The Social Attributes of our personality are formed by our interaction with other people over our lifetime. An Individual Attribute, such as anger, might be displayed as aggression in a social context. If we are punished or suffer bad consequences from our aggression, we may change our social behavior in the future. If, on the other hand, we obtain what we want through aggression, threats and violent behavior may become a way of life for us. By the time we are adults, most of our Social Attributes are well established and are not easily changed. A person who thinks that another person can be changed does not have a good chance of success. Many marriages fail because the people involved think that they can adjust to incompatible characteristics of the other person or that they can change the other person. This seldom happens. What seems like a little problem before marriage often becomes an irritating, insurmountable problem that erodes the foundation of the relationship.
The Social Attributes table classifies characteristics in two columns. The left column is the "sociable" column and the right column is the "dangerous" column. Two persons are more likely to be compatible if most of their attributes are in the left hand column. Persons who have many attributes in the right column will generally be incompatible even with partners with similar characteristics. Two dishonest people are not likely to get along any better than an honest and a dishonest person. Sometimes, a relationship is doomed to fail when one of the persons has only a single attribute in the "dangerous" column. If a partner (s2-) feels that he or she has to beat or punish the other partner for something, the relationship will become intolerable for the battered or abused partner.
|s1. Aggressiveness - our demeanor toward people.||friendly, courteous, thoughtful||aggressive, impolite, tactless|
|s2. Control attitudes - mechanisms by which we influence others.||persuasive, conciliatory, submissive, gentle, yielding||domineering, punitive, forceful, stubborn|
|s3. Dependability - factors that affect trust in others.||dependable, trusting, honest, truthful||unreliable, suspicious, dishonest, liar|
|s4. Egocentrism - our degree of selfishness.||generous, humble, forgiving, modest||greedy, arrogant, resentful, proud|
|s5. Emotional expression - our ways of expressing feelings.||congenial, funny, extroverted, talkative||inhibited, serious, shy, introverted|
|s6. Fairness - how we judge others.||appreciative, impartial, tolerant||ungrateful, biased, intolerant|
|s7. Leadership - how we interact in a group.||brave, leader, independent||fearful, follower, dependent|
|s8. Physical appearance - how we view ourselves physically.||attractive, stylish, tidy||ugly, disheveled, untidy|
|s9. Regard for Rules - obedience for the laws of society.||ethical, honest, law-abiding||unethical, dishonest, criminal|
|s10. Team Spirit - how we fit in society.||social, family-oriented, patriotic||antisocial, loner, anarchist|
s1. Aggressiveness. People interact using words and actions. The range of interaction ranges from friendliness and thoughtfulness through tactlessness and impoliteness. The aggressiveness attribute reflects our typical behavior within this broad range of interactions. If we are typically friendly and courteous, our aggressiveness attribute will be in the "sociable" column. If we are typically impolite and tactless, our aggressiveness attribute will be in the "dangerous" column.
People who are frequently tactless and aggressive do not make good partners for anybody.
s2. Control attitudes. How do you get other people to do what you want? You can try to convince them or you can force them. Control attitudes may range from gentle persuasion to downright physical domination or psychological brainwashing. The "dangerous" column includes behaviors that can cause physical or mental harm. Bullying, intimidation, blackmail, and physical abuse are examples of these dangerous behaviors. Deceit is sometimes used to control some else without resorting to physical violence. Most confidence games use deceit to take advantage of greed or innocence. No stable relationships can be built without mutual respect and agreement.
s3. Dependability. Dependability is the foundation of all relationships. If someone is not honest, truthful, or reliable why do you need them? Once you discover a lie, how can you ever trust again? If someone is not there when you need them, why would you want to be with that person? Dependability does not have a gradual range like other attributes. You either lie or tell the truth, you are either unreliable or dependable. There is no such thing as a "little lie" or "sometimes unreliable". Trust is like a piece of fine china. Once you break it, no amount of glue can restore it to its original condition. People tend to lie about things with which they are uncomfortable.
