Back in August, I listed some Mark Twain quotes. Among them was the following:
"A man's character may be learned from the adjectives he habitually uses in conversation."
Psychologists call this "projection," or projecting onto others what you are yourself. (When you do it with non-human species, it's called "anthropomorphizing.")
I used to work on a bond trading desk on Wall Street. (When you sit with the same guys for ten hours a day, you get to know them far better than you might want.) One thing I was able to observe was that they were constantly projecting their own traits onto others.
The dumbest guy on the desk was forever saying about various other people, "He just doesn't get the joke." This was his favorite insult. Yet he, himself, was remarkably clueless for a guy working at an investment bank.
Another trader, this one both dumb and self-satisfied, was always saying that various people "fell asleep at the switch." That would be a good description of his own trading style, which was to always try what worked the previous year.
The desk sociopath was forever saying, "I don't trust that guy. He lied to me once." (He thought that by saying this he was indirectly demonstrating his own honesty, but he was in fact doing the opposite.) He would say this about people who were basically honest as well as those who were not.
There was one fellow on the desk who was a truly decent person. He would frequently say of others, "He seems like a good guy." He said this about guys who were not as well as those who were.
I knew a guy in high school who was perpetually accusing other guys of being homosexual (he used the word "flitty," which was in vogue at that time). He would say this about many people who didn't strike me that way, and he would always sound very annoyed as he said it. I'm pretty sure he turned out to be gay himself.
I mentioned this tendency to a friend recently, and he said that he had noticed the same thing with his wife, who was always accusing others of being petty, suspicious, and vindictive. He said he had lost patience with her a couple times and actually said, "Not everybody is as petty and suspicious as you are."
My daughter constantly tells me, "Dad, you're not funny." She is an intelligent girl with many admirable qualities, but a sense of humor is not among them.
Projection is not always negative. I have one friend from whom I take investment advice, who frequently describes others as "very, very smart." This guy himself is extraordinarily intelligent (though his stock picking, unfortunately, has been less than perfect).
Think of the people you know and what their favorite (over-used) descriptions of other people are. You'll find a strong correlation with their own characteristics.
Just so you know, I find myself frequently raving about others' incredible toughness and intelligence.