The Capacity to Surprise

One of my favorite questions to ask people is, “What do you look for in a person?” I ask it in the context of sizing up someone’s potential as a friend, as an employee, as a conversation partner, anything.

I always find it fascinating what somebody looks for (what specific characteristics does he mention) and then how he goes about assessing the existence of those characteristics in a short period of time. It’s easy to say “I look for intelligence” but what specific things tip you off? (My old and well commented post on litmus tests covers this.)

One friend recently gave an interesting answer: he looks for people who can surprise him. He said that if someone doesn’t surprise him, he doesn’t get a sense of the person’s presence.

I’d have to agree: there’s nothing more boring than a person whose sentences you feel you can finish every time. Or who fits squarely into a stereotype such that 90% of their beliefs perfectly align with a broader political or religious label.

What I usually answer to the question which opened this post, when I’m choosing friends, romantic partners, or conversation companions, is “eccentricity.” I like eccentric people. They’re usually very fun. They are unique, like keys. And they regularly surprise me.

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