Exploring Some Of The Most Common Personality Traits

Medically reviewed by April Brewer
Updated February 22, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Personality traits tend to be relatively defining characteristics. They can encompass qualities, temperament, emotions, competencies, talents, and habitual patterns of behavior. These encompass broad personality traits that help to describe personality traits in individuals. We each have many different character traits—some stronger than others. These traits form a broad range of personality types, each with its own unique features. While you can teach yourself new habits and behaviors, personality traits tend to be more stable. However, for those experiencing emotional instability, understanding and managing these traits becomes crucial. However, you may be able to improve some traits that present challenges.

Below, we’ll look at some common personality traits, some of the tests that are designed to measure these broad traits, and ways that you might use your strong traits to your advantage and improve on your other traits.

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The big five personality traits classifications

Over the years, many psychologists have used a structure of personality traits known as the “Big Five.” This model aligns with the five factor model, which simplifies the complex nature of human personality into five broad traits. Each of the Big 5 personality traits is a category of common traits that contain essential characteristics that set people apart from each other. These five broad personality traits provide a comprehensive overview of a person’s personality. Each of the five traits contains two opposing sides of character traits, such as extraversion and introversion. This dichotomy illustrates how closely related personality traits can be within a single personality type. Within each factor, there are many individual character traits.

Personality traits factor I: Surgency (extroversion)

Factor one of the Big Five personality traits has been labeled surgency or extroversion. This trait tends to relate to how you interact with others in social situations. It’s a key aspect of social interaction and plays a significant role in how individuals engage in social contexts. Your tendency within this factor may determine whether you draw your energy from being with people or from being alone. Those who prefer solitary activities might lean more towards the introversion side of this spectrum. If you’re on the extroversion side of the spectrum, you might be described in the following ways: 

  • Friendly
  • Socially confident
  • Sociable
  • Assertive
  • Outgoing
  • Energetic
  • Talkative
  • Articulate
  • Affectionate
  • Fun-loving
  • Prone to action
  • Gregarious

If you’re on the introversion side, you might have the following characteristics:

  • Quiet
  • Introspective
  • Reserved
  • Thoughtful
  • Silent
  • Passive

Personality traits factor II: Agreeableness (pleasantness)

Agreeableness is a character trait that describes the way you get along with and interact with others in most situations. This trait is an important trait that influences a person’s ability to maintain harmonious relationships. An agreeable person tends to have few, if any, enemies. People with this character trait are typically well-respected, admired, and liked by most people. Their amiable nature is a common personality trait appreciated in various social settings. If you’re on the agreeable side of the spectrum, your character traits may include:

  • Altruistic
  • Trusting
  • Humble
  • Patient
  • Tactful
  • Polite
  • Loyal
  • Helpful
  • Sensitive to the needs of others
  • Amiable
  • Cheerful
  • Affectionate
  • Sympathetic to others, including to strangers
  • Traditional
  • Conforming
  • Grateful
  • Forgiving

People on the disagreeable side of the spectrum may be hard to get along with in social situations. Their character traits may include the following:

  • Blunt
  • Rude
  • Callous
  • Sarcastic
  • Antagonistic
  • Cruel
  • Abrasive
  • Hostile
  • Selfish
  • Distrustful

Personality traits factor III: Conscientiousness (dependability)

Conscientiousness, as a category of character traits, tends to include abilities and behavior patterns related to controlling impulses, acting in socially appropriate and acceptable ways, and engaging in goal-seeking behaviors. This factor often involves the ability to complete tasks efficiently and effectively. If you have conscientious character traits, you may be excellent at delaying gratification, planning, organizing, and working within the rules. People who are conscientious tend to have the following character traits:

  • Persistent
  • Self-disciplined
  • Reliable
  • Resourceful
  • Hard-working
  • Energetic
  • Persevering
  • Predictable
  • Thorough
  • Ambitious
  • Consistent
  • Controlled
  • Goal-oriented
  • Determined
  • Organized

Those who are near the other end of the conscientiousness continuum tend to have the following character traits and behaviors:

  • Procrastination
  • Impulsivity
  • A tendency to be flighty
  • Impetuousness
  • Carelessness
  • A tendency to be negligent or unreliable

Personality traits factor IV: Emotional stability (neuroticism)

Emotional stability is a personality trait that tends to represent how you function in life overall. People who have emotionally stable character traits tend to be comfortable with themselves. However, those with emotional instability may frequently experience negative emotions, making it essential for them to understand and manage these traits. They are often: 

  • Self-confident
  • Self-assured
  • Adventurous
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The other side of this character trait spectrum is neuroticism. Neurotic people who are high in this category may be: 

  • Emotionally unstable
  • Overly sensitive
  • Self-conscious
  • Low in self-esteem
  • Insecure
  • Self-critical
  • Wary
  • Timid
  • Fearful
  • Nervous
  • Jealous
  • Moody
  • Anxious
  • Pessimistic
  • Temperamental

Such individuals often experience a broad range of negative emotions, indicating a need for understanding and managing these traits.

