The Big 5 Personality Traits

4 min read

The Big 5 Personality Traits

In order to understand ourselves on a deeper level, I believe it’s first very important to know and understand the Big 5 personality traits. This model evaluates how strong a person is on five different axes.

The Big 5 Personality Traits are:
Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. Read on to learn more about each one.

This trait indicates how open-minded a person is. Someone with a high level of openness generally has a wider variety of interests. They enjoy travelling to exotic destinations, they have no fear of jumping into drastic career changes and may decide to move and live in another city or country. They are often open to trying new things and exploring, and can get bored with routine or staying in the same place for too long.

Conscientious people are generally more goal-oriented in their motives, ambitious in their academic efforts and at work, and feel more comfortable when they are well-prepared and organised. You won't find conscientious types going on last-minute adventures, instead they take pleasure in planning. Conscientious people like to establish and maintain order; they work hard, hate wasting time, and are unlikely to procrastinate. They also tend to be decisive, neat, organised, future-oriented and reliable.

Extraversion versus introversion is possibly the most recognisable personality trait of the Big 5. The more extraverted someone is, the more of a social butterfly they are likely to be. Extraverts are chatty, sociable and draw energy from crowds. They tend to be assertive and cheerful in their social interactions, whereas introverts need plenty of alone time to recharge. Introverts enjoy spending quality time by themselves away from the noise and tend to be more quiet, reserved, and introspective. Unlike extroverts, who gain energy from social interaction, introverts have to expend energy in social situations. After attending a party or spending time in a large group of people, introverts often feel a need to ‘recharge’ by spending some time alone.

A person’s level of agreeableness helps to assess their ability to work well with others, their levels of optimism (especially in regards to other people), and their tendency to empathise with and respond to the needs of others. Agreeable individuals find it important to get along with others and are willing to put aside their interests for the sake of other people. These individuals are helpful, friendly, considerate, and generous.

Neuroticism is a measure of general sensitivity to negative emotions such as pain, sadness, irritability or defensive anger, fear and anxiety. Everyone has a degree of neuroticism. Those with a higher level are more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening and minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult. Their negative emotional reactions tend to persist for unusually long periods of time, which means they are often in a bad mood. Neuroticism is connected to a pessimistic approach to work, a lack of confidence that impedes personal relationships, and anxiety linked to work. Individuals who score low in neuroticism are less easily upset and less emotionally reactive.

Every personality trait has associated strengths and weaknesses, as you can see. It’s not uncommon to feel self-critical after reading this, or to wonder if it’s possible to change your personality type.

In some cases, an individual’s personality type is set and won’t change. A great example is in a household with two highly neurotic parents, this trait will likely pass on to the children making them more likely to be neurotic in their nature. If they wish to change this trait later in life they may find it extremely difficult. Another great example is trying to change from an introvert to an extrovert, which can also be extremely difficult or even impossible to do. If it is in your nature to be quiet, reserved, and introspective you may find it extremely exhausting to go out often, socialise with people and be around big crowds, and forcing yourself to do so won’t change how it leaves you feeling.

On the other end of the spectrum, those who have been through trauma or life-changing events may experience significant changes in personality. Even the types of social roles we take on can have an impact on our personalities –first-time parents or those changing career paths are great examples. As you get older, you take on more responsibility and become more mature; as your perspective of the world changes so does your life and personality.

So if you wondered if you can change your personality, the answer is not as simple as yes or no. As mentioned, your upbringing, genetics and experiences play an important role in your natural traits, but in some instances, you can change your traits with time and effort. Individuals can develop new habits or focus on particular traits to improve aspects of their personality for a better overall outlook. You can strengthen the traits you admire and improve on traits that are holding you back.


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