same situations that brought out the trait you so very much dislike will come up again…and again.

    I don’t forsee myself orchestrating situations to put friends or partners under stress; but what I do need to do is to act faster on my reservations instead of willing them away.

    1. ok you finally voiced something that I have not seen come up in this whole discussion… and to which I would add, when we see those traits of the other person we can also learn how to deal with them, you know just as another possible way of seeing this interaction.

  49. Well….. according to Eben Pagen and many others, women “test” all the time. Why should only women get the nod. And I would have to agree.As for your methods, I can appreciate the insight gained and feel that there is value in what you are presenting while at the same time there might be room for why someone might have a need to be a super-productive over achiever – it’s all about me and never about anybody else incorporated -that must be jet-setting around the world to experience the most of life every living nano -second- not to miss a bit of it- type of individual…… any fear there? If the fits, so be it.

    This whole thing may just come down to intent. If it is done to unmask a character flaw fine.( and we all have them- for life they say- hardwired).. but keep in mind it take 2 to dance while there is the one who is “behaving”………..there is the one who is experiencing and reacting to someones behavior. The test goes both ways- lessons on both sides of the movie

    peace out

  50. Fascinating article!!! I haven’t read all the comments (I don’t have the time) but glanced through a few and some people appear to be pissed off about being treated as lab rats… Well, I think life presents “tests” all the time anyway so the issue here is really about observation and judgement. Right?

    “How to observe people in stressful situations and predict their behavior in longterm relationships”? These tests make perfect sense and I think I already do this. Waaaaaay too often! When shit happens in my relationships I think to myself – yeah I saw this coming on our first date… 🙂

    I think these tests would also be a good gauge for how the “tester” responds to the tested’s perceived “character flaws”. Like, how do I judge? How nitpicky am I ? Do I have the same “flaws” that I don’t notice in myself?

    Sometimes it’s not a black and white decision whether to keep or to drop a person from your life. I like the 3-hour hike idea… preferably in a city rather than out in nowheresville.

  51. Another trick that deserves a place in your article:

    8. suggest to play a game (e.g. tennis) and see how well they take a loss (many people will change like you wouldn’t believe it: protest, cheat, contest the rules and what not to avoid losing). This tip comes from Theo Kars (Dutch writer).

  52. Hi Tim,

    I wanted to Facebook this entry, but didn’t see a FB icon at the end of your post. Hoping you’ll add it in.

    Oh, I was having dinner and turned off my brain, watched Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift on HD tv tonight. I kept thinking how the lead character and you were similar, how you’re Americans in Japan trying to fit in. Major difference is, you look much much better than that dood. 🙂

    I think you live somewhere in the ‘Bay area. I’m in Sacramento, and visit my brother in the ‘Bay once in a while. I hope to bump into 1 day. Excuse me if I drop to my knees and kiss your feet. Thanks for improving my life.

    No need to respond. Keep up the great work!

    Dr J

  53. Love it! Not sure I’d necessarily try any of your suggestions out on people but I agree that life is too short for ‘toxic relationships’. Where’s the harm in finding out sooner rather than later that you’re not going to want to take a relationship further?

  54. Tim,

    Interesting concept! While I have not manufactured situations in order to test, I am hyper observant when I am on a date or considering becoming friends with one of my acquaintances. For the rest of the post I will use the word “subject” to describe either a potential mate or friend.

    If one is having dinner with a subject and they begin to discuss how they have been wronged by person x, then continue on to talk about how they will seek their revenge on person x, you can place a winning bet that they will eventually become vindictive towards you if you ever wrong them.

    If a subject is rude towards a stranger for a mistake, you had better consider how they will be even more rude towards their friends whom they are comfortable with. For some reason we all live in a dream world thinking that those whom we are most intimate with treat us the best. In reality, it is the other way around. The more familiar and secure one feels in a relationship, the more they are willing to abuse or take advantage of the bond of friendship or love. You probably think I am nuts for saying this but look at how caustic marriages become! During the honey moon all of the quirks were “cute.” There was rarely a sour word between the new couple. After fifty years of marriage however, both parties have become familiar with one another and the quirks are no longer cute. I have been around some married couples that really say some awful things to one another when they would never say such things to a perfect stranger.

