What’s your vice?

Coecke van Aelst, Pieter (follower) - The Fall of Man

There are few questions less useful to get to know someone than asking them about their values.

Regardless of the context, you’re going to hear the same few uninteresting answers.

What do people mean when they reply something like honesty”, or hard work”? Who knows. It’s not a reliable predictor of their behavior in any situation, nor does it indicates anything substantial about their personalities.

If you ask this question in a selection process - a job interview, a date, etc. - you’ll be able to filter the weirdos and the kind of people with a pathological need to appear different - like myself.

Asking people about their values is normative by design. The actual question is something like you do know what’s considered normal behavior in society, right?”.

If you want to peak into the mind of somebody, you should ask them about their vices. I’m not talking about their weaknesses”. A weakness is a trait of character limiting your performance.

I’m disorganized. It’s not a vice, it’s just a flaw.

No, I mean, what socially unacceptable characteristic they’re willing to exhibit on purpose, and why.

Not only is this a tougher question, but it is also way more interesting. In which ways are you a crook?

Are you willing to be dishonest? Negligent? Disloyal? Unfair? And most importantly, why?

Something is at stake with this question. You can blemish your reputation by answering foolishly, so people take the time to think about a response they believe in. And while admitting an embarrassing truth about themselves, you’ll also get a clearer picture of their true values.

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