Examples of Personality Traits: The Positive and Negative

People have unique personalities that make them who they are. There are many different types of personality traits, including some that are positive and some that are negative. Whether you're looking to choose personality traits for characters in stories you are writing or you're simply looking to find the right words to describe aspects of your personality or someone else's, you'll find what you're in search of here.

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What Does Personality Trait Mean?

A personality trait is defined as something about a person that impacts how they tend to think, feel and behave on an ongoing basis. Personality traits are characteristic of enduring behavioral and emotional patterns, rather than isolated occurrences. Anyone can occasionally have a bad day, get irritated and make a snappy remark. When this happens in isolation, it doesn't reflect a personality trait. However, when someone's typical behavior is to snap at people rather than communicating politely, then "snappiness" is likely a personality trait that person has.

Examples of Positive Personality Traits

Positive personality traits manifest themselves in many ways. When a person's regular behavior exhibits the same positive attributes time and time again, the associated behaviors become definitive of their character. In the examples below, the bold terms represent descriptive words commonly used to convey the positive trait mentioned.

  • Being honest and taking responsibility for your actions are admirable qualities.
  • Adaptability and affability are great traits that can help a person get along well with others.
  • Drive, determination and persistence can help keep a person going no matter what.
  • Compassion, understanding and empathy help a person relate well to others.
  • In addition to being a virtue, patience is a personality trait that's universally valued.
  • Courage and confidence can help a person choose to do what is right in tough situations.
  • Loyalty is a good quality to possess; it will help others decide that you are trustworthy.
  • Being adventurous and fearless can empower you to be willing to take chances.
  • Having an imaginative and creative nature can help you come up with innovative ideas and unique solutions.
  • Being helpful to others is a personality trait that will cause others to see you as indispensable.
  • Being meticulous and precise means that you're careful and conscientious.
  • A person who is optimistic tends to look for the bright side of situations rather than forcing on the negative.
  • Someone who is reliable and dependable is an individual that others know they can count on.
  • People who are gregarious, charming or sociable tend to be friendly, outgoing and upbeat.
  • Those who are independent develop a reputation for taking initiative and seeing things through on their own.
  • People who are fair and impartial are viewed by others as being able to make objective decisions not influenced by bias.
  • Those who take an encouraging approach are viewed as being caring and interested in seeing others succeed.
  • People who are humble tend to be viewed as those who can succeed without being arrogant about their accomplishments.
  • If people view you as capable and competent, they tend to trust that you know what you are doing.
  • Those who are exuberant come across as being filled with joy and enthusiasm.
  • People who are discreet are viewed as trustworthy individuals who are respectful of the privacy and dignity of others.

Examples of Negative Personality Traits

What would life be without balance? For the most part, people are not all good or all bad (though there may be some exceptions). Chances are that you, and everyone you meet, have at least a few negative personality traits. Consider some examples of negative attributes. Again, the descriptive words or phrases commonly used to express these traits are bold.

  • A propensity for lying in order to avoid responsibility for one's actions is a deplorable quality.
  • A tendency to be untruthful or dishonest in your dealings with others is also a negative trait.
  • Being rigid and consistently unyielding to the needs of others are not endearing qualities.
  • Being full of laziness and excuses for failing to meet obligations is sure to drive others away.
  • An inability to empathize with others is a negative personality trait that can alienate others.
  • Being quick to anger will damage relationships and turn people away.
  • Being disloyal, such as talking about others behind their backs or betraying them for personal gain, is among the most negative personality traits.
  • People who are bossy tend to come across as self-centered individuals who disregard the concerns of others.
  • Those who are conceited, pompous or arrogant tend to think that they have all the answers or universally know better than everyone else.
  • Those who are unfriendly are often viewed as disrespectful and/or uninterested in connecting with other people.
  • People who are sullen or surly by nature can be very rude and unpleasant to deal with in a personal or professional capacity.
  • Those who are cowardly exhibit an unwillingness to face adversity head-on or to stand up for what is right.
  • People who tend to be slovenly habitually fail to take care of their appearance or surroundings, and so are viewed negatively by others.
  • People who are quarrelsome or argumentative by nature are more concerned with winning arguments and being right than with finding a solution.
  • Those who are too finicky or picky come across as extreme perfectionists who cannot be pleased no matter what one does.
  • People who tend to be impulsive often act without thinking about the consequences to themselves or others, thus coming across as reckless.
  • Those who are habitually stingy or greedy are viewed by others as selfish individuals who disregard the needs of others.
  • People who are sneaky tend to be deliberately deceptive, factors that most definitely represent negative personality traits.
  • Those who engage in malicious acts deliberately do things that they know will negatively impact other people.
  • Those who are thoughtless act with a total disregard for how their actions might impact other people.
  • Those who behave in an unruly manner are often disruptive and disrespectful and can cause harm to others by their irresponsible actions.

