Do you know that person who just loves to help others? They’re always friendly, quick to give a helping hand, and ready to listen to you voice your frustrations.
Psychologists would probably rate them as high in Agreeableness.
As one of the dimensions of the Big Five Personality Theory, Agreeableness falls on a spectrum. Some people are very agreeable, while others… aren’t.
What does someone high in Agreeableness look like?
Perhaps the most common characteristic of those high in Agreeableness is that they are good-natured and friendly. These are the people who can laugh at themselves, not make anyone feel put out or unwelcome, and are kind to everyone they meet — even if they’ve been wronged in some way. And if they have been wronged, they won’t hold a grudge but be quick to forgive.
It’s great to have these individuals on your team. They love to cooperate and work together, sharing the work and listening to your ideas without making you feel stupid for having them (even if it really is a stupid idea).
People low in Agreeableness, on the other hand, tend to criticize and compete instead of compliment and cooperate. Even if they’re not openly hostile, their disagreeableness can make it hard to work with them or talk with them. (On the other hand, we also need people like this to play devil’s advocates — as long as they keep their criticisms respectful.)
But it’s about more than simply being friendly. People high in Agreeableness are rockstars in the world of trust. Meaning, they trust others easily and tend to be trustworthy and reliable in return. They tend to take things at face value and are extremely honest with their thoughts and feelings (but without being mean, remember?).
Of course, it’s possible for someone to demonstrate the trusting aspect of Agreeableness without the friendliness. In that case, their honestly may come across more bluntly.
Those low in Agreeableness will be suspicious and doubtful. It may take a long time to build trust with them. Be patient. Give them time to get to know you. In time, you might prove the exception to their rule of “don’t trust.”
Lastly, individuals high in Agreeable love, love, love to help others. You’ll often find them volunteering at their church or in the community, donating blood, serving on a non-profit’s board, or mentoring kids. They want to give back to others in whatever way they can, including giving generous financial gifts to causes they believe in.
They are also quick to empathize. That’s what makes them great social workers, counselors, teachers, and nurses.
Individuals on the low end of the scale don’t necessarily not like helping others. They just find it hard to empathize with them and put others first. Or — as I’ve sometimes heard these people say — “I help people who deserve it!”
Many people are also high in agreeableness yet low in extraversion (i.e., they’re an introvert). These people are “quietly saving the world,” as I like to say. They find ways to help people from a distance, such as supporting others through an online community.[footnotes]Introverts who score low in agreeableness tend to become scientists, mechanics, and so on. They like working with things rather than people.[/footnote]
Agreeableness carries with it characteristics like friendliness, kindness, generosity, trust, cooperation, and compassion. Remember that, like all the dimensions of the Big Five Personality Theory, it falls on a scale. People may demonstrate a lot of these characteristics and thus be high in Agreeableness. Others may only show some of them and be considered average.
Where do you fall? If you’re not sure, take my personality test! It will help you understand where you fit on each of the five dimensions: extraversion, openness, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism.