What Do the Big Five Personality Traits Say about You?

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Most people are fascinated by personalities. There are many different personality assessments that focus from strengths to temperament to even communication patterns. While personality inventories do not encompass every aspect of every person, they do provide some insight into people. These types of assessments can create more awareness and understanding for each person. The Big Five Personality Traits is an assessment that is commonly used. It describes five major categories of personality: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (OCEAN). Each person falls on continuum moving either closer or further to each trait. Similar to the Myers-Brigg Personality Inventory, where each individual falls on the scale or continuum is different from person to person.

The Big Five

Openness. People high in this trait are more open to new experiences. They are described as adaptable, more spontaneous, and open to change. They typically focus more on emotions over statistics or data. They tend to be very creative, imaginative, and artistic. However, high openness can also lead to more risk-taking and unpredictable behavior. Individuals low in openness tend to use logic and reason over emotions. They appreciate structure and routine over spontaneity. They do not like change whether it was abrupt or they saw it coming. Sometimes they can be seen as inflexible and less open-minded in terms of new ideas.

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Conscientiousness. These people tend to be more mindful and thoughtful, particularly when it involves how their actions might impact others. They are individuals who like to think and plan ahead. They are seen as highly reliable and dependable people. At times, they can be seen as overly focused and rigid. Those low in conscientiousness tend to procrastinate more, leaving work until the last minute or even unfinished. While they do tend to be more flexible, they are often seen as unreliable. This can give others the idea that they are careless and even lazy.

Extraversion. Extroverts have high energy in social settings. They are talkative and enjoy being around people. Being around groups of people is highly stimulating and energizes them. At times, it can appear that extroverts love the spotlight, potentially dominating social situations. On the other end of the spectrum, introverts lose energy in social settings. They reenergize by being alone. They tend think through what they want to see before speaking and dislike being the center of attention. Depending on how reserved they are, some introverts can be viewed as being uninterested and distant.

Agreeableness. Those high an agreeableness tend to be altruistic individuals with deep amounts of empathy. They care deeply for others and desire to help people. They are very trusting and desire for others to be happy. At times, the can seem too passive and naïve. Individuals low in agreeableness may be seen by others as challenging, combative, and even abrasive. They tend to be less concerned with the feelings of others. This can give others the impression that they lack compassion and are potentially untrustworthy.

Neuroticism. Individuals who are high in this trait are typically more prone to emotional stress. They experience undesirable feelings with more ease and can be seen as less emotionally stable. These individuals tend to be more emotionally reactive, experiencing more dramatic changes in their emotional state. People low in neuroticism are typically seen as more emotionally stable. They typically have developed high levels of resiliency and solid coping abilities when dealing with stress. In general, individuals low in this trait tend to be calm and less anxious.

Each end of the spectrum has positive qualities as well as its negative qualities. Everyone is different can fall anywhere on the continuum of each trait. Personality assessments like The Big Five can help each individual gain more insight, awareness, and understanding of themselves which is invaluable.

Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She works with athletes, bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant in sports psychology.  Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.