Agreeableness includes trust, altruism, kindness, affection, and prosocial behaviors like cooperation, helpfulness, and attuned empathy. It seems simple on the surface. Who wouldn’t want to be more agreeable and prosocial?

Traits of people high in agreeableness: interested in and cares about others, feels empathy, enjoys contributing to happiness of others, helpful.

Traits of people low in agreeableness: takes little interest in others, doesn’t care about how others feel, little interest in other people’s problems, insults and belittles others, manipulates others to get what they want.

Our “personality traits” are highly influenced by how we are conditioned and our trauma history. Women are rewarded for being nice, another word for agreeable. It means always putting the needs of others ahead of us (then we are shamed for being weak and codependent).

In this culture, we reward men who are assertive, seeing them as strong leaders. We punish women who are aggressive, seeing them as selfish and hostile. Part of homophobia and transphobia is hatred and scorn for men who are soft and feminine.

People of all ages and genders are capable of the full range of fight/flight/freeze/fawn. People with less power (physical, emotional, social, financial) know that fight is less likely to keep us safe and so we are more likely to turn to a strategy like agreeableness.

Fawning is a trauma response. We try to be pleasing or helpful to appease and forestall an attacker. This is prevalent in children in troubling environments, where we are desperate to be loved and protected. It is seen more in women than men due to power and domination. This is cultural.

A result of trauma is that we disconnect. Trust, cooperation and attuned empathy cannot be present when we are disconnected from ourselves. As we heal from trauma, we recover our sense of value and kindness towards ourselves. From this base of knowing and loving ourselves, we are able to connect with others. We have a natural wellspring of kindness and interest in others. We wholeheartedly want for all of us to be happy.

What is your response to these statements? If they feel true, the evidence for your beliefs is your experience in life.
I want to be prosocial but I don’t trust people to be fair and not hurt me
Being agreeable is another word for weak and loser
People who are nice and agreeable are phony and secretly judging me
I can afford now to let down my defenses and be more agreeable without being weak or fawning

Try the inquiry below. What comes up for you?


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