    I think the important thing to take from this concept is that if subjects have destructive people skills or make poor decisions, you must get away from them quick! The decisions of friends and lovers directly affect you!

    To illustrate the previous statement I will share a story with you. I was looking at houses once and decided to take my girlfriend with me. One house happend to have a beehive in the wall. I saw the bees because I heard a loud buzzing sound. I looked up and couldn’t believe how many bees were sitting on the wall that was functioning as a hive. I immediately walked away from the area and told my girlfriend NOT to go towards that side of the house because of the danger. Wouldn’t you know it, she began walking over there! I was very honest with her and said, “if you get swarmed by the bees, I’m not going to help you out.” She sobbed and whined about what a jerk I was and how I didn’t love her. Let us be realistic here. If I warn someone of impending danger and they do not heed my warning, why then should I stick around to deal with the after effect of pain and suffering?

    I am a proponent of many acquaintances and few friends. Most people you meet do not have strong character or manners. When you find someone with good manners and strong character, be their friend, even if your personalities don’t naturally fit. They will never get you into trouble, they will always be there for you and you can develop a healthy relationship in which mutual respect sets the ground work for interaction.

  55. @Justin. Great post! The most common factor in all of these situations is a complete lack of personal responsibility (or blame). It’s obvious if someone is unwilling to be accountable for their actions and choices.

    As far as marriage goes, your partner will always have some quirk or habit that won’t exactly be pleasing, but the deciding factor may be whether you can compromise and communicate respectfully. It’s easy to focus on negative things (which snowball very quickly) but it’s also a choice to remain focused on the positive. Many people now-days see relationships and marriage as a trial period and it makes it very easy to walk away when things get tough. Everyone I know that is still married never gave themselves that option.

  56. Tim!!

    I loved this article, and am thoroughly amused by some of the less than savory responses. I thought of a parallel to meeting people in nightclubs and bars.

    The people I meet in nightclubs are usually not dateworthy, but they run these tests too! Women will always throw something out there like “buy me a drink” and its the same principle. Attractive women have soo many guys coming up to them, these lines screen the submissive, unconfident, validation seeking and slow witted ones instantly. Its a bit more cruel and unrefined than the situations you stated haha.

    happy travels!


  57. Is it sad that I agree with thisarticle, basically my philosophy is to never coddle people. If you disagree say so, you dont have to be a complete asshole, just be honest and dont try to cover up your own character. If you want a long term relationship to work out you also have to know where you are going to rub the other person. then again on the other end you have to jump in at some point and go for it, even if you arent sure if it will work out.

    Also mundane observations are helpful, I can sometimes tell how a person is just by how they stand in a certain place.

  58. I don’t actually understand how people found these tips so intensely “cruel” and awful and deceiving. It’s not like you’re actually screwing someone over, you’re nicely taking them out to dinner, happened to realize that it was 30 minutes later, will probably find something else fun and romantic to do to kill the time and then go to dinner. Calm down! You’re not screwing them of money and seeing how they react. It’s just a simple little scenario to see whether the date would freak out and act blatantly annoyed about the extra 30 minutes you’ll godforbid have to waste before eating. It’s a completely acceptable tiny problem, just so that you don’t go falling in love with a personality that turns out to not be real.

    I completely understand, because I dated a guy who was the most charming adorable thing for the first month or two during that happy honeymoon stage, and all of a sudden after 3 months little raging fits would pop out the second things went wrong. Objects flying and all. Turned out he was a complete brat who was good at hiding it in the beginning, and he would have been the perfect person to test these sort of scenarios on and I wouldn’t have had to waste 4 months on Mr. Anger Management. We actually got kicked out of Victoria’s Secret because he had a fit in the store about not being allowed in the dressing rooms. Thank you for the tips, it appears I need to tweak my psycho radar a bit and these will definitely help.

  59. Hi tim,

    “Leid een rijk leven zonder veel te doen” and “Geweldig! Dit boek zal je leven veranderen. -New York Times”

    the dutch to english translation is: Lead a rich life without doing much and GReat! This book will change your life NYT.

    Thanks for the post

    greetings kees.

  60. @Tim

    :in reponse to Tim’s last comment

    “From a recent email from a friend:

    I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles four things:

    a rainy day, the elderly, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”

    I would up the ante on this one: a SNOWY day, (rain shmain! lol), ditto on the luggage and elderly…Christmas tree lights though? How about losing your keys or something?

