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Personality Traits – The Essence of You

Personality Traits – The Essence of You

Updated on May 17, 2022 | Published on Dec 20, 2021

Reviewed by Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, MD , Certified Psychiatrist

Personality Traits | Big Five Personality Traits - The Essence of You

Key Takeaways


  • Personality traits are innate and distinct qualities that remain relatively consistent over time.
  • There are Big 5 personality traits – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.
  • Personality traits can either be positive or negative.
  • Positive personality traits impact a person’s life in desirable ways.
  • Negative traits are toxic traits that affect a person’s life in undesirable ways.

We are all born different and our personalities are unique and idiosyncratic. Personality traits are the distinct characteristics or features that determine the way we think, feel, and behave in our day-to-day life.

These are innate qualities that help you to behave in consistent ways all the time.

Thus, it can be said that these traits are somewhat steady and stable over time, yet can gradually change or alter according to the life circumstances of the individual.

In this article, let’s look into the personality dimension of the five big traits including many other small traits that make you who you are. 

Personality Traits Infographic

Personality Traits  Big Five Personality Traits - The Essence of You
Personality Traits Big Five Personality Traits – The Essence of You

Personality Traits – Definition

SUMMARY
Personality traits predict the individual’s characteristic ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. It defines unique qualities that are exclusive and affects the person’s overall functioning.

In psychology, personality traits are described as those unique and idiosyncratic qualities of a person that are relatively stable and form the fundamental units of an individual’s personality.

According to the APA dictionary of psychology, personality traits are “a relatively stable, consistent, and enduring internal characteristic that is inferred from a pattern of behaviors, attitudes, feelings, and habits in the individual.”

The traits describe distinct patterns of thoughts and affective states that influence the way the person behaves in the outer world. 

It is important to note that traits are more or less stable qualities that do not change much over the lifespan of a person.

This means that if a person is honest and responsible, they will show this quality across various situations, irrespective of the issues they may face in such situations.

The personality trait theory rests on the premise that individuals differ from each other with regard to their standing on a set of basic qualities that remains consistent and stable across diverse situations. 

Gordon Allport, the famous personality theorist, claimed that traits are used to figure out the subtle individual differences that make a person unique. 

To put it simply, personality traits show the qualitative differences between one person and the other. The personal situation debate plays a vital role in determining the traits.

It claims that personality traits are situation-dependent and follow a definite pattern.

Criteria of personality traits

All personality traits follow three unique criteria for their unique and exclusive manifestation in an individual. They are – 

  • Consistency – It means that traits show up quite regularly in the same way across various social situations. For example – a talkative person at home usually displays the same chatty and gossipy nature elsewhere.
  • Stability – It means that a trait remains relatively stable and steady irrespective of the age, mental state, and circumstances of the person. An honest person will remain honest at age 20 and at the age of 30 equally well. He/she will not compromise on integrity no matter what happens in the course of their life.
  • Individual differences – personality traits show up differently for all of us. It means that the same trait may manifest itself in discrete ways in one another. For example: we all are friendly but not to the same extent. Some people appear friendlier than others.

Big Five Personality Traits 

SUMMARY
The ‘Big 5’ major personality traits are Openness, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Extraversion, and Neuroticism. This theory is also known as the big five models.

Several types of research studies were done on personality have shown that there are five personality dimensions or basic traits.

These traits are used to define and describe human personality in detail. 

The trait theories of personality have earlier suggested several such qualities. One such is R.B Cattell’s 16 personality factors

Other personality psychologists such as Gordon Allport’s research on 4000 traits have described three different categories of traits. They are cardinal traits, central traits, and secondary traits. 

However, later on, personality researchers have found that Cattell’s and Allport’s work was too complicated and cumbersome. 

As a result, the 5-factor theory given by D.W Fiske (1949), Norman (1967), and Lewis Goldberg (1984) became hallmark research of modern times.

The acronym OCEAN was used to describe the five personality traits and remember them more easily.

  • O – openness
  • C – conscientiousness
  • E – extraversion
  • A – agreeableness
  • N – neuroticism

Another commonly used acronym later developed was CANOE, describing the same five traits. CANOE stands for conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, and extraversion.

The five major personality traits are briefly described below. Measuring the traits depend upon the high scores and low scores.

