This week is an intense one for me because I’m visiting my parents. It’s easy to get triggered and get into arguments with them. Those arguments aren’t about anything essential.
My parents just like arguing. That used to bother me, but now, I feel better about it. I understand them better thanks to a post I wrote about personality traits. I did a little research for that post and came across the big five personality traits.
- Openness to Experience: inventive and curious vs. consistent and cautious
- Conscientiousness: efficient and organized vs. easy-going and careless
- Extraversion: outgoing and energetic vs. solitary and reserved
- Agreeableness: friendly and compassionate vs. challenging and detached
- Neuroticism: sensitive and nervous vs. secure and confident
That short list made a huge difference in the way I understand people, especially myself and my family members. Empathy, understanding the feelings of others, plays a critical role in success.
I’m the exact opposite of my parents when it comes to extraversion and agreeableness. My parents are extraverted and challenging. I’m introverted and agreeable.
My parents get energized by talking to people and challenging them. I get energized by staying in silence and in harmony with others.
In the past, I used to judge people who were talkative and argumentative. Now, I understand that these are just some personality traits. Probably, other people judge me too for being silent and agreeable.
Now that I know the big five, I understand people better and don’t judge them for their personality traits. Moreover, I understand myself better and realize which personality traits I’m missing.
As I explained in a previous post, I don’t believe it’s a good idea to stay stuck in one polarity of a personality trait. I’m introverted, but some situations require me to be extroverted.
The same is true for extroverted people. In some cases, you have to shut up and do the work no matter how extroverted you are.
I’m mostly friendly and compassionate, but there are times when I have to be challenging and detached.
In the past, I used to judge people who didn’t take any risks at all. Now, I understand that they are just consistent and cautious in the dimension of openness to experience.
Everybody is entitled to their personality and free to act on their dominant personality traits as long as they don’t harm others.
On an intellectual level, I get the sentence above, but I haven’t internalized it yet. I’m somewhere between the levels of conscious incompetence and conscious competence.
In other words, I get triggered on an emotional level when my parents challenge me all the time. Sometimes, I act on those triggers and sometimes, I don’t. I know that acting on those triggers won’t change anything.
To my parents, arguing is not about finding the truth. It is a part of relationships. This is how they show that they care about others.
An Experiment in Mindfulness
My stay with my parents became a mindfulness experiment for me. Following cycle repeats itself multiple times on a given day.
One of my parents challenges me to start an argument. I feel an urge to react. At the same time, I know that reacting won’t change anything. At that moment, I start taking deep breaths to let go of the urge to react.
For more information about the letting go technique, I recommend you read the quote by David Hawkins in this post.
Self-Control Is Hard But Possible and Beneficial
Sometimes, my reactive side wins the battle, and sometimes, my mindful side. Staying with an urge, not investing more mental energy in it, not acting on it, and waiting until it subsides isn’t easy. It’s hard and uncomfortable.
The good news is that as you go through that cycle over and over, the intensity of the urges diminishes and your self-control increases. It becomes easier to control your urges.
At a certain moment, you reach the level of unconscious competence. At that level, you don’t need to make a conscious effort to control your urges.
Self-control is a skill that we all have to learn and cultivate. Developing self-control has significant benefits. It’s the biggest predictor of success. Once you develop self-control, you can apply it in all areas of your life such as time management.
Once you learn the big five personality traits and the polarities of each trait, you understand yourself and others much better. That’s a critical factor in your success.
You can use that understanding to adjust your behavior. You can treat people better because you understand them better. You can act the opposite of your default personality traits when the situation demands it.
All of that requires self-control, which is the biggest predictor of success and which can be cultivated with attention and effort.
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly roundup of my latest posts.