What Your Friendships Say About Your Personality

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
If you want to gain insight into your own personality, one easy way is to look at whom you spend your time with. According to a new study, our "big five" personality traits — extroversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness to experience — have a pretty major impact on who our friends are and what kinds of friendships we form with them.

The study, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, examined personality tests from over 12,000 British people who also answered questions about their friendships.

The results shed light on why some people are content with just a few friends while others prefer to be surrounded by people. People who were less extroverted and open were more likely to have only one close friend. Those who were more agreeable and extroverted had longer friendships and lived closer to their friends.

Also, perhaps not surprisingly, conscientious people had fewer unemployed friends. And people who were very open to new experiences were more likely to befriend those of different genders and ethnicities.

There were a few less-expected findings, though. For instance, more conscientious people were more likely to be friends with relatives or people of the same sex, though the study authors don't speculate as to why.

In addition, people with higher levels of openness lived farther away from their friends and saw them less often. The authors think this is because these folks move more frequently and may be more willing to meet people online. (Fun fact: Women who are more open to new experiences also have sex more often.)

"Openness to experience seems to be associated with exploratory and complementary friendship styles, while agreeableness and to a lesser degree extroversion are related to more traditional friendship ties, stressing stability and proximity of friends," the authors conclude.

These results show that there's really no right or wrong way to go about your friendships. Different relationship styles work differently for different people, so the important thing is to figure out what works for your own personality.
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