1. Openness

This trait refers to a person’s ability to think and respond in abstract and creative ways. 

It is all about new learning and experiencing. These individuals have a greater appreciation for art, ideas, and beauty around them. 

They are emotional, sensitive to good things in life, and are lively and impulsive. There is a tendency to jump onto things without good thought.

They are insightful and open to new learning and usually have diverse interests. Openness also means a preference to do challenging tasks. 

These individuals are highly focused on whatever they do. Openness is more inclined to curiosity and an urge to know various things.

It is not about intellectual capacity but an intellectual spirit of inquiry and interest.

Conversely, people who score low on openness are restricted to new ideas. They are rigid and conventional. Sometimes people who are strong in their judging functions are low in their openness score.

They do not like to experiment with new changes, often resist and dislike changes. Usually less imaginative and dislikes theoretical concepts that require insightful learning.

People who score high in openness are adventurous, creative, and love to play with ideas and theories.

For them, gaining insight into many known and unknown facts are a matter of interest and wonder. They just love doing it.

Open to experience means a general tendency to experiment and innovate, not to live by the laws and rules already set in place.

Signs of High Openness

People who are high on Openness to experience trait looks like this – 

  • Creative and insightful
  • Intelligent
  • Abstract thinkers
  • Live in ideas and imaginations
  • Liberal minded
  • Loves diversity
  • Enjoys working on new concepts
  • Prefers to take risks, if needed
  • Adventurous
  • Artistic and has good absorption power
  • can attend to inner feelings of themselves and others
  • inventive
  • consistent decision maker
  • usually possess rich vocabulary
  • confident communication style
  • possess unconventional beliefs and tends to break rules and protocol
  • spontaneous and unpredictable

Signs of low openness 

  • Prefers familiar things and resist change
  • Likes consistency
  • Try to approach things with caution
  • Rigid and never shows interest in learning new things.
  • Less curious
  • Never likes to be surprised
  • Loves conventional ideas and never thinks out of the box.
  • Thinking pattern is straightforward and pragmatic.
  • As they resist change, they remain focused on ideas that have been tested for years.
  • People who score low in openness to experience. Sticks to old plans and habitual patterns of living.

2. Conscientiousness

This personality trait focuses on the efficiency and organizational skills of the person. Highly conscientious people are careful, systematic, and cautious.

People who are highly conscientious prefer to do their tasks diligently.

They do not prefer an easygoing and disorderly lifestyle. They are dutiful and self-disciplined and aim high. These individuals always take a planned action and never decide hastily.

People high on conscientious traits are neat and organized, systematic, and dependable.

In extreme situations, conscientious persons are goal-oriented and prefer to succeed, despite hardships. Most conscientious individuals are workaholics and prefer perfection and precision.

Being reliable, conscientious people keep their promises and never shy away from the headwork and effort that they need to put in to get their job done.

Individuals scoring high on this trait are thoughtful with good impulse control. They are organized, mindful, and emotionally stable. 

They pay attention to detail learning, prefer a schedule, and can meet deadlines easily.

Contrary, those who score low on this trait are messy, careless, procrastinate, and fail to complete tasks on time. As they are disorganized, they do not prefer a fixed schedule.

Sometimes these people may get overly serious and self-disciplined. They are less likely to engage in fun-loving activities and struggle to relax and unwind.

Highly conscientious people may suffer from stress and burnout because they tend to overwork, never settle for less, and have trouble being relaxed and spontaneous.

Signs of high conscientiousness

People who score high on conscientiousness typically shows the following signs –

  • Organized, dependable, and determined
  • They never compromise on their values.
  • Conscientious individuals pay attention to details 
  • Being a productive and committed person, they do well in school and other academic endeavors.
  • Highly conscientious people are not impulsive.
  • They are careful and patient in their behavior and actions.
  • Confident of their abilities.
  • Aware of their shortcomings
  • Highly conscientious people are high on achievement motives as well.
  • Strong sense of duty and moral obligation is seen.
  • Conscientiousness makes one self-aware and self-disciplined.
  • Punctual and keeps a to-do list ready to be accomplished.
  • Remain prepared and believe in producing high quality work.