    I think if one is getting just as bent out of shape as their tree lights…that’s a sure fire sign of insanity.

    Hell just waiting in line at the DMV is a test of character and emotional fortitude.

  61. Tim,

    I enjoy the post. I have a sneaking suspicion many people are assuming you set out to outwardly perform these actions all on a first date and that seems to stir them some-what.

    The way I’ve interpretted your post, and I’m hoping I am correct, is that these are a rough guide to common situations that could arise and you’re simply offering advise for said situations to be illustrated by example. Which I think is fine, as I’m sure there’d not be many if any other ways of detailing such a thing.

    That said, I’m sure you’re not incinuating that all of these generic examples of methods, once implemented into your own style to trigger specific reactions, are bombarded onto the subject in a matter of a couple of days. More so, over the course of say a month or two and in the most subtle ways possible.

    More over, the idea isn’t to go out of your way to push the subject (and I know it sounds horrible referring to another human being you’re getting to know as a ‘subject’ but it’ll work for now) into key situations or reactionary circumstances, but rather more subtly without making any changes what so ever to your regular routine, usual go-abouts or even personality. Something as small as the slightest change in facial expression alone can tell you alot in particular situations. I myself tend to test people when I meet them, but it’s by no means obvious in any way shape or form.

    Conversational triggers, wording in your dialogue, body language, facial expressions. Just simple, little things that can help you pick up on microreactions. These are generally pretty intuitive upon the first few greetings, but come a longer length of time your methods (interpretted in one’s own way and taken on board in addition to their own ways) I can see heding some interesting results if done correctly.

    Cheers mate.

  62. The art of baking

    Recipe – The Tim Ferriss Date Cake

    ingredients for the cake:

    1tbsp of pure adrenalin

    2 healthy appetites for life

    1 mixture of dates, amusement and nuts (intuition may be used as a substitute)

    5g of organic feminine/masculine enigmas soaked in beauty, intelligence and wit.

    2 fruity unique individuals

    a pinch of mischief

    2 cups of intellectual and emotional stimulation

    1 tsp of a good raising agent

    several elements of surprise

    for the icing:

    a few drops of concentrated charisma essence

    2 feisty intriguing spirits

    500mls of happiness and patience

    1tsp of good quality conversation

    1 large cup of laughter and quirkiness

    the zest of 2 creative adventurers

    sprinkle with kindness and compassion


    preheat the relaxed ambience to the desired temperature.

    Combine all ingredients together and sift in generous handfuls of provocativeness. Add equal amounts of pressure and awkwardness, being careful not to thicken too much. If mixture is a little stiff gradually fold in more fun and humour to soften. Stir gently until s/he is slightly melting. Pour into a flexible baking dish. Bake in the oven for 40minutes, by this time your delicious dessert will have risen.

    Take her/him out and s/he should be springy if lightly touched. Allow to cool. For those with a predilection to sweetness – cover with icing.

    Best served with a genuine portion of trust and flavoured bountifully with passion. Enjoy!

    This dish Does not contain additives, preservatives or colourants.

    Provides 50% of the recommended daily laughter allowance and is fortified with added goodness.

    Not suitable for people who have an intolerance for the unknown.

    No X or Y chromosomes were harmed in the making of this cake.

    May contains traces of nuttiness and can be used as part of a healthy attitude to life.

  63. I can see why people conceive your methods as manipulation 🙂 I couldn’t apply them either, as they involve some lying. On the other hand, one can argue that it is in the interest of all parties to get to know whether the relationship is going to work out or not.

    In my experience with ‘regular’ friendships (no idea about relationships) it helps when you listen more, rather than talk yourself. People give away most of their character when you let them talk long enough. They will talk about their bad/good memories, about situations they found themselves in and how they reacted, about problems with their friends and family etc.

    With each story you will find out how they perceived things, what they did, what party they supported in a conflict and why, etc. So, it is not even necessary to generate situations .. you only have to indicate the possibility of a situation and see how they react.

    Another method I use is to observe them when they talk to their family or friends .. either in real or via phone. The tone and vocabulary a person uses when talking with people

    – they depend on,

    – that are depending on him/her,

    – are much older or much younger,

    tells a lot about the way you, your family, and your friends will be treated after some time.

