A neutral person does bad things

Character: This is what defines your personality

What is the character of a person? A difficult question that scientists and great thinkers have been trying to answer since ancient times. Most agree that character has a major impact on how people think, make decisions, and behave. Our character shapes us and makes us who we are - in a positive as well as in a negative way. An almost philosophical description, but the characteristics make themselves noticeable in everyday life in many situations. We took a closer look at the topic of character and explain what it is, how it can change and how the character influences your life ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

What is the character of a person?

The term character (English: character) comes from the Greek and means something like embossing or mark. A clear or generally applicable definition is difficult:

In psychology, for example, there is a different idea of ​​character than in philosophy, religion or in general understanding.

The reason for this is that it is an abstract noun that is difficult to grasp. While concrete nouns refer to things that you can see, touch and feel, abstract nouns refer to things that we can only think and feel.

They are therefore more dependent on subjective assessments and are less easy to check.

4 meanings of the term character

There are at least four different meanings of the term character. Sometimes he describes ...

  • the totality of all inherited and acquired characteristics of a person that come to light through their attitudes and actions.
  • a person with regard to individual, clearly emerging characteristics.
  • in art and literature a (fictional) figure or personality (from a novel, film, music).
  • a particularity ascribed to a group of people or a thing (character of a landscape).

If you are talking about a character from a novel (or film), this is the only case when a plural character is possible: You can admire different characters in a plot, but a single person only has one character. Otherwise, there is talk of traits, traits or strengths of character.

Character synonyms and rating

Character, nature, temperament or disposition are also used as a synonym for character. These terms are still neutral. Only with the appropriate adjectives - such as "short-tempered temperament" or "calm demeanor" - do we get an idea of ​​what characterizes a person.

If character is to be used to express a certain attitude or assessment that determines a person's actions and thinking, words such as attitude, backbone or steadfastness can be used.

Definition of character in psychology

"I like your character." A definite compliment that everyone will be happy about, if you mean it honestly. On the other hand, the character is often the target of criticism or dislike.

For example, we certify that someone has a bad character or behavior without character. Clear statements that everyone understands. On the other hand, there is a lack of clarity when it comes to the question of what a person's character actually is.

The character rests on the personality, not on the talents. "(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

In the meantime, the term personality is preferred in psychology, which has also become common in common parlance. According to psychological understanding, the character describes the sum of all characteristics of a person.

These are partly present from birth, partly trained or have been developed and further developed over time. So character is what makes a person who he is.

To illustrate the characteristics that make up a character, scientists have developed various models. The Big Five are a particularly popular model.

With the help of the characteristics of these big five, the character of most people can be described more precisely. To get an overall picture, the character is rated for each dimension of the Big Five:

The Big Five in Psychology

  • Extraversion shows itself, for example, through self-assured demeanor and sociable behavior.
  • Conscientiousness goes hand in hand with assuming responsibility and large organization.
  • People with a strong neuroticism score are considered to be more susceptible and less mentally stable.
  • A high degree of openness is associated with curiosity and creativity.
  • Compatible people are pleasant to deal with and willing to compromise.

It must be said that the five dimensions can be strong or weak and can have both positive and negative effects: Oversized extraversion in one person is likely to lead to annoyed colleagues in the long term, as such people often have a massive urge to be recognized. On the other hand, if the extraversion is extremely low, it is an introverted personality. The person can still have a good-hearted character.

The cooperation is still made more difficult because it may always need a certain lead time, for example to get “warm” with new colleagues.

Can you track down different characters in this way?

In addition to the Big Five, there are also other models to describe a person's character more precisely. The Myers Briggs test also makes it possible to assess the characteristics of a person in different categories.

At first glance, it may all look like pigeonholed thinking - as if everyone could be pressed into a template. You have to know that for the Big Five, two psychologists tried to describe character traits using no fewer than 18,000 adjectives.

This collection could be evaporated due to numerous synonyms, so that the five essential dimensions crystallized. The list has been continued and edited by many researchers over the decades.

And that's what sets this model apart: not all people are lumped together. Each dimension on a scale from one to five between weak and strong can be different. This means that 3,125 different combinations are possible.

All these combinations result in the overall picture of a person, which of course is not immutable in cement.

Developing a character

In some cases, character is viewed separately from personality. Instead of equating the terms, character is described here more as a social influence on personality. This is exercised on people through family, friends, the environment or the society in which they live.

The environment in which a person spends most of the day determines his character. "(Antiphon)

It has long been known that a person is the result of the facility and the environment. Half of all essential characteristics are inherited from their own parents. Early influences in childhood also have a particularly formative character.

However, to what extent the influence must be present in order for certain character traits to emerge is unclear. Even under similar conditions, people sometimes behave completely differently.

Such observations therefore repeatedly lead to the question of what role genetics may play and how much it shapes a person's socialization.

