You’re reading this because you want to develop your personality.
Heck, maybe you want to form a personality of any sorts because you think you don’t have one.
But how do you improve upon something that is seemingly in-built, like the circuitry of a machine?
Let’s take a look.
First, you must establish…
What do you want to achieve?
When you say you want to develop a personality, what, precisely, do you wish to get out of it?
Do you want to be liked or popular?
Do you want to come across as interesting?
Do you want to be more outgoing?
Do you want to be memorable?
Do you want others to think positively of you?
Do you want to be more attractive to potential romantic partners?
Do you want to be more successful in your career or wider life?
Knowing why you want to improve your personality can help you to focus on the things that will have the desired impact.
What is personality?
Since you wish to somehow build a personality, you’ll need to know what one is.
There are hundreds of different personality traits a person can have, but most of them broadly fit into five categories – the “big five” as they are known.
– Openness: how much you enjoy trying new things; your attitude toward change; your willingness to think about abstract concepts.
– Conscientiousness: how thoughtful, organized, and reliable you are, and your like/dislike of schedules and routines.
– Extraversion: how much you enjoy spending time with others, starting conversations, receiving attention, and how these things affect your energy levels.
– Agreeableness: how nice or pleasant you come across; how much you care for others; your empathy levels.
– Neuroticism: how you cope with stress; how emotionally stable you are; your resilience in the face of challenges.
Whilst there is a lot more to be said about the big five traits, this should be enough for the scope of this article.
What makes a good personality?
So, with the big five in mind, what makes for a “good” personality?
And what traits might you need to focus on the most?
Generally speaking, in the broad context of life, a person with a good personality would be high on openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, and agreeableness, and low on neuroticism.
Some of these points do, however, come down to a matter of personal taste.
You might think that having low openness is always a bad thing, but those who do may be more appealing, personality-wise, to others who also score low on this trait.
After all, if you are not keen on change or experiencing new things, you might clash with those who are.
Similarly, free spirits tend to score quite low on conscientiousness, but some people still naturally gravitate toward them because they either share a similar disposition, or they are in awe of the lifestyles these free spirits lead and want to experience a taste of it.
So be mindful of who it is you are trying to appeal to in your quest to improve your personality.
Can you change your personality?
Short answer: yes, with hard work and action.
Long answer: changing your particular position on the spectrum of each of the big five traits is something that takes time and effort.
It is not enough to simply desire that change.
One study showed that trait change can happen if you engage in the types of thinking and behavior that are typical of either the high or low end of that trait spectrum.
In plain English, you have to think and act the same as you would if you already had the high or low trait you desire.
If you want to be more agreeable, you have to think and act in a more agreeable way.
If you want to be less neurotic, you have to think and act in a less neurotic way.
The same goes for the other 3 traits.
With this in mind, what are some things you can do to develop or improve your personality?
5 ways to increase your openness.
If you want to develop a more open personality, you might wish to try some of the following things:
1. Read a newspaper / watch a news channel that typically leans in the opposite direction to you, politically speaking.
2. Speak to people who have differing opinions to you, particularly those of different age groups, genders, ethnicities, and spiritual beliefs.
3. Try new and different pastimes often. Visit a gallery, play some badminton, take a surf lesson, learn to knit.
4. Go to public lectures. These are often free or very low cost and can expose you to lots of new ideas and topics.
5. Ask some thought-provoking questions and just sit and think about them for a while. Or, better yet, talk about them with a friend or family member.
3 ways to find your optimum level of conscientiousness.
Whilst this article assumes that you want to be more open, the direction in which you wish to go in terms of your conscientiousness is down to you.
If you think you’re too rigid in your routines, are a bit overly-attentive to detail, and plan every little thing possible, you might wish to become less conscientious.
If you are a bit flaky, untidy, or really struggle with schedules and things that you see as restrictive, you may wish to become more conscientious.
Either way, here are some things you can do.
1. Regarding commitments with friends.
If you like to arrive for things 15 minutes early and are always the first one at any gathering of friends, try to get there at the specified time or even a few minutes late (this is a perfectly acceptable thing to do).
If you often bail on friends at the last minute, you might need to literally force yourself to go. You could always try planning events that require payment up front. That way, you might have more incentive to turn up.
