Throughout our lives, we meet many different people, each with different personalities. Sometimes we get along with people and are able to communicate well with them, while other times we don’t. Have you ever wondered why?
One of the biggest factors influencing our connection to other people is our personality. According to the American Psychological Association, “refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving.” It is clear by now that understanding who we are and how we perceive ourselves is crucial to interpersonal communication. Having greater insight into why we do the things we do and what personality type we are can improve the way we effectively communicate.
With the internet right at our fingertips, there are endless ways to dissect who we are and what personality we have. Facebook and Buzzfeed quizzes pop up every time we scroll and tempt us to find out which Friends character we are, what type of wine we are, or which ninja turtle we are by taking a pizza quiz. Some of the quizzes are simply for entertainment’s sake, while others can actually give us interesting feedback. In the world of psychology, there are personality tests that are backed by research and have taken years to perfect by highly respected individuals in the field. Some of the more well-known tests include, the Myers-Briggs type indicator test, the Rorschach inkblot test, and the Thematic Appereception Test.
One of the most trusted tests is the Big Five Personality test, based on the Five Factor Model of personality, which is the most widely accepted theory of personality today. The test consists of 50 questions, asking questions such as do you make friends easily or do you carry out your plans. At the end, you receive a score that measures a low, average, or high level of five traits:
- Openness to experience: Describes how open you are to think in complex, abstract, and creative ways. This measures how intellectually curious you are.
- Conscientiousness: This trait describes a person’s ability for self-discipline and tendency to aim for goals.
- Extraversion: This refers to a person’s inclination to seek stimulation from the outside world and from the company of others. It also describes a person’s degree of talkativeness, assertiveness, and sociability.
- Agreeableness: This trait is used to describe how compassionate, kind, and cooperative a person is while interacting with others.
- Neuroticism: Neuroticism is the likelihood a person is to feel negative emotions, including anger, sadness, and anxiety. This trait measures a person’s emotional stability and their ability to control the negative emotions they experience.
You might be asking yourself, how can the measure of these five traits determine how well we communicate? Those traits can influence the ways we communicate with others. Someone highly open to experience is probably someone who is always coming up with new ideas and isn’t afraid to share them with others. People who are highly conscientious are usually dependable, hardworking, and cautious. They might communicate well with others because they are honest and not afraid to go after what they want. Those who are highly extraverted exhibit enthusiasm, friendliness, and ambition. Extraverts communicate more easily because they know how to talk to people and are not afraid to tell someone how they feel. People who score high in agreeableness are very kind, compassionate, and sensitive to how others feel. They communicate well because they are very cooperative and typically put others before themselves. Neuroticism, the last of five factors, is the hardest to measure. Most people experience negative emotions from time to time although it happens more often to some. People who score low in neuroticism usually have a good handle on their emotions, don’t let those emotions cloud their judgment, and don’t let stress take over their lives. On the other hand, people who are highly neurotic can be sometimes unstable and overly reactive. In these instances, these people can be difficult to communicate with due to unpredictability in their words and actions.
Exploring our personalities in depth by taking personality tests can give us insight into who we are. By beginning to understand ourselves and others, we can better understand how we communicate the way we do. Whenever you are in a situation where you are communicating with others, you can be mindful of how the other person is speaking or acting towards you. Whether you know the person well or not, you will be able to gauge what their personality is. From there, you can adapt accordingly to the conversation. If you encounter someone with a personality conflicting with yours, you can try to improve your communication skills by adapting to be sensitive to their personality. If you’ve scored low in agreeableness and want to aim to improve in that area, you can try to be more easygoing when communicating with others and more willing to cooperate. Effective communication in relationships starts with understanding the various aspects of personality and using that knowledge to adapt to day-to-day interactions.
Find out your results by taking the Big Five test here.
About the Author
Danielle Straub is the Communication Editorial intern this summer at Macmillan. She is a rising junior at Hunter College in New York City. Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English, Danielle plans to go into publishing when she finishes college. Danielle enjoys spending her time traveling, cooking, reading, and volunteering.