Signs of low conscientiousness

People who score low on this trait may think and behave like the following:

  • They are careless and extravagant
  • Less self-disciplined
  • Decides in haste
  • Probability of doing wrong is more.
  • Rules are seen as limiting and restricting and tries to avoid them fully.
  • Feels responsible only for self and not others.
  • Less conscientious people are irresponsible and unreliable.
  • They are less systematic and may make a lot of mistakes while performing individually.
  • Low conscientiousness means impulsivity and less thoughtful actions.
  • Seeks immediate gratification of needs.
  • Remains unprepared quite often
  • Flexible and open-minded

3. Extraversion

This trait is marked by sociability, assertiveness, and emotional expressiveness. They are outspoken, excited, and energized.

The extroverted person is assertive, talkative, and is not scared of social interactions.

The concept of introversion vs extroversion became popular in Jungian psychology where these two cognitive preferences are seen as a continuum rather than being separate and discrete.

This means that all of us possess introverted and extroverted traits to a certain extent.

Which one gets manifested in our daily behavior patterns depends upon our innate preferences and the situation we are in.

Carl Jung defined extraversion as “an attitude-type characterized by concentration of interest on the external object.”

Extroverts are social butterflies who love to hang around and make friends wherever they go. They love to connect and interact with diverse groups of people.

People who are high in extroversion are proactive and emotionally expressive. They love to be with others all the time and hate being alone. 

Extroversion may manifest itself in a lot of socialization, initiating and maintaining interesting conversations, keeping the mood of the party going on for hours, etc.

Being full of life and built with positivity, extroverts seek social stimulation like none other. They crave public attention and prefer the spotlight to be on them. 

Extroverts are known for their on-the-spot decision-making skills. Sometimes their decisions may be wrong but they justify it fully and prefer to move with it boldly.

Most often, the heart and soul of a social gathering has to be an extrovert. They gain mental energy from social interactions.

They may be wrongly pegged as being a talkative person but this trait makes them socially dynamic and likable.

People scoring low on extraversion are reserved and prefer solitude and don’t like to be more social than what is needed. They find it difficult to start conversations and dislike being a center of attention.

Low extroversion scores mean an inhibited and lonely feeling. These individuals are less talkative and will never be found discussing their ideas with others.

They prefer being alone and do not require social stimulation to live a happy life.

Signs of high extroversion

People who score high on extraversion qualities look like this – 

  • Highly sociable
  • Takes initiative and remains proactive
  • They are the go-getters.
  • Prefers challenges and try to work it out bravely
  • Warm and seeks excitement in life
  • Gregarious
  • Assertive
  • Cheerful and lively
  • Loves to talk and mingle even with strangers
  • Prefers the spotlight
  • Takes action and never procrastinates
  • Friendly and engaging

Signs of low extroversion

People who score low in their extroversion traits are simply like this – 

  • Prefers privacy 
  • Less interactive socially
  • Feels awkward if asked to start a conversation
  • Appears mellow and soft
  • Do not require much social stimulation
  • Less energetic
  • Thoughtful and prefers silence and solitude
  • Feels uncomfortable in chaotic social situations
  • Remains quiet amongst a group of people
  • Tries to escape from interfering social situations
  • Small talks and gossips can make you sick
  • You are selective about your social connections
  • May need alone time to recharge and energize yourself

4. Agreeableness

This personality trait describes altruism, compassion, trust, and proactive behavior. People scoring high on this trait have a great deal of interest in someone else’s life. 

Agreeableness is a personality trait that is described as being polite and humble, compassionate and cooperative, friendly and docile.

It is one of the big five traits that shows empathy and modesty of the person. People who are highly agreeable will always put others’ needs before their own.

They derive great joy and pleasure in helping others. Agreeable people are less assertive. They may have problems in verbalizing their needs.

Sometimes, too much agreeableness may backfire as others may take advantage of your kind and compassionate nature. You may be forced to say or do things that you do not want to.

They are kind and helpful people. However, if someone is low on this trait, then they are carefree, easy-going, and take little interest in others’ matters. 

They can even belittle and manipulate others to achieve their priorities.

People scoring low on agreeableness tends to be selfish and competitive rather than being cooperative. Research shows that the agreeableness trait helps in conflict resolution. 

