The Personality Traits That Make for Better Friends

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Photo: NBC

As more people opt for the single life, adult friendships also grow more important. For people in relationships, having a reliable squad is crucial, too — your mate will be much happier if you’re spreading your anxieties beyond his or her ears. Yet for all the ways personality has been studied in relation to dating and work, not a lot has been done around friendship.

But in a 2015 study just written up in the Association for Pyschological Science’s “Observations” blog, researchers made some fascinating findings about how who we are informs the friendships we hold. The study was based on the most popular personality construct in contemporary psychology, the Big 5 personality traits: extraversion, or how much you love attention and interacting with people; neuroticism, or how easily affected you are by things; agreeableness, or how warm and kind you are; conscientiousness, or how careful you are about life’s many duties; and openness to experience, or how much you’re into discovering new things, whether they’re ideas, people, or places.

For their study, the research team lead by Robert Wilson of the University of California, Davis, recruited 434 students. They took a personality questionnaire in the lab, then rated how satisfied they were with their friends and their life overall, and then researchers asked them to nominate half a dozen friends to rate their personality. Bundling these ratings together, the researchers found that openness to experience didn’t have anything to do with friendship satisfaction, at least in this study. Neuroticism was linked to lower satisfaction (presumably because emotionally unstable people may be a touch on the dramatic or high-maintenance side, at least in my personal experience). But having high scores in the three remaining sunny traits — conscientiousness, extraversion, and agreeableness — predicted higher friendship satisfaction. It’s a pretty intuitive result, since it’s easy to be friends with someone who’s always on time, always saying that you’re right, and always up to hang out. But if you don’t exactly identify with all that, fear not: Your personality is so much more than your traits.