Do you typically get along well with others? Jump to help friends in need? De-escalate conflicts when they arise?
If so, you might be an agreeable person, according to the Big Five personality traits, a model used by psychologists to describe the core characteristics of people’s personalities. Agreeableness is one of those five traits (in case you’re wondering, the other four are conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, and openness), and it is characterized by prosocial behavior—such as comforting, helping, and sharing—that promotes harmony in relationships.
But that’s not all: Studies also have linked higher levels of agreeableness to lower levels of anxiety and depression, stronger emotion control, and in some cases even greater career stability.
If you don’t see yourself as an agreeable person, there are still some tips you can take from this personality type that can help make your interactions smoother and more positive.
Here are three key practices to get you started:
1. Stay on the Same Side.
Taking an agreeable approach to conflict does not necessarily mean avoiding it altogether. Instead, it means viewing conflict as a conversation, rather than a confrontation.
To do this, check your motivation when you’re interacting with someone: Are you trying to find a solution, or are you trying to prove your point? Prioritize finding a solution, and use collaborative phrases, such as, “Let’s work toward this together.” Validate the other person’s point before offering your response—even when you don’t agree with what they are saying. This automatically lowers defensiveness and reminds the other person (and yourself) that you are on the same team.
2. Pause Before Reacting.
Many studies have linked agreeableness to higher levels of impulse control. This means that agreeable people do not necessarily agree more than others with what’s being said, but they are more able to pause when they feel a strong emotion and intentionally decide how they want to respond.
Practice this ability by taking three deep breaths when you feel a strong emotion, and then filtering your response with the help of these three questions:
-Does this need to be said?
-Does this need to be said now?
-Is it kind?
Considering these factors will help boost your emotional intelligence over time and interrupt your automatic response so that you can choose the response that best serves you—and your relationships—in the moment.
3. Assume the Best.
Agreeable people don’t just moderate their reactions. They also have a tendency to regulate negative thoughts. As a result, they tend to have a more positive view of stressful situations. A seemingly passive-aggressive comment, for example, might be brushed aside by an agreeable person, because they might assume that no harm was intended, or they might be more focused on the thoughts that bring them closer to others than the ones that create interpersonal tension.
To adopt this type of mindset, try assuming the best of others and giving them the benefit of the doubt. Oftentimes, it really isn’t personal. For example, your coworker’s sharp tone may be more a reflection of their own stress than anything to do with you. Or maybe your friend was late to lunch because they truly have a lot going on, not because they don’t respect your time. Take an agreeable, prosocial approach by asking how they’re doing first. You just might be surprised by their answer.