Broad Descriptions: Five Major Personality Factors

The combination of an individual's personality traits — positive and negative — work together to determine the face they present to the world. Most personality traits can be grouped into one of five broad categories considered to represent the major factors in personality.

  • openness - the extent to which a person has an appreciation for a variety of experiences
  • conscientiousness - the degree to which a person prefers to plan ahead rather than being spontaneous
  • extroversion - the extent to which a person tends to prefer being sociable, outgoing and talkative
  • agreeableness - how strongly a person tends to be kind, sympathetic and happy to assist others
  • neuroticism - the extent to which someone is inclined to worry or be vulnerable or temperamental

People can, of course, learn to adapt and behave in a way that is focused more on what is appropriate in a particular situation rather than what they'd be led to do by their own natural tendencies. For example, someone who tends to be more introverted than extroverted but takes a job as a teacher or salesperson will adapt to behave in a more extroverted way for work. With adaptability, they can definitely do this. However, they may find their work roles more tiring than a person who is naturally extroverted.

More Ways to Determine Personality Types

Identifying an individual's personality style is not an easy task. Personality is a complicated construct influenced by many factors. There are many different ways to assess and label personality types, with each assessment measuring specific variables.

There is not one right way to measure personality. If you want to learn more about your personality traits, consider taking a few different personality assessments. Test yourself online, but recognize that free online assessments are not likely to be truly valid behavioral tools. You could also ask a psychologist or therapist to analyze you, or even visit a career counselor and ask for personality testing to get a sense of what types of careers you might be best suited to pursue.


How Do I Adapt My Personality?

Your personality encompasses the actions you take and the decisions you make. It's likely a function of nature and nurture. Either you are a patient person or not, a responsible person or not. You don't decide what personality traits or natural tendencies are at play in your mind, but you do impact how these traits impact your actions.

  • Pushing yourself to meet new people at a social event can help push you to be more sociable if that personality trait does not come easy to you.
  • Taking up a hobby is a great way to become a well-rounded individual who is open to learning new things.
  • Playing sports can help you learn teamwork, humility and respect for the contributions of others.
  • Mastering various arts and crafts can help make you more patient and push the envelope of your creativity.
  • Volunteering to help those who are less fortunate than you through a nonprofit organization can help you become more caring and less selfish.
  • Even just reading a book can expand your horizons and push you to be better, by exposing you to other ways of thinking and behaving.

Be All You Can Be

Being positive and upbeat can influence everyone around you (and in the past, it could've even influenced your family's last name), and so can negativity. For example, offering a friendly smile to a stranger can brighten up their day, just as glaring at them glare can directly or indirectly cause their mood to drop.

  • While you may not be able to help it if you are having a bad day, or if you don’t like doing a particular task, changing your attitude changes everything.
  • Complaining and sulking will only make time drag when doing an unpleasant job. Don't wallow in the negatives of the situation you're in.
  • Instead, try to shift your thoughts and redirect your mind to focus on what is positive. This will help you come across as a more pleasant person.

Understanding personality traits is a great way to start your journey toward self-discovery. If you really want to learn how to keep from being defined by negative personality traits, it's up to you to adapt away from negative tendencies and instead exhibit positive traits. The more you adapt away from the negative to act on the positive, the easier it will become to put forward behaviors that present you in a positive light.


Building Characters in Your Writing

Of course, your interest in personality traits might be more focused on developing characters for your fiction writing. If it’s your goal to become an award-winning novelist or short story writer, your characters will be all the more complex based on your deep understanding of yourself and others. Consider using these adjectives to describe personality to develop rich characters. Once you've finalized your character's personality traits, work on really enriching their characterization. Take their personalities a step further by including interesting quirks. You may even want to include some character flaws.