    To say that one has high standards may sound pompous at first, but in fact, everyone’s standards are high (= important to them). Only some people care about intellectual properties and prefer peace of mind over anything else and others care about … well, other things.

  64. Tim mentioned traveling as a context for testing relationships. I can only underscore the value of traveling when you want to “fast-forward” a relationship.

    When you travel, interesting test situations appear almost naturally, especially if you don’t over-plan your holiday and don’t make it too short.

    Last year, a foreign girl I had fallen in love with and I traveled across the European continent for almost an entire month. In fact, since we live(d) in different countries, fast-forwarding became less of a choice and more of a necessity.

    While we did not purposely test each along the way, we found ourselves in quite a few personality-revealing situations, and they provided both of us with some really, really valuable information. For example,

    We reserved our international train tickets only at the very last minute, at the station.

    We took an international night train and shared our (sleeping) compartment with four other travelers.

    We started many days without knowing where we would sleep at night.

    We spent one night sleeping (kind of) in front of a train station in Southern France.

    During several long train trips, there was plenty of time to discuss the world.

    This way, I learned that the girl I traveled with is incredibly interesting, energetic, optimistic, caring, credible, unpretentious, and simply wonderful company. She’ll move in with me later this year.

  65. What this article reveals is that the author is a manipulator. Same behaviour as a sociopath. Last comment is whole incorrect. We are not like the last 5 people we most hang out with. That is rubbish. Lets follow the logic to it’s conclusion. If you place these tests on the closest 5 people to you by the end of it you may have lost most of them because the behaviour was simply that of an oaf. 4 hour week, tell that to my surgeon who saves lives daily and has 16 hour marathon surgical sessions. yes, if your life simply revolves around the self, then sure you will get what you want for as long as someone gives it to you. Hedonism is the middle name of this whole thing. Happiest people I know do not have perfect personalities, nor easy lives, but they do have meaningful lives. Something altoguether missing from all these self help, quick fix, do it my way rubbish. Life without character (not personality) is the life of the vain or the egocentric.

  66. This is a really great post Tim!

    There is a great example that can relate to thisI heard somehow, where an employee and a boss were playing golf together. When the employee thought nobody was looking, he moved the ball just a little bit, but the boss was watching and saw it…and the very next day…the boss fired the employee…because if the employee is willing to cheat on the golf field and knowing not going to be caught, imagine what that person would do in the company.

    Testing people to see how they handle it is a great way to determine the type of people they are.

    And your closest friends who will be their during the hard time not the best time when you have value to give.

  67. This going to save a ton of time and aggravation. It’s a great starting point for an important topic. Thanks for posting this!

  68. This is all a bit one sided, what if they are testing you at the same time? Anyone who listens to their gut will sense something isnt quite right if you play games like this and might walk away. I think it underestimates or even insults the other persons intelligence, when you arnt being genuine there are always clues that will stir the other persons sixth sense and possible trigger the fight or flight a little. These practices dont ellicit trust.

  69. Hi Tim,

    your’re absolutly right with which you’re saying. I’ve had so many bad experiences with really near people to be thought of to be trustworthy but under serveral minor or major bad circumstances it turned out they were not despite my best efforts to keep a good relationship (not romantic!). Most of turned out to be really egoistic or egocentric although there were options for compromises. If I had known how they behave under bad circumstances or disstress, I would have trusted them. Later on I several times I was really disappointed and angry – sometimes even with myself for not even listening to my intuitions. Your adivice is very helpful, because it draws attention to the little trouble causing situations and the behavior of possibily near ones which otherwise I like many others just ignore or don’t take too serious – but they are. People don’t change that much. And one critial situation can tell a lot. I’ve by now realized that the hard way. But now I am very attentive in such situations and try to be very consequent with inacceptable and non-cooperative and egocentric or esp. power-oriented or even (not physical, but verbal) violent behavior. They get two chances but then it’s bye-bye. Whether you create those critical situations or not, they and the according behavior of others are very important to notice. So why not checking the car (any possible closer relationship) and realzing that it’s broken while it’s in the garage? Is it better to realize this while you both take a ride on the highway with 100 mph? Don’t think so. I don’t want to waste time and energy on people who are power-oriented, not cooperative and egocentric, while I am trying to find compromises, just concentratate on the solving of situational problems etc., and their ego is the one and only thing they can care about. They are just not ready. And anyone who is telling that your forcing critical situations is manipulative or whatever bad behavior, has not tasted the bitter social reality enough. The pain wasn’t big enough for them.