2. Regarding schedules.
If you get upset or anxious at any slight deviation from your normal routine, it’s worth pushing your boundaries and being more spontaneous.
If you exist without any structure at all, making a rough outline of a plan for each day can help teach you to stick to things that you say you’ll do.
3. Regarding tidiness.
If your work desk is perfectly organized down to the precise distance from your notepad to your calculator and the angle at which you pen is placed, you might benefit from allowing a little more disorder to creep in.
If you live amongst a pile of clothes and your kitchen looks like a bomb has gone off in it, you might benefit from committing to a semi-regular tidy and clean up – even if you hate doing these things.
You may also like (article continues below):
- How To Find Yourself: 11 Steps To Discovering Your True Identity
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- The Social Chameleon Personality: Traits, Pros, Cons, And More
- Are You A ‘Sensing’ Or An ‘Intuitive’ Personality Type?
- Are You A Thinking Or Feeling Personality Type?
5 ways to increase your extraversion.
Chances are, if you’re searching for ways to improve your personality, you sit quite firmly at the introvert end of the scale.
So to become a little more extrovert, you can try some of the following:
1. Start conversations.
Start with people you already know and just bring up a basic topic like sports (assuming you know they follow it) or the weather or a new show you binged.
You can then start talking to other people you encounter – e.g. cashiers and taxi drivers.
The more used to engaging with others you become, the more natural it will feel.
2. Have opinions.
Don’t sit back and allow other people to make decisions for you. If someone asks you what movie you want to go and see, tell them. Your preference is just as valid as theirs.
Or if someone asks you what you think on a topic, be honest and give them your opinion. Don’t just say, “I dunno.”
And try to say some of the thoughts that enter your head out loud if you normally hold back in conversations. They are valuable and are worth contributing.
3. Smile at people.
Nothing is as welcoming as a big, genuine smile. A smile gives people a positive first impression of you.
Or if they already know you, it reminds them that you’re a nice person to be around.
Follow the smile with a “Hey, how are you?” and you’ve started a conversation – see #1.
4. Join a club or attend events.
Developing greater extraversion will generally involve being social in some way.
An easy way to gain exposure to more social occasions is to join a club of some sort or attend local events.
Many clubs involve post-meetup socializing, while some – such as book clubs or debate groups – are entirely based around talking.
The more you practice speaking to others, the less awkward it will begin to feel.
5. Reflect on positive social interactions.
Whenever you have a good social experience, make sure you think about it afterwards to cement it in your mind.
Consider what went well, what you might do differently next time, and the positive things you felt.
This helps to change your outlook on socializing so that you see it not as a chore or something to be feared, but as something that can be enjoyable.
5 ways to increase your agreeableness.
There’s little doubt that a good personality is one that sits higher up on the agreeableness scale.
To improve yours, try some of these things.
1. Become a great listener.
Listening shows interest in someone. It is one of the cornerstones for feeling and displaying your empathy for others.
So avoid getting distracted by your phone or by other things around you.
Focus on the other person and engage your mind in what they are saying.
Ask further questions to better understand them if you have to, but don’t feel the need to offer advice unless asked for.
2. Remember what you are told and ask about it later on.
It’s one thing to listen to someone; it’s another to actually absorb the information and to raise it again another time.
Think about it: if someone tells you they are feeling down because of issues they are having with a toxic co-worker, how listened to and cared for will they feel if you ask how they are the next time you see them, or a while later in a message?
It’s little things like these that make you seem like a nice, kind, caring person.
3. Do things for others.
If someone asks for your help, give it freely and without expectation of anything in return.
Just be careful not to become a doormat. You have the right to say no to things if you either can’t do them or simply don’t want to.
But, in general, offering a lending hand helps build trust and respect among people.
4. Find little ways to surprise people.
Sometimes, the smallest gestures are the ones that make the biggest impact.
If you can do something to help another person out or cheer them up, they’ll see you very favorably.
Can you take a chore or duty off their hands without them having to ask?
Can you leave a little note on their desk, send them a message, or buy them a chocolate muffin if you know they’re in need of a pick-me-up?