Personality traits factor V: Openness

This character trait factor has been called culture, openness to experience, intellect, and imagination. This category involves a tendency to be imaginative and a willingness to try new things. People who are open to experience tend to have the following character traits:

  • Creative
  • Imaginative
  • Insightful
  • Interested in a wide variety of subjects
  • Original
  • Clever
  • Curious
  • Perceptive
  • Intellectual
  • Deep
  • Daring

These traits describe people who often possess strong abstract thinking skills and enjoy exploring complex concepts. People who have low levels of the openness character trait tend to:

  • Stick to set routines
  • Prefer what they already know to what they aren’t familiar with
  • Enjoy arts and entertainment that are less abstract

Uses of the big five character traits for employment

Researchers have suggested practical ways to use the results of character studies. This is based on the lexical hypothesis, which posits that important traits in human personality are embedded in our language. For example, Lewis R. Goldberg, a psychologist widely known for his work in personality psychology, recommended that the Big Five character traits system be used to predict job performance. This approach considers various factors, including a person’s specific trait, to determine their suitability for certain roles. The idea is that if you know someone’s character traits, you may know more about how they’re likely to perform in their jobs. 

Researchers Murray Barrick and Michael Mount found that conscientiousness was the Big Five character trait factor that was related to job success across all the types of jobs and career fields they studied. Others may see agreeableness as a better predictor of strong job performance, depending on the context. This understanding can lead to a better understanding of the role of personality traits in the workplace. While there is still disagreement among scientists about how the Big Five should be used, many employers are aware of primary personality traits and consider them when making hiring decisions.

Additional personality tests

The Big Five is not the only classification system of personality traits. There have been other systems with more or fewer recognized traits that have been devised over the years. These systems sometimes introduce a sixth dimension or other factors to describe personality traits. Some were used mostly in conducting research, while others had more practical applications. Some personality trait tests are the result of years of scientific research, while many of the personality tests you find free online may have little or no scientific basis. Words people use to describe personality can often be linked back to these scientific models. The following four personality trait tests tend to be more notable and well-respected.

Eysenck Personality Questionnaire

The Eysenck Personality Questionnaire is a short, 48-item character trait test that aims to measure your levels of extroversion and neuroticism. Several versions have been developed. Eysenck’s later version, the EPQ-BV (a 24-item test), has proven to be a highly consistent, valid, and reliable descriptor of character traits.

Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is a character trait test that was developed in the 1940s and is still used around the world to measure character traits. Within the MMPI are several different scales that measure not only character traits, but also response attitudes, mental symptoms, and special problems a person might be experiencing.

The MMPI character trait test is often used for people who are admitted to an inpatient psychiatric facility. It is also sometimes used for people starting therapy or for graduate students pursuing a degree in clinical psychology. People who have brain injuries sometimes take the character trait test to determine the extent of their injuries.

NEO PI-R

The NEO Personality Inventory, or the NEO PI-R, is designed to measure the Big Five Factors. This test uses the five dimensions of emotional, interpersonal, experiential, attitudinal, and motivational styles. The test-taker answers 240 questions using a five-point scale. The test is then used by mental health professionals, doctors, and educators. The NEO PI-R is considered reliable and valid.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

One of the most well-known personality tests is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The MBTI is a test that gauges your character type based on four pairs of opposites:

  • Introversion/Extroversion
  • Intuitive/Sensing
  • Thinking/Feeling
  • Judging/Perceiving

Many people take the MBTI when preparing to start or change their career. The MBTI may help you determine your strengths and weaknesses to get an idea of the jobs you could do most successfully. You can take the test yourself through the Myers & Briggs Foundation.

What can you do about your personality traits?

Your personality traits tend to be relatively stable over the course of your lifetime, but this doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do about them. For those with neurotic personality types, understanding and managing traits becomes even more crucial. While you may not be able to completely change your personality traits, there are several steps you can take to make the most of your positive character traits and minimize the impact of other traits.

Leveraging your positive traits

When you understand your positive character traits, you may be able to choose a career where you can shine as an individual. This applies particularly to those who have broad personality traits that can be channeled into professional strengths. For example, if you’re high in the openness-to-experience traits, you might do well in a creative or intellectual career. If you’re high in conscientiousness character traits, you might make a great leader. By choosing a career compatible with your character traits, you may increase the likelihood that you will thrive throughout your career.

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Addressing traits that you’d like to improve

Some personality traits may be difficult to change, but recognizing them may help you make better decisions. For example, if you tend to be low on the extroversion scale, you may be setting yourself up for failure if you choose a job that requires lots of face-to-face communication with others. This is particularly true for those who prefer solitary activities and may feel overwhelmed in highly interactive roles.

You might also learn to minimize your challenging personality traits and maximize your positive character traits by learning different ways of thinking and behaving. One way to do this is through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In CBT, a counselor can guide you as you examine your thoughts and behaviors. This can be especially beneficial for individuals who experience negative emotions and struggle with emotional instability. Together, you can decide if they’re helpful enough to hold onto or so unhelpful that you want to change them. Your overall character traits may not change, but the way you respond to the outside world can. Research has found that CBT, including internet-based cognitive behavior therapy (ICBT), can help improve certain personality traits.

 If you feel hesitant about traditional in-office therapy, you might consider online therapy, which numerous peer-reviewed studies have found to be effective

With BetterHelp, you can connect with a licensed therapist from the comfort of your home or office at a time that works for you. You can communicate with them via phone, online chat, or videoconferencing. Also, you can message them at any time through in-app messaging, and they’ll respond as soon as they can. 

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Takeaway

Your personality traits tend to make up a large part of who you are and set you apart from others in many ways. Understanding these traits, from broad personality traits to more specific ones, can help you navigate both personal and professional life more effectively. However, you don’t have to live your life based on what a personality test says about you. Instead, you might use such a test as guidance so that you can make the most of your character traits and live a more fulfilling, successful life.

A therapist might be able to help you learn to identify your prominent character traits and then change certain thought processes and behaviors. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a licensed therapist who has experience helping people assess their personality traits and identify ways to make the most of them. Take the first step toward learning more about your unique personality traits and reach out to BetterHelp.

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