If you think about the personality trait of openness in terms of being open about yourself—being okay with sharing personal details and withstanding the vulnerability of it—and then if you go and turn that personality trait into a graph and categorize how humanity sits on it, well, it ends up being this bell curve:
This is what I came up with anyway. And I’ve put some hard thinking hours into this.
Most people sit somewhere in the middle because most people are self-aware enough to know that being too closed off and mysterious makes you unfriendable, while being too candid too quickly makes you kinda gross.
Most people would agree that cultivating some sort of ability to open up about oneself is an important prerequisite for not dying alone, but understand there’s no need to over-achieve in the area.
On either side of the bell curve, sit the minorities of openness; the weirdos of humanity, if you will. On the left we have the type of people who are ferociously and aggressively protective of their personal information, while on the right they are wildly and spectacularly committed to shamelessly sharing all the unsolicited details.
How Do You Spot These Weirdos?
I don’t usually wear a badge or carry a banner around about it or anything, but when it comes to sharing personal details, I’m actually really good at it. Not quite a dog, but not totally mainstream either. I’m close enough to the left that I don’t freak people out, but where I sit on the right gives me a nice seat on the throne as queen of awkward turtles.
Last week, for example, I ordered a coffee and enquired about the sugar content of the almond milk they were using. I could have just said that the 2.2g per serve was fine and taken the coffee and walked away.
But no. Something inside me was inspired to paint myself as the total turtle monarch I am and went forth explaining to the server that the sugar content was actually quite high for the ketogenic diet I was on (– like, seriously, who cares?). And silly me, I probably shouldn’t have ordered it, but oh well, it’s fine, I’ll still drink it. Gimme.
“Are you sure?,” they asked, now unnecessarily concerned that they had an unhappy customer on their hands.
“Yes, yes, it’s fine,” I assured them, feeling the huffs and puffs of the ten customers standing behind me.
“Are you sure?,” they pushed, now looking me up and down and studying my activewear.
“Yes, yes, it’s fine,” I assured them again, never having felt more like a middle-class white-girl of the Inner West.
In my last write-up, I actually mentioned how I was a bit of a weird one. I blamed my low self-filtering skills for my lack of confidence because that’s what has caused ridicule towards me so often growing up. And this is a perfect example. It’s this tendency to accidentally say things in ways that offend people, make me look like a peanut or attract unwelcome awkwardness.
So Does High Openness Automatically Mean Awkward?
The reason I get myself into such pickles is because my personality isn’t just high in openness, it’s high in honesty, neuroticism and whisky, too. I’m honest when it’s not necessary, I’m intolerant towards pretty much everything and I have the filtering skills of a drunk.
The other day someone wanted to chit chat with me and asked what I liked best about my job. I literally could have said anything; I could have said I love the freedom, working from home, not having to put pants on. But due to my utter distaste for small talk, I was somehow compelled to not to beat around the bush with those inferior truths. So I told this person that what I liked best about my job was that I didn’t have to chit chat with anyone.
I honestly didn’t mean for it to come across like that but the conversation pretty much ended right there and then with, “oh”.
I felt bad.
And it was awkward.
The Openness / Honesty / Neuroticism Formulas of People
Every person has their own levels of openness, honesty and neuroticism blended into a personality cocktail, but I still tend to believe most people fall in the middle somewhere. However, I’ve taken the liberty of creating some different character profiles based around these three specific traits.
Think about someone who is high on openness, but low on honesty and neuroticism:
You might find this person using social media to share a lot about themselves and their lives. But due to low honesty levels, there is a lot of exaggeration and inaccuracy in their newsfeed: duckfaces, hotdog legs, sunsets, sand, #blessed and IG filters. But because of the low neuroticism, they don’t spend too much time overthinking or rethinking their behaviour. Thus, they fly through life blissfully unaware of their inability to be honest with, not just other people, but also themselves.
Howz aboutz someone with high levels of honesty, but low openness and neuroticism:
These are the kind of people who are pleasant to be around and noticeably balanced from low neuroticism. However, their lack of openness makes it really hard to know what the fuck is happening in their lives. These people don’t proactively come out details blazing with insight into their thoughts, dreams and aspirations, but they’re honest bastards, so when asked, they’ll be considered and regulated about delivering the truth. They’ll just strategically avoid giving unnecessary detail.
And what about someone who is high on openness and neuroticism, but low on honesty:
Well, this person’s openness to sharing might make them very generous and insightful with information about themselves and their interesting views of the world. But they are also the types of people who say one thing but their actions suggest something different. Being highly neurotic sends people like this into a tizz because of the inevitable internal tensions created by not being true to oneself.
Your Best is Your Worst
Often our strongest personality traits bring out the best and worst in us. I find people low in openness kind of frustrating because I’m nosey and want to know more about them. However, I also appreciate them because they don’t waste my time with boring overshares. People high in neuroticism can have short fuses and be delicate to dance around, but my neurotic friends are also some of the most deep and interesting people to converse with.
And who would have thought that being too honest was a thing???
Well, actually, there are a lot of different opinions about this idea of whether or not honesty is always the best policy.
Sam Harris has this great one-hour audiobook on lying. It’s fittingly called ‘Lying‘. It’s an easy listen and totally worth it as he argues that we could make our lives so much easier—while doing all sorts of favours for society—by just learning to tell the truth more often.
I found it valuable because even though I said I’m high on honesty, I didn’t say I was incapable of lying. We are all capable of lying. We do it all the time.
The other day I accidentally overshared to the nurse who was administering my second dose of Pfizer. I told her that I’d seen my nephew that morning, only to be called out for the fact that people with their first dose weren’t allowed to see nephews yet. So then I lied and said I was a carer. Then I got all hot and flustered because of that lie. And then I had to double-down on lies by saying the hot and fluster must have been the needle making me nervous.
But lying is a subject for another write-up. Until then, tell me where you sit on the bell curve diagrams I made you.
That’s all from me today, over and out chicos.
Jess from Comfort is for Wimps
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