How can you describe one of your friends to a stranger? You tell him about some of his prevalent characteristics such as talkative, trustworthy, intelligent etc. Some of those characteristics may change over time while some may remain almost same even after a long period. Did you ever meet a childhood friend after a long time only to realize nothing has changed a lot. These long-lasting characteristics may be loosely defined as the personality traits.
I am not a professional psychologist and I do not have any formal education either. The article is just an expression of my own understanding about some aspects of psychology.
Can I change my personality traits?
This is one of the first question that comes into mind after learning about personality traits. In my opinion the short answer is “No, one can not just change one’s personality”. Granted, this is one extreme view of personality trait, as we see many counterexamples of this around us. However, the changes that we see in others and sometimes within ourselves as well are mostly changes in behaviour, mood, and our experience. As we become wiser with age we learn to behave differently in different circumstances as well as adapting our behaviours according to change in context. How we feel inside and the process of our thinking and preference do not change much though.
Another important distinction between personality and mood needs to be clarified as well. Mood is something that may change frequently whereas personality is long term characteristic. For instance a naturally talkative person may become quite reserved for a period of time after experiencing tragedy in his/her life. On this note, I want to mention that even personality traits can be significantly altered on such tragic experiences.
Do I have the best personality traits?
The study of personality traits do not in general deals with whether they are good or bad – this type of generalizations are erroneous and dangerous as well. Now, keep in mind that by personality traits I am not referring to qualities such as patience, trustworthiness, hard works etc. These are good qualities that one can achieve over one’s life. The personality traits however is how we are – inside of us. These traits can be useful if properly understood and utilized, or limit our achievements otherwise. So, there is no good or bad traits. Still, many of us believe some traits to be better than others. How can this be explained?
To explain this, try to answer this question – “Which person in the whole world is the one whom you understand the most”. More often than not the answer should be “Me”. From our childhood we are feeling sorrow and happiness, we are thinking and talking to ourselves, and all the time we are with ourselves. So, more than anyone else we understand ourselves the most. It also means that we are mostly familiar to our own personality traits than that of others. Yes, we can still see and understand people having different other personality traits, but the traits we understand the most are our own. Additionally, as we differentiate ourselves from others we also develop a set of reasoning to defend our personality traits – why our personality traits are better and why they work best. This happens unconsciously over a significant period of time in our lives and with lots of experiences. I believe this is how we develop our bias towards a particular set of personality traits.
Why should I care about personality traits at all?
Basically for two reasons – to know myself and to appreciate others. I am not saying that we do not know ourselves, but sometimes that is not enough. For instance, you may be the kind of person who is does not trust any person very easily and you have reasons behind that as well. You may argue that its not easy to judge someone and so one should be careful about putting faith on anyone easily. While the logic may be absolutely fine and it may work for you in most circumstances, still if you know that this lack of trust or suspicion is a part of your personality then you can appreciate other side of the coin as well. For instance you would be see the benefits of trusting people as well and maybe sometimes you will go out of your way to have faith on someone. You will also be able to appreciate someone who contradicts your personality by trusting very easily and that is the seconds obvious reason to know about personality traits. Just because we see someone with a different personality does not necessarily means his way of thinking is wrong. The variation in personality leads to diversity which in many cases essential for collective welfare.
Where to go from here?
In this article I put forward some of my concerns regarding personality traits, but this does not cover this topic well in any way. I have not even listed different theories of personality traits and have not even enumerated through the traits. I intend to touch upon them sometime in future. For now, I hope this article would at least encourage someone to know about personality traits little more.