Happy People Tend to Have This Personality Trait

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Happiness — or subjective well-being, as academics call it — is largely a matter of the situations that you put yourself into.

According to new research, people who rank high in agreeableness put themselves into happier situations than everybody else.

It's a part of "emotion regulation," write authors Konrad Bresin of the University of Illinois and Michael D. Robinson of North Dakota State University.

One of the Big 5 personality traits, agreeableness is a measure of your personal warmth, or, put more negatively, it's a measure of how much you need to be liked by the people around you.

"The more agreeable someone is, the more likely they are to be trusting, helpful and compassionate," LiveScience says, while "disagreeable people are cold and suspicious of others, and they're less likely to cooperate."

In a series of experiments, Bresin and Robinson showed that friendly, agreeable people try to avoid negative experiences.

  • In one experiment, participants were asked to look at a series of positive and negative images, spending as much time as they'd like with each image. Most people spent more time with the negative images — except for the agreeable folks.
  • In another experiment, participants were asked if they'd like to have an experience that's more or less positive or negative — an upbeat or a slow song, a documentary about a celebrity or about government corruption, a talk about baking cakes or dissecting a body. blog pointed out, "high agreeableness [participants] showed a strong preference for the positive: anthems, nation's sweethearts, and shortbreads."

In other words, pleasant people like pleasant things.

But problems can come with such pleasantries.

Research suggests that men with high agreeableness earn 18% less than their grumpier counterparts. Disagreeable women, the same study found, earn 5% more than their nicely behaved peers.

Similarly, Malcolm Gladwell has argued that entrepreneurial genius is often accompanied by disagreeableness. Prime example: IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad doesn't care about what you think of him — he cares about selling furniture.

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