    Keep on with sharing your straight-forward and true ideas! Thank you very much!

    In friendship


  70. Hi Tim,

    This is an interesting experiment to read about in theory, but one I will never even consider to entertain. I like to think myself a good judge of character. If I feel the need to go out of my way to manufacture trials for potential friends or partners, then that means my intuition is already telling me that we’re probably not going to mesh well and it would be a waste of time to try and deepen the relationship. Also, instead of showing up late to a planned dinner or dragging somebody through crowds of minorities to see when they tick, why don’t you simply /ask/ someone–in a subtle manner–instead? Wouldn’t that be using less energy? It’s not too hard to pick out the racists, misogynists and, in general, douche bags after a few relaxed convos.

    Anyway, if I found out someone was using those tactics on ME, I’d probably start hanging out with them a lot less, even if I liked their personality and we had lots of things in common. I would feel like every word or action of mine is being scrutinized and judged. And while I know that everyone judges everyone (even if they make an effort not to), at the end of the day I want to be around people who make me feel good, not who make me second guess myself.

    But I understand that testing out unconventional methods is the entire point of this blog, so I’m sure you already know this. I’m also guessing that this post was more geared towards “thinkers” rather than “feelers”–people who’re less in tune with the moods and idiosyncrasies of others, or who’ve just found themselves making the same relationship mistakes over and over and attract the attention of narcissists and sociopaths who are great at presenting a perfect face to the world (I’m sincerely sorry if you’ve experienced people like that). In that case, yes, this is definitely a helpful post. Like you’ve said, life is way too short.

    Thanks for the awesome content, please keep doing what you do!


    1. Interesting response Stephanie. I will respond from a personal perspective of a “feeler” who thinks ALOT.

      I would say that unfortunately for me I have found myself in relationships with a few manipulative women and they have indeed played these kinds of games, which I could sense. It is useful to have this discussion. However, I let myself get too wrapped up and now as defense mechanism I see this kind of behaviour everywhere and also tend to do the same thing myself, though not as explicitly or drastically. Odd because I also try to tell them not to play that with me, because I give off false readings when I sense people attempting to manipulate me. I truly believe that at least one potentially great relationship was ruined this year because of this kind of interaction, because of both of us playing through this.

      As it is I sincerely think that trust, etc, is what we all do want. And yes to enjoy each others company. But also people that we can weather difficulties with. But that too requires people who are willing to do a bit of work. Because all relationships require work right. 🙂

      So then how do we do it? When there is no one way that works in all situations? 🙂

  71. This is fine, sounds great to test people in this way. It sure will get some results. The only problem is what will they think of you? I’m not sure they would be impressed!

  72. This is not a friendly approach you adopt. Why don’t you adopt another strategy different than a kick in each other face ? Life does not bring enough adversities ? Would you get the same kind of treatment when you had hard times ? Don’t you know compassion ?

    Can’t you see peace and energy at the same time ? Or do you see life’s changing with kicks in the ass…

    A commercial can explain the love side of what you are doing

    P.S. : I am sorry for this kicking message, I noticed that you reacted more to this kind of messages and I just adapt my expression to you…

  73. Just for fun: my wife, who I’m about to divorce after 9 years, is phenomenal under stress and an absolute bitch most of the rest of the time. That didn’t show up until it was too late and I have suffered greatly for it.

  74. What if we use these scenarios to learn about how we feel with the other person? These suggestions seem to be seeking an objective observation over a situation that is by nature organic. Both sides influence how this unfolds. In many ways, it’s a good indicator to get in touch with our own affections, and it may be dismissed if we play the “investigator” role.

  75. Hi Tim

    Thanks for this post. It was very thought provoking.

    A lot of the vitriol is probably coming from the discomfort people feel because deep down they know they would perform badly in those tests. I think I’ll put myself through those tests and see how I do…and if not happy with the results, I’ll do something about it.

    Best resource I can recommend for fighting right is:

    Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury – Since reading it adversarial interactions has turned peaceful time after time. Not just for business but also for relationships.

