The Big Five Super Trait: Agreeableness
Agreeableness is one dimension of the Big Five, which broadly categorizes aspects of our personality. From the word “agree”, you get the impression that this trait means you often agree with everyone and everything around you. That description is pretty close, but there’s more to this super trait than that.
In Psychology, agreeableness measures your tendency to be kind, empathetic, trusting, cooperative, and sympathetic. It shows you how well you harmonize with society. How do you think you’ll score on this dimension?
Read about the other dimensions of personality:
Why is Agreeableness Important?
- It results in better relationships.
- It helps you avoid Anger and Aggression.
- Harboring positive thoughts about people and situations greatly improves your well-being.
- Agreeable parents are more likely to give support to their children, giving them a warm and safe environment to thrive on.
- Agreeable people are less prone to cardiovascular diseases.
- You get into lesser arguments.
- Engaging in Altruistic activities such as helping the poor, feeding the hungry, and simply being a good friend are rewards by themselves.
- You minimize hostility in your life and attract positive energy such as friendship, love and cooperation.
The 6 Facets of Agreeableness
Within the domain Agreeableness, there are 6 facets or sub-traits that will further specify the traits that makes you agreeable or not.
High Score – Assumes that people have good intentions and are trustworthy.
Low Score – Views people as selfish and only after their own interests. Sees people as a threat to interests and well-being.
High Score –Feels rewarded when helping others. Doing things for others is not seen as self-sacrifice. The sense of fulfillment is taken from the act itself.
Low Score – Feels that helping those in need is an imposition. They recognize it, but it’s not very important for them to do anything about it.
High Score - Straightforward and sincere. Doesn’t feel the need to manipulate people to get what they want. Easy to relate to.
Low Score – Believes in using a little deception when dealing with people, when it’s convenient. Tends to be devious and secretive.
High Score – Doesn’t claim that they’re better than others. Humble. Usually has low self-esteem.
Low Score – Viewed as arrogant. Takes advantage of every opportunity to prove that they’re superior to those around them.
High Score – Avoids confrontations like the plague. Will keep the peace even if it compromises their own needs and interests, to get along with people.
Low Score – Forces their will to get your way. Intimidation and aggression are some of the strategies they employ.
High Score – Easily moved to pity. Feels and relates to the pain of other people.
Low Score – Low empathy. Not inclined to be merciful.
What your score means
People who score high on Agreeableness will have most of the following traits:
- Gets involved with altruistic activities such as charities. A do-gooder.
- Has a positive view of human nature.
- Puts the interest of others before their own.
- Tries to please everyone. Needs affirmation from others.
- Kind, considerate and helpful.
- Not prejudiced or suspicious.
- Nurturing. Likes to take care of people.
- Avoids arguments and conflicts.
- Never abrasive or contradicting.
- Emotionally supportive.
- Humble and low-key.
- Honest and sincere in words and deeds.
- Willing to compromise ideas and ideals.
- A bleeding-heart. Feels for the suffering of others.
- Usually well-liked and popular.
People who score low on Agreeableness are usually:
- Pessimistic and has a negative view of human nature.
- Suspicious and paranoid.
- Puts their own interest before others.
- Does not care what people think or how they feel, therefore, unpopular.
- Has a tendency to be narcissistic and anti-social.
- Practical and detached emotionally.
- Looks down on others.
- Very low empathy.
- Finds it difficult to make friends.
- Critical of others.
- Harsh and Callous.
The Dark Side of Being Agreeable
- People tend to take advantage of you.
- Those who score high on agreeableness tend to have lower salaries. It has to do with a person’s aggressiveness. People who are more aggressive tend to be more successful.
- You may be more open to disappointment when people let you down.
- Your inability to say “No” and avoid conflict makes you a very poor leader. You can’t make decisions if it will hurt other people’s feelings or if you will be stepping on someone’s toes.
- Being a super friendly person, you will tend to be overly familiar with your colleagues and staff. This might undermine your authority and professionalism.
- Successful career people need to be critical in order to implement improvements. They accept that not everyone will like them. This is not acceptable to you if you are too agreeable.
- Since you don’t want to inconvenience anyone, you might be overworked – taking on more tasks than you can handle, and not wanting to delegate and be a bother.
- Over-agreeable people do not try and change the world or anything at all, if it offends anyone. They will keep the status quo no matter how they feel about it.
- You are more prone to health issues since you think of yourself last.
- Agreeableness with Low Self-Esteem is the most dangerous of all. You will want to please people and make them like you, whatever it takes.
- Prone to worry and anxiety about not being liked.
So, Is Being Agreeable a Roadblock to Happiness and Success?
Anything that is taken to the extreme will have counterproductive results. Being a pleasant and decent person, and being a doormat are very different things. In this case, the saying, “Nice guys finish last” is true.
In career advancement, it is often necessary to tell people things they don’t want to hear. Some feathers will be ruffled when changes need to be made. You will need to criticize some people to maintain their high level of performance. You won’t be able to do this if you’re a doormat who can’t hurt a mouse even if it bit you. Studies show that low agreeableness is required to be successful in any endeavor.
In relationships, being too agreeable will mean that you compromise a lot of your own happiness. You agree even if you disagree. You push back feelings of resentment to avoid conflict with your partner. That resentment will start bubbling to the surface eventually. If it doesn’t, then it will be very difficult to achieve happiness in a relationship where only one partner thrives, and the other has many pent up emotions. Setting boundaries for yourself will be of immense help.
Our level of agreeableness change from situation to situation, although nice people find it harder to be nasty than for nasty people to be nice. The trick is to be aware of your level of agreeableness and adjust your behavior accordingly. You should know when it pays to be ruthless, and when it’s better to be nice.
You can read more about your personality here.
Take this test and find out. How Agreeable Are You?
- Association for Psychological Sciences: The Power of Agreeableness
- Agreeableness: sociability and near psychopathy in the five factor model of personality
- Wikipedia: Agreeableness
- Academia: The ‘Big Five’: Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness as an organisational scheme for thinking about aggression and violence
Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are
Want to learn more about your personality? Read more about “Agreeableness” and the four other so-called "Super Traits" of human personality in the book "Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are" by Harvard graduate Shawn Achor.
Get the Book today