Your personality influences everything from the friends you choose to the candidates you vote for, yet many people never spend much time thinking about their personality traits. Understanding your personality can give you insight into your strengths and weaknesses. It can also help you gain insight into how others see you.
Most modern-day psychologists agree there are five major personality types, referred to as the "five-factor model," and everyone possesses some degree of each.
People who rank highest in conscientiousness are efficient, well-organized, dependable, and self-sufficient. They prefer to plan things in advance and aim for high achievement. People who rank lower in conscientiousness may view those with this personality trait as stubborn and obsessive.
Fun fact: Studies show that marrying someone high in conscientiousness increases your own chance of workplace success, as a conscientious spouse can boost your productivity and help you achieve the most.
People who rank high in extroversion gain energy from social activity. They're talkative, outgoing, and comfortable in the spotlight—but others may view them as domineering or attention-seeking.
Fun fact: Be on the lookout for a strong handshake. Studies show that men with the strongest handgrips are most likely to rank high in extroversion and least likely to be neurotic (see below). However, the same doesn't hold true for women.
Those who rank high in agreeableness are trustworthy, kind, and affectionate toward others. They're known for pro-social behavior and are often committed to volunteer work and altruistic activities. Other people, however, may view them as naïve and overly passive.
Fun fact: Seek a financial investor who is high in agreeableness. Studies show that agreeable investors are least likely to lose money from risky trading. But you may want to avoid an investor who's high in openness—that personality trait is associated with overconfidence, which can lead an investor to take excessive risks.
4. Openness to Experience
People who rate high in openness are known for having a broad range of interests and vivid imaginations. They're curious and creative, and tend to prefer variety to rigid routines. They're known for their pursuits of self-actualization through intense, euphoric experiences, like meditative retreats or living abroad. Others may view them as unpredictable and unfocused.
Fun fact: Openness is the only personality trait that consistently predicts political orientation. Studies show that people high in openness are more likely to endorse liberalism and more likely to express their political beliefs in general.
Neurotic people experience a high degree of emotional instability. They're more likely to be reactive and excitable, and they report higher degrees of unpleasant emotions like anxiety and irritability. Other people may view them as unstable and insecure.
Fun fact: Neurotic people seek acceptance by publishing a lot of pictures on Facebook. Studies find they're less likely to post comments or updates that could be seen as controversial, and much more likely to post lots of pictures. (They also have the most photos per album.)
Understanding the Basics of Personality
An individual's personality remains relatively stable over time. The traits you exhibited at age seven are likely to predict much of your behavior as an adult. You can, of course, change some of your traits—it takes hard work and effort to make big changes, but most researchers agree that it is possible.