    But I also have a few doubts about that approach. Dr Jonathan Gottman says that partners can either be scanning for what the other person is doing right or be scanning for what the other person is doing wrong. Having done the second one myself, I agree that it is detrimental to relationships.

    The other doubt comes from something Dr Paul Ekman said about trust. If I understood him correctly, he said that trust comes first. I find that hard to believe but perhaps worth investigating. I have to mention that I haven’t read his stuff on trust yet so take this with a pinch of salt.

    Cheers and thanks for the awesome posts

  76. Hey Tim,

    Did you use these tips in your relationship that currently ended? If so, what were they not capable of revealing early on? If not, why did you not use them?

  77. Good idea…however I was thinking that the reaction might be a whole lot different if these things were a habit of that person…u might not mind these if they happen once in a while but if this is the regular behavior it will be a whole different thing…

  78. People aren’t stupid, they know when they are being tested and when they sense that they are, it only indicates to them that you don’t trust anyone which would make them not want to be friends or in a relationship with you anyway. How can anything genuine or authentic come from this? I think you can observe, notice how you feel when you are around them and it’s okay to be discerning if you see a red flag. The truth always comes out in the end. There is no need to test, it manipulative and not giving a potential relationship/friendship a good foundation.

  79. i think this is a very valid concept..i aim to spend my time in a positive state to the best of my ability and circumstances permitting but i have had several experiences where unsuitable people have created repeated bad situations in my life and whence have learned a lot. firstly i have a built in bs detector and also closely observe reactions as above in the article…people will show their true colours its just a matter of time and as that is a precious commodity id rather not waste it -pull the weeds before they do damage

  80. I strongly believe in relationship testing as you mentioned. Great way to efficiently identify so called “deal-breakers” in friendships and relationships. One unique observation: For me, the one and only true quality I use to judge relationships is loyalty, which often must withstand the test of time. The only new friends I intend to make are lifelong friends, doesn’t really matter to me if they are quirky, as long as they consistently place high-value on our interactions. Short term litmus test: perhaps the amount they flake on plans, or failure to respond to texts/ missed calls. Turns out, even folks you were once very close to, will often times reprioritize their lives once they have a partner or kids, or move away. Its the ones that keep in close contact despite these life changes that are worth investing in.

  81. The Russian translation is very bad, the informal but focused tone of the original is lost, instead the words are bureaucratic and the book is pretty dull to read.

  82. On the topic: I absolutely agree on test-driving, especially relationships. If I date a girl and want her to become my girlfriend I will always engage in some uncomfortable activity together with her. The easiest way is travelling together (preferable downshifting-homeless-style, with hostels and trains, or something like bike travel). I’m also trying to bring controversial topics up pretty soon.

    One of the things to be careful with is to make this thing go smoothly and not to turn into manipulator-experimenter, who is watching to other person on the microscope. This can be pretty creepy and revolting to many people, the same way cold-approach pickup and dating advice is, stuff that guys like Owen ‘Tyler’ Cook and Neil ‘Style’ Strauss teach (I remember the episode in Experiment about that).

  83. You say, “You are the average of the 5 or so people you associate with most.” If one strongly believed that, it seems like one might try to cultivate people who might “up their average” ie people who have characteristics (even perhaps including professional status/resources/talents/connections) that might make them desirable friends. I highly suspect that if one were trying to cultivate a friendship with a person that they perceived as desirable from that prospective that they might be disinclined to put that person through such a test.

    However if the shoe was on the other foot . . . such a test might be tempting. Nobody wants to be a means to an end. But the thing is, it lacks integrity. When you do things like that, you bring your own average down. It’s not just the quality of the people that you associate with, it’s also how you treat them. And behaving in a way that is toxic towards other people can’t be the best way of filtering out toxic people and toxic relationships.


  84. I love this. Anything behaviorism related.

    I can’t believe people who read your blog could be offended by this.

    These people need to examine why they are so sensitive to outlandish ideas, or just get some chill.

  85. As I am reading your post, I’m thinking to myself that most of those things would irritate me. Does that mean I’m not worthy of someone’s friendship? I’m not trying to be difficult, I really want to know. Maybe I’m a bad friend and I didn’t even know it. I struggle with social situations and trying to fit in. I have anxiety and a tendency to over-think everything. Friendships are hard for me.