Agreeableness, or being so nice is a “Big Five” personality trait that is described as kindness, warmth, consideration, and sympathy.
People who score high on agreeability tend to be altruistic, trustworthy and empathetic. People who score low, lack empathy, are less reliable and are often thought of as selfish. It makes sense that most people are agreeable because, in a social sense, it helps everyone stay safer and compatible.
But with agreeableness, scoring low maybe seen as negative, it isn’t always bad when it comes to success. In fact, if you want to be more successful you might need to stop being so nice.
Agreeable Children Turn Into Agreeable Adults
It is hard to say where personality traits come from, but it is a combination of genes and the environment. That said, children who are agreeable, tend to grow up and become agreeable adults.
Children with high agreeability externalize emotions, which means they talk about their feelings. Expressing feelings often leads to better outcomes. This is because it helps people deal with problems more efficiently.
At least in part because of this, they are also more likely to avoid confrontations and conflict. Avoidance, in turn, creates a more healthy sense of self and self-esteem.
Studies show that people with low agreeability are more likely to experience depression. Later in life, they are also more likely to get divorced or have bad personal relationships. But this doesn’t mean you should always be agreeable, as being disagreeable can help get you what you want. With this in mind, you might want to stop being so nice if you are having trouble getting what you want.
Holding A Grudge or Getting Over It
Agreeable people are less likely to hold a grudge and more likely to avoid conflict. Agreeable people tend to engage in fewer disputes, which explains why they are more likely to be happy and have healthy relationships.
Holding a grudge is stressful and leads to adverse outcomes in relationships. Imagine being in a relationship with someone who never lets anything go. Resentment between the two of you would build over time.
Long-held resentment could explain why divorce is common amongst people with low agreeability. It is hard to keep friends and have positive social interactions if you can’t get over the mistakes of the past.
One unexpected outcome happens during arguments. People who score high for agreeability would rather de-escalate and avoid the conflict. They will see this as a positive outcome because it avoided adverse effects.
But, people who score low, will see this outcome as a win for them. The same outcome will mean different things for different people, based on their score for this trait. Unfortunately, if you find yourself having lots of arguments that you aren’t winning, you might want to stop being so nice. A lot of times it pays to be nice, but if you want to win an argument you can’t always play nice. This doesn’t mean you should be a jerk, but you can’t be too nice either.
Agreeableness Leads To Longevity
Agreeable people, who are more likely to have healthy relationships also live longer. There is little doubt that healthy relationships are essential. Strong human connections are a basic necessity of life and a feature of blue zone people. People who live in blue zones, tend to have a better chance of living to 100 or older.
Poor relationships relate to the stress and depression found in people with lower agreeability. If you don’t trust people and they don’t trust you, you are always going to feel left out.
As a result, you will dedicate more resources to your stress rather than living well.
Stress has adverse effects on health. So anything that creates tension also creates health problems and poor long-term outcomes.
People who experience a lot of stress or depression are more likely to abuse substances. Depression could explain the correlation between low agreeableness and substance abuse. In addition, this explains why depressed people are more likely to have health issues.
Where You Live Matters
Studies have found that in the US, people on the coasts tend to score lower on agreeableness. While people in the middle of the country score higher, this may explain the idea of southern hospitality.
In smaller towns, it is easier to know the people you interact with on a regular basis. Knowing the people around you encourages camaraderie and a willingness to care. It also means you have to be nice to the people you see because you will see them every day.
A lower agreeability score could be related to living in a city. The city is jam-packed, and there are always too many people around, but most of the time you don’t know most of them.
In the city, it is more difficult as you are less likely to know your neighbours. At the same time, they are less likely to see you or care about your wellbeing.
This lack of connection with neighbours leads to lower connectedness in general. But at the same time, it rewards those who are disagreeable.
You could make compelling arguments for environmental factors contributing to differences in agreeability scores. Though, people low in agreeability may be attracted to cities or places with lots of people. The reason being, the lack of community maybe what they are looking for. If you live in the city and are finding that people walk all over you, you might need to stop being so nice. The problem, of course, is that if everyone is doing that, you have no choice but to do the same.
What Happens At Work
Now, this is where it gets interesting.
People with low agreeability tend not to do well at work. Often because they are not great at relationships, leading to less stability. Part of the reason is that they aren’t seen as trustworthy nor do they trust their coworkers.
Interestingly, people with low agreeability tend to do better in competitive environments. Notably, they are more successful in management positions, were agreeability might be seen as a flaw.
Disagreeable people can be successful because they are unafraid of conflict and are willing to ‘win’ at the expense of being liked.
Put another way, people high in agreeability are liked at the office, but they may not be respected. It is easy to approve of someone who is kind and friendly. But it is also easy to take advantage of them because they will not put up a fight or do anything about it.
In some cases, disruption isn’t always harmful. If everyone in a meeting is agreeable, the problematic person will take the lead. In a sense, disagreeable people are more likely to make a fuss about problems. So they are more likely to precipitate solutions and change.
If You Want Success You Have To Stop Being So Nice
Disagreeable people make more money and are viewed as better managers if they can stick around. While people who are too agreeable are more likely to stay at the bottom of a company. At the same time, they are more likely to be taken advantage of and will keep silent about it.
If you are high in agreeability, you might be best suited for a non-manager job. While if you are low on agreeability you might be better suited for a job in management.
In this sense, success can be characterized in two ways. First, the more traditional view where people gain power and pay. Alternatively, you could define success as being liked by the people around you.
A mismatch like this is a problem for people who are ambitious but lack a disagreeable personality. It is difficult for an agreeable person to succeed in competitive environments if they can’t be disagreeable. In part, this is because they are less willing to cause conflict, and won’t take the risks necessary to move forward.
But this problem exists everywhere, not only at work. Being too agreeable can be detrimental to your relationships. It is especially a problem when you don’t stand up for yourself.
Often times if we are having trouble getting what we want, either in our relationships or at work, we need to stop being so nice.
Another problem with being too agreeable is that you may agree with what other people want and forget about what you want. With enough of this, your life may become unsatisfying because you don’t ever get what you want.
What Does This Mean
In many ways being agreeable is a great trait. It will help you live longer, have better social interactions and relationships. It will also give you a better chance of avoiding depression and substance abuse.
But being too agreeable means, you are more likely to be taken advantage of and to do poorly in management positions.
It also means you may not be considered an earnest person.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of control over our personalities by the time we are adults. But it is essential to understand the consequences of our traits none the less. This awareness is helpful, and we may be able to do things differently if we recognize the problem.
In this sense, it is essential to stop being so nice if you are too agreeable. You also need to learn to be firm about what you want and believe.
The challenge may be difficult but can change your life if applied at the right times. At the same time, living a meaningful and purposeful life doesn’t always work out how you plan, so it’s best to focus on what matters most to you.
Do you think you are too agreeable? What are you doing to ensure that you can get what you want?