Personality refers to the collection of traits or characteristics that determine how people usually think and feel about themselves, relate to others, and react to the world around them.
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Dan is a warmhearted, energetic man who knows everyone in the neighborhood. He is always ready to lend a hand or a tool from his well-stocked garage. He loves to organize neighborhood activities. Dan hosts backyard cookouts, plans the yearly spring cleanup and planting of the neighborhood park, and serves mugs of hot chocolate when neighbors shovel snow from the walks in winter. People say that Dan is friendly, outgoing, and enthusiastic.
Pradeep, his next-door neighbor, has a quiet nature and prefers to keep to himself. Pradeep is always on time and very organized. He keeps to a set routine every day—he walks his dog at 6:30 A.M., has coffee and reads the morning paper at 7:00, and then heads off to work at 7:30. At 5:30 every weekday evening, he pulls into his driveway again. Early on Saturdays he shops for groceries for himself and for Mrs. Dunn, a neighbor who cares for her elderly mother. People say that Pradeep is shy, reliable, and thoughtful.
Rudy, who lives at the end of the block, annoys everyone with his grouchy mood and self-centered attitude. He scowls at the neighborhood kids who walk past his house, warning them not to step on his lawn and scolding them to keep the noise down as they get off the school bus on his corner. People say Rudy is selfish and has little patience and a bad temper.
What Is Personality?
The brief descriptions of these three men highlight some of the ways they are different from one another. They capture a few of the main characteristics of each man. These characteristics are what psychologists (sy-KAH-lo-jists) call personality traits.
Personality traits are the ways people usually think and feel about themselves (like insecure, self-centered, or humble), how they relate to others (like suspicious, critical, or friendly), and how they react to events (like easygoing, pessimistic, or short-tempered). Personality is a person's own special blend of these traits. Although each person has a unique personality, there are some groups of personality traits that produce common personality styles.
Some normal and common personality styles have been described with terms like self-confident, dramatic, sensitive, leisurely, adventurous, solitary, and aggressive. Personality style influences how someone will think, feel, and behave in most situations. Well-adjusted people also can adapt to situations that call for a way of thinking or reacting that is different from their usual personality style.
Some individuals have a personality style that causes them to have serious problems in most areas of their lives. Such individuals are set in their ways. They are inflexible and unable to adjust to the demands of a situation that calls for a different way of responding. Such a problematic personality style is called a personality disorder. There are ten different personality disorders that mental health professionals may diagnose. Personality disorder has a harmful effect on most aspects of people's lives, leading to long-term difficulties in relationships with other people.