Concealment is a form of lie, although many people consider that not volunteering information that they are not asked is not lying. If a wife meets a lover in the sofa, she can say that she did not go to bed with anybody. That is a true statement, but far from truthful. A successful relationship requires complete honesty.
s4. Egocentrism. Selfishness and generosity are the two extremes of egocentrism. A person who is modest, forgiving, and willing to sacrifice for others is sociable. Greedy, resentful, and arrogant persons are dangerous for a relationship; they only think about themselves. Egocentric persons are seldom generous or kind to others and cannot have good relationships. A good relationship requires both partners to be generous so that their needs can be satisfied without causing either one to feel that they sacrifice too much or that they put more effort into the relationship than their partner.
s5. Emotional expression. Good communication is essential for a good relationship. When persons do not talk enough, it is not possible to know what they are thinking. We are limited to reading their body language. What do their actions suggest? Unfortunately, reading body language is prone to error. We may think that a person is giving us romantic glances, and we could be mistaken. Even when a person talks, how do we know that they are telling the truth? "I love you very much." Oh, really? Their actions need to be consistent with their words.
In the range of emotional expression, there are introverts who cannot express what they feel verbally and whose feelings must be deduced from their actions, and there are extroverts who are communicative, but whose words have to be scrutinized for truth. This is the dilemma that has to be solved to understand another person. Introverts and extroverts can make good couples, as long as the extrovert does not force the introvert into social situations that are uncomfortable. Two introverts can also make a good couple, although at times the relationship may suffer from lack of communication. Two extroverts can also have a good relationship as long as their need for interaction with other people does not take them too far away from each other.
s6. Fairness. Can you make objective judgements or do you make decisions based on what will benefit your interests? Can you understand someone else's point of view or is your opinion all that matters? We develop in a cultural background that establishes our opinions and way of thinking. As we expand our horizons, we meet different people and different cultures that we may not fully understand. An impartial person should be able to see the goodness in people who are different and tolerate their culture without trying to change them.
A good relationship requires shared values. A racist cannot have a good relationship with a liberal person. A tolerant person perceives a biased person as being narrow minded. They cannot have a good relationship. Racial biases, religious intolerance, and other ethnic prejudices may be overcome over time by foreign travel, learning a new language, and exposure to cosmopolitan cultural activities. In establishing a new relationship, you should not hope to be able to change a person's prejudices.
s7. Leadership. How do you interact in a group? Are you an initiator and leader, or do you wait for someone else to make the first move? Sometimes insecure people are afraid to make the first move because it may prove embarrassing. Those who take the initiative may do it more out of impulse than out of careful consideration. It takes a combination of confidence and knowledge to consistently be a leader. Leaders may also have to assume responsibility for the actions of those whom they influence.
Successful relationships may be established between leaders and followers. Two followers may flounder during crucial decisions, and two leaders may disagree on the course to be taken. This is one personality attribute where characteristics from different columns may be better for a relationship.
s8. Physical appearance. We cannot change our physical framework very easily. It is not easy to lose weight or build shapely muscles, but it is now possible to routinely change unsightly noses and crooked teeth with cosmetic surgery and orthodontics. We can modify our appearance with corsets, cosmetics, and fine clothing to improve our self-image and our confidence. However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all our efforts may not change the way in which others perceive us.
The characteristic "ugly" is listed in the "dangerous" column because a person cannot have a successful relationship with someone that he or she considers ugly. The grass will always be greener on the other side of the fence. There will always be regrets and temptations. The person who thinks that his or her partner is ugly will not commit fully to the relationship and the ugly partner will sense this and become dejected, jealous, or resentful.
Untidiness, beyond being unsightly, may promote infectious diseases that can cause physical harm. A successful relationship requires both persons to be satisfied with the way each other looks, smells, and dresses.
s9. Regard for Rules. Under dependability (s3) we discussed the personal concept of right and wrong. "Regard for rules" is the degree to which we obey the rules of society. The laws of a society are made to safeguard the rights of the citizens. Obeying the rules is not a matter of personal judgement, it is a civil obligation.
An ethical, law-abiding person cannot have a successful relationship with one who scoffs at rules and regulations. When least expected, the law-abiding person may be accused of complicity in an embezzlement or a more serious crime.
s10. Team Spirit. Team spirit is a measure of how we fit in society. Do we feel isolated or are we active members of our community? Can a person be patriotic and cosmopolitan? In these days of massive immigration, loyalties are often questioned and tested. Successful relationships can only be forged when both partners share positive social values. A social misfit in the dangerous column could end up becoming a terrorist or mass murderer.