There's a lot that goes into a personality - and it's not just whether you're introverted or extroverted. In this list of personality traits, we're going to take a look at each of the major categories and how they can affect the way people behave.
Many of the categories in this list of personality traits are split into ranges. These are more useful for describing a personality than discussing each trait individually.
List of Personality Traits Explained
First on our list of personality traits is emotional disposition. It refers to the 'resting' personality that people default to when there are no other stimuli. Common emotional dispositions include:
In many cases, their emotional disposition is a reflection of factors in a person's life. For example, medical and military personnel often train to remain calm in high-pressure situations, so they often default to that in their day-to-day life. In contrast, marketers and leaders tend to be the outgoing type, since that improves the odds of closing a deal.
This is arguably the most important part of our list of personality traits because emotional disposition tends to impact everything else. People who are naturally excited are probably going to have a lot of other outgoing traits, while people who are naturally melancholy are likely to be slow to change.
No, this isn't about how grumpy you are. Instead, moodiness is a reflection of how quickly people change their mood. Unlike most of the items on this list of personality traits, we can categorize moodiness into:
People who are labile are quick to feel strong emotions. They often empathize well with others, respond to emotion-based advertising, and quickly bounce back from troubles.
Even-tempered people are well-balanced. Their moods won't change as soon as stimulus is presented, but if a situation continues, they'll soon open up and adapt to it.
Phlegmatic individuals are like a glacier of emotions. Whether something is positive or negative, they don't react very quickly to it. This can be helpful (especially for high-pressure situations), but it can also come across as standoffish and uncaring.
The most important thing to remember here is that moodiness isn't about a situation. Labile people are quick to display their enjoyment, but phlegmatic people are probably enjoying themselves even if they're not smiling yet. Similarly, at sad times, a phlegmatic person probably cares even if they don't come across as visibly upset by a loss.
Outlook ranges from Optimistic to Pessimistic, with Accepting resting somewhere in the middle. This trait focuses on your basic worldview and, essentially, whether you think the world is positive, negative, or somewhere in-between.
An optimistic person often looks at the bright side of a situation. Maybe they didn't get to their destination, but if they enjoyed the sights along the way, that made it worth it.
A pessimistic person is more likely to be cynical and assumes they're not likely to get the things they want. They may be resigned to it, or actively distrustful of situations around them.
Accepting people have few expectations about results and tend to roll with things as they come. When good things happen, they're happy about it, but they're not going to worry too much if things don't work out as planned.
Integrity covers a spread of values about working and interacting with others. This category ranges from Conscientious to Unscrupulous.
A conscientious person tends to be honest, meticulous, and responsible when doing things. They'll take the time to do things right, but they may also be pragmatic about what they can accomplish and set aside the least-important things.
Some people need to intentionally develop their conscientiousness. An unscrupulous person is likely to be manipulative, unreliable, deceitful, or just lazy.
This doesn't mean they can't work hard - many of them can and do, but only on things they really want to do. Unscrupulous people usually try to avoid responsibilities placed upon them by others.
This personality trait covers how people manage their actions and thoughts. The spectrum ranges from Controlled to Spontaneous.
A controlled person is typically thoughtful, focused, and deliberate in the things they do. While they can take decisive action when needed, they usually prefer to work through things at a comfortable pace and get them done right.
Controlled people tend to be conscientious as well, but this isn't absolute. You may see spontaneous people as hyperactive, capricious, or flighty.
They don't always plan too far ahead, and when they do, they often end up changing their plans to better suit the needs of the moment. At its worst, this can lead to being seen as rash or foolish. However, spontaneous people tend to thrive in situations where they need to make quick decisions and work at a fast pace.
Next on this list of personality traits is boldness. It covers a willingness to face problems. This spectrum ranges from Intrepid to Cautious.
You may see an intrepid person as daring or confident in their behavior. If there's an issue, they often go right to solving it. At its best, this can be noble and dauntless. At its worst, this could be reckless or audacious. Someone who's spontaneous (see above) and intrepid may find themselves in a lot of trouble they could have avoided.
A cautious person is more interested in assessing the risks. On the milder side, they may be vigilant or tentative - it's not that they're afraid of problems, but they want to be sure they have the solution. At their worst, a cautious person could be timid or outright paranoid.
Most people prefer to be somewhere in the middle - facing problems without considering them is foolish, but hiding from problems rarely gets things done.
An agreeable person tends to get along with others. They may come across as empathetic, open-minded, altruistic, or adaptable.
However, people that are too agreeable may seem too forgiving as well. A cautious (see above) but agreeable person may be trying to avoid conflicts, so they just agree with others instead of expressing their own opinion.
A disagreeable person prefers to hold fast to their views and opinions. You may see them as cold or stingy, and they're often phlegmatic in their moods.
At their worst, a disagreeable person may be narrow-minded, cantankerous, or intractable. They don't want to change, and they don't really care whether or not they're right.
Note that being disagreeable is not inherently negative. For example, a private security guard shouldn't empathize with intruders. Instead, their employers probably want them to hold fast to the rules and enforce the company's policies.
Engaging people are typically extroverted, talkative, and candid. Since they like getting attention from others, they often work to be entertaining and fun. However, when they go too far, they can come across as touchy or intrusive.
People with this trait tend to be labile and spontaneous. Engaging people tend to have more vivid senses of humor as well.
Reserved people have many different reasons for their behaviors. Some people are natural loners, while others are shy and don't know how to start interacting.
A few people are either evasive or cryptic in their behavior, possibly because they deal with sensitive information and don't want to give anything away. People with this trait tend to be phlegmatic, controlled, and cautious.
Reserved people tend to have a subtler sense of humor, but will still tell jokes when they want to.
Conformity is a measure of your relationship to culture. People tend to display these traits to all cultures they're involved with, from religious groups to their society as a whole.
Conventional people are typically mainstream and traditional. They often come across as a bit formal or orthodox. Note that this doesn't necessarily mean stuffy and boring - for example, owning a smartphone is quite conventional, even if they're sold as quirky, individual products.
Heterodox people are more likely to be artsy, freethinking, and rebellious in their interactions with culture. At their best, heterodox people come across as independent and thoughtful. At their worst, they may be rebellious for no reason except agitating those around them.
Finally, on our list of personality traits is the modifiers. Unlike the other categories, this is individualistic and covers things that can rapidly change a person's other personality traits. Note that this isn't the same as being labile since modifiers tend to have specific triggers.
For example, some people on the Autism spectrum are extremely sensitive to sensory inputs. Even if they're otherwise phlegmatic and controlled, hearing too many people talking or feeling sensations they don't like could send their stress skyrocketing and turn them into nervous, spontaneous people desperate to get away.
In other cases, issues like addiction, phobias, or PTSD can kick in and change someone's behavior.
Modifiers aren't always negative, though. Most adults in America are addicted to coffee, or at least drink it on a daily basis, and its well-documented effects help people perform better at work and improve their lives.
The important thing to understand here is that modifiers can trigger significant changes in personality with little or no notice. Once they're known, though, it's usually possible to manage them through lifestyle adjustments, therapy, or medication.