It justifies to what extent an individual will agree or comply with others.

People who score low in this personality trait thrive in fights and squabbling. They hardly try to negotiate or make peace with their foes. 

On the other hand, agreeable people avoid conflict and prefer harmony and compliance to a great extent.

Agreeable people are genuine and honest. They are trustworthy and authentic, fair and just.

Signs of high agreeableness

People who are high in agreeableness are –

  • Affectionate and loving
  • Shows altruistic quite often
  • Amicable
  • Cooperative and cares for the needs for others
  • Empathetic and helpful
  • Friendly
  • Gentle and humble
  • Shows gratitude
  • Kind and generous
  • Pro-active in social settings
  • Soft-hearted in their attitude towards others.
  • Hurting others is a last resort for them.
  • Sympathetic people
  • Can easily trust others
  • Warm and merciful

Signs of low agreeableness

There might be many of you low in agreeableness. You would be like this – 

  • Competitive
  • Antagonistic
  • Prone to assert your views even if it’s wrong
  • May suffer frequent breakups
  • Lack of social adjustment is seen.
  • Riddled with confusion
  • Not very popular and liked by others
  • Appears arrogant 
  • Dislikes collaboration and teamwork
  • Cannot form relationships easily
  • Do not display sensitivity and gentleness

5. Neuroticism

This trait describes mood, emotional instability, anxiety, and irritability. These big five traits speak more about jealousy, guilt, depressed mood, anxiousness, and loneliness.

People who are high on neuroticism are responsive to stress. They may not handle hardships of life easily and may become emotionally overwhelmed and irritable.

These individuals are self-conscious and may get into risky behaviors such as drug abuse, smoking, gambling in times of extreme mental stress and agony. 

Neuroticism manifests itself in strong reactions to situations that appear dangerous and uncontrollable. Thus, people who are neurotic by nature are insecure and fearful of threat and peril.

They react negatively to situations that have the power to evoke a threat to the person. Their sense of personal worth is low and suffers from shame and guilt.

People who score high on this trait are worrywarts. They get upset easily and experience mood swings too often. They experience stress because they are always anxious and apprehensive. 

People who are high in neuroticism may interpret various life situations as threatening. They are insecure and vulnerable from within. 

These individuals may experience frequent mood swings. Thus they are unreliable and hasty in decision making.

However, People who score low on this trait are emotionally stable, less anxious, and more relaxed. They are confident, have a stable self-image, and don’t worry much about present and future life events.

Low scorers are easygoing and prefer to be resilient and calm in trying times.

Overall, high neuroticism scores mean poor work performance, unhealthy behavior patterns, maladjustment in social situations.

Signs of high neuroticism

People who score high in neuroticism are – 

  • Anxious
  • Aggressive
  • Hostile
  •  Appears frustrated
  • Wants immediate gratification of need
  • Cannot handle failures and setbacks
  • Poor self-image
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Vulnerable
  • Feels sad and gloomy
  • Self-pitying tendency is high
  • Never feels happy about everything
  • Emotional outbursts are frequent
  • Pessimistic
  • Fearful
  • Poor internal locus of control

Signs of low neuroticism

People who have low neuroticism scores are often like this –

  • Happy and content
  • Stable mood
  • Self-confident
  • Emotional stability
  • Has a positive self-image
  • Less anxiousness
  • Good problem solving skills
  • Feels less guilty and shameful
  • Relaxed and easygoing
  • Overlooks negativity in life
  • Optimistic
  • Self-esteem is high

50 Positive Personality Traits List

So far we have discussed the big five factors or five-factor model of personality in detail. Now let’s take a note of some positive personality traits that we all have in varying degrees.

Positive personality traits are those that impact the person’s psyche in loving and pleasurable ways. It renders happiness, optimism, and love for life, meaning, and purposeful living.

The positive traits help in self-growth and move the person towards a process of self-actualization.

