Agreeableness is one of the major Big Five personality factors. People scoring high on Agreeableness try to get along with others and maintain harmonious relationships. They display emotional warmth and supportive social interactions. They may have difficulties making tough decisions regarding people. They don’t like conflict. They are typically approachable and easy to get along with. They describe themselves as cooperative, likable, approachable, soft‑hearted and easygoing. They are not inclined to be blunt, intense, abrupt or direct. There are three sub-factors of the overall dimension of agreeableness:
- Tolerant. People who get high scores here describe themselves as flexible, good-natured, warm, praising, generous, forgiving, tolerant, gentle, humorous and trusting. High scores are indicative of people who seek to build and maintain harmonious relationships and who want to be liked and well-regarded.
- Easygoing. High scorers are likely to come off as laid-back, patient, easygoing, mild, too nice, accepting and peaceable. They are not likely to see themselves as intense, impatient or excessively driven.
- Sympathetic. People scoring high on this facet are typically seen as feeling‑oriented, sentimental, affectionate, soft-hearted, sensitive, sympathetic, warm and gentle.
No personality trait is inherently positive or negative. There are potential upsides and downsides to scores at 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 study. For Agreeableness, people with high scores are inclined to be cooperative, likable, personable and easy to deal with. People with low scores are typically more intense, driven and likely to be more task oriented than emotionally sensitive.
While we can’t change our personalities to any significant extent, 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 suggestions for people with high or low scores on the trait of Agreeableness.
- Don’t be too nice for your own good. People with this profile sometimes work harder to please others than to please themselves.
- Watch out for the point of diminishing returns. Learn to cut your losses.
- Remind yourself that you will never be able to satisfy everybody.Pay attention to your skills of conflict management. You may not be comfortable with confrontation but you can certainly learn the skills to state your case in a direct, fact-based and appropriately assertive manner.
- Make sure you are holding others accountable. People with high scores on agreeableness sometimes jump in too quickly to take up the slack for others. Don’t let people take advantage of your good nature.
- You may need to work on your bedside manner. People with low scores on agreeableness can come off as intolerant and impatient.
- You probably need to manage the optics more carefully than you may imagine. People with similar patterns of results can project an air of detachment or insensitivity.
- People with low scores on this factor are often highly motivated and driven. Use that to your advantage but be careful about pushing people too hard. You may be good at the hard skills, but weak on the soft skills. Work on the rough edges.
- Realize that you are likely to be more impatient for tangible results than are many people. Be careful that others don’t see you as a jerk when they may be more comfortable moving at a slower pace, or when they have a different point of view.
The trait of Agreeableness is related to toughmindedness versus tender mindedness. While it may also be thought of as a person’s placement along a soft skills versus hard skills scale, some people have well developed hard skills (analytical, quantitative and data manipulation abilities) as well as superior soft skills (interpersonal insight, coaching aptitude and overall social skills). If you have a low score on the measure of Agreeableness, you can learn to be more sensitive to others and more accepting when you realize that they may be wired completely differently and that you may make things worse by doubling down and pushing harder. If you have a high score here, you can learn to become more comfortable with conflict and confrontation and you can benefit from reminding yourself that there is no way to please everybody.
Regardless of your profile, remind yourself that others are likely to be responding to the environment with very different experiences and reactions.