Episode #7 of the course Introduction to personality psychology: The Big 5 traits by Dr. Daniel McGrath
Welcome back! In today’s lesson, we are going to focus on the trait of agreeableness. Statements that describe this trait are:
• I believe that others have good intentions.
• I make people feel at ease.
• I sympathize with others’ feelings.
Agreeableness is the personality trait most associated with kindness, empathy, and altruistic feelings. This trait is also associated with being generous and helpful to others. Levels of agreeableness tend to increase during our 30s, which coincides with life changes often related to starting a family and developing a career. Agreeableness often continues to increase over time, well into our 60s. Aspects of aging, such as becoming a grandparent, for instance, often require us to become more agreeable. In terms of gender differences, women consistently score higher on this trait than men.
Being High on Agreeableness
Highly agreeable people are concerned with the well-being of others; they value their opinions and work to ensure harmony and teamwork between people. They tend to be great mediators and are good at handling conflict. Another benefit of high agreeableness is marriage satisfaction—these people tend to make good romantic partners, as they are cooperative and attentive. Agreeable people are seen as being trustworthy. Similarly, highly agreeable individuals are more likely to put their trust in other people.
Sometimes, this can backfire, as this greater degree of trust may result in other people taking advantage of them. While these people are often good at controlling negative emotions, they are also likely to avoid conflict. This can be problematic, as they are more apt to disengage from disagreements as a way of appeasing others. Because of this, they may be more likely to give up more than their fair share, which can ultimately be problematic for them.
Career-wise, highly agreeable people are often not attracted to leadership roles. Their inability to provide criticism of others can make it challenging to effectively communicate with subordinates. Instead, they tend to gravitate to the “helping professions,” such as teaching, nursing, or working for non-profit organizations.
Being Average on Agreeableness
Average scores on agreeableness are associated with a healthy degree of trust and doubt. People with average scores may not be disagreeable with other people, but they are also not going to sacrifice their own needs. Similarly, they can be altruistic and empathetic in situations where it is warranted. In terms of trusting others, this can take time. People in the middle range of this trait may be suspicious at first and require others to earn their trust over time.
Being Low on Agreeableness
People who score low on this trait are likely to be more disagreeable by nature. Rather than focusing on the needs or desires of other people, they tend to put their own needs first.
Unsurprisingly, they are more combative in social interactions and are easily able to provide their true feelings on a topic. They are also highly distrusting of others. Other people may label a low agreeableness person as tough and opinionated and sometimes as being a bully. Low agreeableness is also associated with a greater likelihood of dangerous choices, such as risky sexual behavior.
While all this sounds quite negative, there are benefits to being low on this trait. For one, people low on agreeableness can easily take criticism. This often has a financial benefit; that is, low agreeableness is associated with higher salaries. Why? They tend to be better leaders because they can make the tough decisions. This often means that they gain respect from their superiors and earn promotions and pay raises as a result. Being immune to criticism can be beneficial in many careers, such as business or the military.
Today’s Task: Here are tasks you can try that may help alter levels of agreeableness:
• Give someone you know a genuine compliment.
• Make a list of the things you are grateful for in one of your relationships.
• Ask someone how they are and listen intently without interrupting.
That’s it for today’s lesson. Tomorrow, we are going to discuss the trait of agreeableness. See you then!
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