These hormones affect character

It is known from brain research that various hormones and messenger substances affect the being of a person:

Cortisol ➠ is considered a stress hormone
Dopamine ➠ is considered a happiness hormone
Oxytocin ➠ is considered a cuddle hormone

For example, if person A is afraid of being in narrow elevators, then this will probably lead to the fact that they release more cortisol in such a situation, while another one does not at all. Person A will therefore experience stress and possibly withdraw anxiously, appearing tense to others.

It is also exciting to consider the extent to which certain characteristics change and whether we can influence them?

Without the first two questions being able to be finally clarified, it must be ascertained that influence is possible. At least if character describes not only the inner feeling of a person, but also his external actions.

The basis of the character is the willpower. "(Oscar Wilde)

Quite simply: if someone has the desire to cheat by tax evasion, that is not a desirable trait. However, as long as he does not pursue this wish and behaves properly, he cannot be certified to be of bad character on this basis.

Likewise, changed behavior - more consideration, offering support - can lead to a person being assessed differently and their behavior and character being reevaluated.

Extreme situations let character emerge

The different characters have already fascinated many people. Often it is only extreme situations - bereavement, bankruptcy or unemployment - in which a person's true character becomes apparent.

Numerous sayings and quotes show that:

No character is formed without suffering. "(Ernst von Feuchtersleben)

What is interesting about the above quote is that suffering is emphasized as an experience. That coincides with empathy research. It assumes that we feel empathy especially with those who are similar to us.

So those who have had the same (negative) experiences are compassionate towards others. If everything goes smoothly in life, according to this understanding, one's own character evidently develops poorly.

The majority of people have already experienced that the true character of friends is when things get difficult. Here reveal some character weaknesses.

This is also the easiest way to show how the character of a person - a friend - can be recognized. If someone finds themselves in a bind or in dire straits, they rightly expect support from friends. Mind you: This is not about the notoriously clammy buddy who takes advantage of the good nature of his friends.

More like helping with the move, because the student job isn't enough for a moving company. Or an open ear for lovesickness. Spontaneous stepping in if the babysitter cancels and the friend is stuck in a traffic jam. Character can be seen specifically in the deeds: Is someone there for you?

Incidentally, this also applies to both sides: If someone helped you out of a tight spot, you should show your appreciation for it. Depending on the type of support and the duration, words alone are not enough. You can return the favor with a small gift or other favor in return.

The following quote from the later assassinated American president has an almost political dimension:

If you want to know the character of a person, give him power. "(Abraham Lincoln)

But of course it can also be easily transferred to the professional situation: A manager who constantly harasses his employees simply because he can is also evidence of a bad character.

How temperament affects character

Temperamental people are considered to be particularly energetic and quick-tempered, while less temperament is shown by a calm charisma and greater prudence. Temperament also has a direct impact on character.

It is described as the basis of character. Temperament is often understood to be the biological influences of a person, i.e. his or her characteristics that are individually innate and can hardly be changed.

Our temperament determines how we perceive different stimuli and how we react to them. It is therefore a very central characteristic of character and has a direct effect on behavior. To better understand your character, you should have a better understanding of your temperament.

These four types have been distinguished since ancient times:

➠ The sanguine
➠ The choleric
➠ The phlegmatic
➠ The melancholic

These personality types rarely exist in their pure form and the underlying temperament theory would no longer stand up to any scientific knowledge. The observations on the special characteristics of these four types can, however, still be established.

For a test that can help you assess yourself, see our article on temperament.

Character traits influence job and life

As your character decides what kind of person you are, you can feel his influences day in and day out. What you like, what you are good at, what you absolutely hate, how you make decisions and what priorities you set - the character simply has his fingers everywhere in the game.

Whether in private or at work: Interpersonal relationships are a question of character. Your personal characteristics determine ...

➠ with whom you get along well.
➠ Which other characters do you regularly get into arguments with?
➠ who is interesting for you as a partner for life.

Last but not least, it depends on what job you actually do. As a particularly introverted person, you are unlikely to choose an activity that constantly focuses on you.

The English philosopher and lawyer Sir Francis Bacon was of the opinion: "Happy are those people whose professions harmonize with their character." Character traits also have a direct effect on satisfaction. Scientists have shown that people who are extroverted are more satisfied.

Acting out of conviction and assertiveness are also traits that make you happier.

The character can change

The character develops in childhood, is shaped by caregivers and experiences and during this time many characteristics and values ​​are consolidated that are carried over into later life. The development of the character is far from over.

Character can change throughout life and does so regularly. Significant experiences can play a major role that are formative for a person. How a person deals with traumatic experiences, for example, depends to a large extent on their resilience.

One of the most notable examples of this is the psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, who, despite his experiences in the concentration camp, remained a basically life-affirming person. Other people are less resilient and fall victim to negative experiences.

But the profession is also noticeable in the development of the character. Studies have shown that a person's character adapts to the demands of their job over time.

For example, those who move up to a position with greater responsibility develop greater conscientiousness and also develop character traits that are necessary for the leadership position, such as the ability to listen or greater empathy.

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