Of the five major personality factors, Emotional Reactivity is most closely associated with psychological health and well-being. This factor has been identified by many researchers as, e.g., anxiety, neuroticism or emotionality. It reflects the tendency to be tense, anxious, easily upset or high‑strung. However, the eTest personality inventory was normed on a well‑adjusted sample (business people as a population typically score higher as a group on measures of psychological stability and emotional adjustment than do people in the general population). Therefore, a high score on this measure doesn’t necessarily indicate pathology or abnormality when compared to people in general. If the primary score is extremely high, the person may be stress-prone or possibly going through an upsetting or anxiety-provoking experience. In the case of extremely high scores, it’s helpful to find out if they are an indication of State Anxiety (a response to a particularly stressful situation) or Trait Anxiety (a more generalized pattern of tension, emotional reactivity or anxiety). High scores are an indication of negative emotion.
People scoring high on the primary factor of Emotional Reactivity describe themselves as tense, anxious, easily upset, impulsive, emotional and reactive. Low scorers see themselves as relaxed, calm, stress‑tolerant, complacent, etc. In addition to the score for the primary domain of this trait, the eTest profile generates the following three related sub-scores. These facets add nuance to the overall reactivity score and help predict how the primary trait is likely to be expressed.
- Insecurity. This is the dimension that is most likely to be an indicator of potential stress-proneness. People with high scores here are likely to perceived in varying degrees as nervous, worrying, insecure, frustrated, moody, uncomfortable, anxious, suspicious and tough on themselves. This sometimes reflects a down side of high motivation.
- Expressiveness. This facet reflects a theme of excitability and tendency to seek attention rather than the more uncomfortable aspects of insecurity described above. People scoring high here tend to be attention-seeking, power-oriented, ego-driven, excitable, impulsive, loud and inclined to react emotionally.
- Frustration‑Proneness. High scorers here are prone to have a direct, stubborn and hot‑headed style of dealing with frustration, tension and anxiety. They can be hard-headed, argumentative, controlling, impatient, hot-tempered, brusque and agitated. This sometimes comes from self-imposed high standards that are difficult to reach.
As noted previously, no personality trait is inherently positive or negative. There are potential upsides and downsides to any point along the spectrum. The further towards the endpoints (high or low), the more pronounced and observable the behaviors associated with the particular trait under consideration are likely to be. People with exceptionally high or low scores are likely to demonstrate both the positives and negatives associated with the characteristic under scrutiny.
We can’t change our personalities to any significant extent, but we can learn new behaviors and skills. We can get better at most anything, given the appropriate goals and the insight, resources and motivation to achieve them. Below are some thought questions and suggestions for people with high or low scores on this trait.
- Do some reading and research on stress management skills and techniques.
- Make sure you have healthy and effective ways to relax, let off steam and chill out, especially during times of tension and strain. Take whatever steps you can to focus on the positive aspects of your life and the potential opportunities presented by the current issues or problems you may face.
- Be aware of times when you may be misreading things. People with high scores here tend to take things personally and react too quickly when they feel upset.
- Reflect on times you’ve felt particularly anxious, threatened or tense. Try to figure out what triggers these feelings, and anticipate similar situations in the future. Learn to actively dispute the irrational and sometimes automatic negative thoughts we all have from time to time.
- Be careful about over-confidence. People with low scores here often assume the best and trust that things will work out. You may be better served by playing the devil’s advocate more often.
- Think about times when you may not have shown the strength of emotion others may have expected. Are you prone to under-react when it would be more effective to express yourself more clearly and forcefully?
- Are people likely to see you as passive, disengaged or tuned out? Be sure you’re communicating your true feelings and thoughts effectively.
- Make sure you don’t come off as feeling too good about yourself. People with low scores here are sometimes seen as smug or self-satisfied.
If you feel you’re too anxious or stress-prone, you can find techniques and systems to help you build your confidence and reduce tension and anxiety. There are many paths to success here, and you should be able find something that works for you with a bit of effort. Do what you can to respond to the realities of the situation, not to your initial reactions to it. Find ways to increase your positive emotion. On balance, we upset ourselves by reacting to our feelings about events, rather than to the actual events themselves. If you have a low on this trait, be careful that people don’t misread your calm demeanor as disengagement or aloofness. And remember that there are times when it’s quite appropriate to react with negative emotion.
Regardless of your profile, remind yourself that others are wired differently and that they may be responding to threatening situations with very different experiences and reactions.