A list of 50 positive personality traits are:

  1. Adaptable
  2. Admirable
  3. Alert
  4. Aspiring
  5. Balanced
  6. Brilliant
  7. Calm
  8. Capable
  9. Caring
  10. Decent
  11. Dedicated
  12. Elegant
  13. Eloquent
  14. Faithful
  15. Flexible
  16. Gentle
  17. Gracious
  18. Honest
  19. Humility
  20. Helpful
  21. Imaginative
  22. Innovative
  23. Intuitive
  24. Kind
  25. Liberal
  26. Lovable
  27. Loyal
  28. Mature
  29. Meticulous
  30. Neat
  31. Optimistic
  32. Orderly
  33. organized
  34. Patient
  35. Peaceful
  36. Punctual
  37. purposeful
  38. Rational 
  39. Relaxed
  40. Responsible
  41. Romantic
  42. Sober
  43. Sociable
  44. Sophisticated
  45. Strong
  46. Tactful
  47. Talented
  48. Uncritical
  49. Wise
  50. Witty

50 Negative Personality Traits List

The negative personality traits are those that display negative qualities and affect the person emotionally. 

Certain behaviors such as being nosy in others’ lives, backbiting sprees, and being disloyal are some of the examples of maladaptive behavior that is displayed due to negative personality traits.

A handy list of negative personality traits are:

  1. Aggressive 
  2. Apathetic 
  3. Arrogant  
  4. Asocial
  5. Aloof
  6. Annoying
  7. Barbaric
  8. Bewildered
  9. Blunt
  10. Bossy
  11. Brutal
  12. Clingy
  13. Clumsy
  14. Conceited
  15. Cynical
  16. Devious
  17. Dishonest
  18. Disobedient
  19. Disloyal
  20. Embarrassed
  21. Envious
  22. Erratic
  23. Fanatical
  24. Fawning
  25. Fickle
  26. Fierce
  27. Frivolous
  28. Forgetful
  29. Grumpy
  30. Haughty
  31. Helpless
  32. Indecisive
  33. Impulsive
  34. Intolerant
  35. Irresponsible
  36. Jealous
  37. Lazy
  38. Messy
  39. Miserable
  40. Materialistic
  41. Moody
  42. Narrow-minded
  43. Naïve
  44. Rowdy
  45. Selfish
  46. Shy
  47. Tactless
  48. Timid
  49. Weak
  50. worrywart

Toxic Personality Traits – Meaning

SUMMARY
The toxic personality traits are those negative personality traits that a person manifests in various situations to upset, manipulate, and hurt others. These behaviors can add negativity to someone else’s life quite easily.

If you are living with someone or probably know someone whose behavior adds unpleasantness around you, be sure that you are with a toxic personality. 

People who manifest toxic personality traits are not always easy to deal with because they are manipulative, attention-seeking, and highly judgmental individuals.

These individuals may make life difficult for themselves and others. It has been found that toxic people tend to manifest personality traits that might have evolved from their own weaknesses and psychological insecurities. 

Probably they were unable to deal with them and as such tries to project these problems onto others. In this way, the toxic traits can make the life of others miserable and stressful.

If someone has a tendency to manifest their toxic personality traits, it doesn’t mean that he/she is suffering from a mental illness.

But there could be some underlying mental health issues that need to be analyzed in detail.

The toxic personality traits may manifest themselves in various forms, such as –

  • the victim may feel cheated or manipulated
  • A lot of confusion about the person’s actual nature or personality types.
  • Feelings of fear, worry, and general discomfort being with them.
  • You may try to defend yourself all the time from the toxic person.
  • Your self-esteem may get hurt and you may feel bad about yourself when they are with you.
  • You may feel that they are actually trying to project their trauma and vulnerability upon you.

10 traits of people with toxic personality 

Now let us analyze why toxic people manifest negativity around them. The personality traits that make these people act negatively are as follows:

1. Manipulative

Your toxic partner, friend, or relative is manipulative and will use you to meet their own vested interests. They will try to make you think, feel, and act in ways that suit their requirements.

In such a situation, you may feel stuck and bound in agony. Your psychological health will suffer a setback and you may suffer from a lot of negativity and stress.

2. Demanding and arrogant

Arrogance and demand are quite prevalent in a toxic relationship. People who use a lot of toxic personality traits are haughty, egocentric, and give a lot of importance to themselves.

You may find them demanding your time and resources, sometimes asking more than what they are actually offering into the relationship.

Toxic traits may make them demanding and aggressive, to a point of making your life miserable.