Avoid grand, showy gestures and focus on the small stuff.
5. Spend time around people who are very agreeable.
If you know someone who is friendly, kind, generous, and positive, spend more time with them.
Never underestimate the influence a positive role model can have on your own thoughts or behavior.
4 ways to decrease your neuroticism.
Neuroticism is a big five trait that you most definitely want to lower, and here are some things that can help you do that.
1. Learn to see the funny side / silver lining of situations that don’t quite go to plan.
Some things in life won’t go as you want them to go. But after the event, it’s good to look back and see that, while you wanted a different outcome, the world did not end.
If you can laugh at misfortune or see the positives from something unfolding another way, you’ll be more inclined to remain calm the next time something goes awry.
2. Don’t take things personally.
People say and do things that can be taken in a variety of ways. Often, they mean no offense whatsoever.
When you feel yourself getting hot and bothered because of something someone has said or done, try to take some deep breaths and remind yourself that it needn’t reflect badly on you.
In fact, the ability to take a joke or friendly banter on the chin is typically a good personality trait to have.
Part of not taking things personally is being able to feel comfortable in your own skin and not worry how other people perceive you.
Sure, you want to improve your personality, but you should always be yourself at the same time.
Not everyone will like you, and that’s okay. Some people will, and these are the people that matter.
To hell with what everyone else thinks.
4. Express your gratitude toward someone.
You might think that this should be a tip to increase your agreeableness – and it is – but it’s also a great way to combat neuroticism.
By telling or showing someone that you appreciate them or something they have done, you are affirming how much you value their presence in your life.
This helps you feel more positive about that particular social connection and about yourself in general.
After all, if someone chooses to have you in their life or to do something nice for you, they must value you too.
5 more tips for developing a personality.
Aside from the big five personality traits, what else can you do to improve your personality?
1. Learn how to have conversations.
You speak to people all the time, right? But how many of those interactions can you truly call conversations?
It might seem simple, but being able to engage someone in an interesting and worthwhile conversation is a skill that takes practice
You have to know how to start a conversation and how to keep one going.
We’ve touched on a few of the ways to do this above, but the most important thing really is to just keep at it. You’ll soon figure out what works and what doesn’t.
2. Have a positive outlook.
People tend to find positive, upbeat individuals more pleasant to be around.
So, even if it doesn’t come naturally, you should try to show a positive side as often as you can.
You don’t have to fake an overly cheery disposition, but you can avoid ranting about your problems to anyone who will listen.
You can also focus on the positives in other people to come across as a more optimistic character in general.
3. Know what your core values are.
Your personality is unique and it should reflect who you are deep down.
In fact, knowing and being able to show what you stand for is a highly desirable trait, even if it sometimes puts you in conflict with others.
So spend some time with your thoughts and with a pen and paper to figure out what things really matter to you. Then develop your personality around these things.
And be a person of integrity who doesn’t abandon their morals for anything.
4. Make the other person feel comfortable.
Your quest to develop a personality probably revolves around a desire to be liked in one way or another.
And one of the keys to this is the ability to be in a social setting and make the other person or people feel comfortable enough to be themselves.
So part of your focus should be on the other person at all times. What’s going on with them? Do they seem sad, distracted, happy, energetic, calm?
Being able to read people and situations and adjust your approach accordingly is vital to having a flexible personality that can adapt in different ways.
The less awkward you can make a person feel, the more positively they will feel toward you.
This may sound vague, but many of the previous points are encompassed in this one.
5. Try out different approaches.
Finally, if you don’t currently have a strong sense of personality, but you don’t know what type of person you want to be, try different things out.
This sometimes means putting on a mask – temporarily – to see if it fits.
Try being the calm but interesting one.
Try being the energetic and fun one.
Try being the comforter who is great at listening.
Try being the thinker who drives conversations and leads the way with decisions.
Try all manner of approaches and see which ones feel most natural.
Though remember the study cited above that showed how personality traits can be changed through action.
This means that, even if something doesn’t initially feel natural, if you think it’s the type of person you want to be and could be, you can shift your personality in that direction by acting that way more and more.
Of course, if it still doesn’t feel natural after lots of effort, it might be worth considering a different approach.