3. Dramatic and flamboyant

Toxic people manifest drama and flamboyance. Most of the time they are showy of what they are not. They are the ones who can start an issue out of nowhere and can continue a fight for hours.

These individuals can create conflicting situations and infuse negative emotions quite easily. You may feel like a victim, totally helpless and powerless.

4. Insincere and dishonest

Insincerity and dishonesty are the negative traits that can turn highly toxic especially in personal relationships. These traits may manifest through cheating, lying, manipulating others, etc.

When someone is insincere, it means they are not delegating their duties properly. It also means being irresponsible, fake, artificial, and feigned in nature.

5. Apathetic

Another toxic trait that many venomous people manifest is being a typical apathetic type. They are indifferent towards the needs of others, sometimes may ignore their partners and friends fully. 

Toxic people are not interested in thinking and feeling for others. They are busy satisfying their wants and desires.

You may find them constantly using others to accommodate their own needs and just do not care about others’ feelings.

Apathy can be seen in being unsupportive and lacking the motivation to see what’s going on around them. 

6 Poor accountability

This toxic trait manifests in being irresponsible and not taking the onus of one’s actions.

People who show up this trait functions quite often in their life are not at all interested to take the blame for anything going wrong.

These people tend to safeguard themselves from everything and make sure that they do not fall into any unpleasant situations.

7. Unsupportive

People who are toxic and manipulative never support the dreams and goals of others. They are selfish and will never appreciate others for their endeavors.

They will not support your goals and aspirations, and may not want you to be successful in life.  Toxic traits can show up in maladaptive behavior patterns where they may praise you insincerely or feign their actual intentions.

8. Holds grudge against you

Grudge and resentments are toxic traits because it makes the lives of two people miserable. The parties involved in the conflict will eventually lose peace of mind in no time.

Toxic traits follow the same pattern wherever the person goes. They never let go of anything and hold old resentments and pain forever.

Whenever there is a fight or disagreement, these people will bring out old fights because they may want to make you feel guilty about whatever has happened.

They may scare you and the relationship appears dominating and aggressive.

9. Aggression

Aggression is a toxic trait because it makes you arrogant and forceful. People who score high on this trait are controlling in nature. They try to restrict and limit the resources of others. Sometimes, they may abuse people physically and mentally.

They are the ones who cannot control their frustrations and anger and if you are with them, you may feel a bomb ticking aside you all the time.

These individuals usually have low interpersonal skills and their relationships are either short-lived or full of constant squabbling.

10. Blaming

Blaming is a toxic trait because it makes the person pinpoint the faults of others without owning one’s own role in it.

These people can give endless reasons to prove that they are always right and cannot be blamed for the problem. 

Sometimes they speak white lies that can be easily caught. They are unpopular amongst their friends and family circles.


Personality Traits Test (Big Five Personality Test)

A personality test that measures the individual trait functions is a good assessment tool when it comes to academic and career choices. 

There have been various attempts made to assess the big 5 traits.

However, the most widely accepted, validated, and reliable, method to measure the big five personality traits is the NEO personality Inventory. The test was developed by Paul Costa Jr. and Robert McCrae in 1978.

This personality test measures all five factors (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. 

The NEO Personality Inventory test consists of 240 items that measure personality factors across various facets. It is a self-administered personality inventory. 

Later on, a shorter version with 60 items was developed for easy assessment and scoring of all the five traits.

The NEO personality inventory has been revised many times in 1990, 2005, and 2010). Later the revised version is known as NEO PI-R. The test is not widely available online but you can learn more about this trait test here

Besides the NEO inventory, there are many online free personality test tools that measure the big 5 traits.

You may use these tools to determine the specific traits that make up your type of personality. The credibility of these online resources needs to be ascertained before administration and scoring.

If you are eager to take an online assessment, you can take the test here.


A word from ‘ThePleasantPersonality’

Summing Up, it can be said that personality traits and their developmental history are an old construct of philosophers and psychologists.

While it’s easy to decipher your individual nature through your manifested behavior patterns, it is not always easy to assess your specific traits or qualities that make you who you are.

A lot of scientific testing and empirical support measures are needed to identify the traits that may become your innate strengths or weaknesses and influence your overall behavior in day-to-day life.

Thus, knowing oneself thoroughly is not an easy job. Right?