Exploring the Dynamics of Acquired vs. Innate Personality
by Lisa Sparrow
Whether personality is acquired or inherited has been a popular—and quite controversial—topic of discussion since the dawn of time. Today, the general consensus is that personality is both acquired and inherited. In other words, we all possess acquired and innate personality traits.
So, which traits are we born with, and which ones do we acquire throughout our lives? Keep reading to find out!
In this article, we’ll explore the intricate interplay between acquired and innate personality traits and the role they play in our lives.
What Is Innate Personality?
Innate personality refers to characteristics and traits largely determined by your genetic makeup, meaning that innate personality is something you’re born with. As such, it doesn’t change much throughout your life. While you may be able to alter certain aspects of it, this might take a lot of effort—after all, you’d need to go against your nature to do so.
Unlike emotions, feelings, and moods, innate personality is relatively stable, consistent, and not easily affected by external factors.
For example, if you are introverted by nature, it is very unlikely that you’ll eventually become extroverted. Even if you learn to genuinely enjoy hanging out with other people by deliberately developing your extroverted side, at the end of the day, you’ll still feel the need to regularly spend time by yourself.
Many personality tests are based on the belief that certain personality traits are intrinsic and ingrained so deeply that they don’t change over time. The 16-personality test is a good example of an innate personality test.
While you can acquire and develop different traits over the course of your life, you’re predisposed to certain personality dimensions over others. So, if you were an ENTJ when you were 25, you’ll typically get the same test result even if you take it at 75, though your individual score for each dimension might differ.
Innate Personality Traits and Qualities
Some examples of innate personality traits and qualities include openness, extroversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and neuroticism. These traits, which fall into the framework of the Big Five personality test, are thought to be the fundamental qualities that define your intrinsic personality.
Now, let’s explore them in greater depth:
- Openness. Rather than describing your openness to other people, this innate personality trait mainly determines your openness to new experiences and ideas. People who are on the higher end of the openness scale are open-minded, intellectually curious, imaginative, and adventurous. Meanwhile, those on the lower end of the scale tend to be more pragmatic, conventional, and less inclined to try out new things.
- Extroversion. Your degree of extroversion essentially determines how sociable and inclined you are to engage with the external world. While extroverted people feel energized in other people’s company and often enjoy being the center of attention, those who are more introverted find alone time rejuvenating. They also tend to be more introspective.
- Conscientiousness. This trait describes your level of self-discipline and impulse control. If you display a high degree of conscientiousness, you are disciplined, organized, motivated, and goal-oriented. On the other hand, if you aren’t that conscientious, you have a more relaxed approach to life but may struggle with self-control.
- Agreeableness. Agreeableness mainly affects your social interactions. Agreeable people are kind, accommodating, and empathetic. The less agreeable you are, the less you care about other people—especially those you don’t know well—and their feelings.
- Neuroticism. Simply put, neuroticism describes your stress tolerance and emotional stability. Those who are highly neurotic are more susceptible to stress and negative emotions, such as guilt and self-doubt, than those who are less neurotic.
What Is Acquired Personality?
By definition, acquired personality is that which we develop rather than are born with. In other words, acquired personality traits are characteristics, abilities, behaviors, and other qualities that we pick up throughout our lives.
Unlike innate personality traits, these are learned through practice, experience, and upbringing. As such, they can change dramatically over the course of your life.
Since acquired characteristics can be learned, they’re often considered skills rather than personality traits. That said, your innate personality traits can sometimes impact your predisposition to certain acquired traits.
For instance, adaptability is an acquired quality. Someone who’s innately open to experience and emotionally stable may be more likely to be adaptable—or pick up this skill with relatively little effort—than those who are less open and more neurotic.
Simply put, those who are open and emotionally stable have a higher stress threshold, are more comfortable with change, etc., which can make it easier for them to learn to adapt to new conditions.
Still, this doesn’t mean that someone who displays high neuroticism and low openness to experience can’t become adaptable. They surely can, though it might take them more time, effort, and dedication due to their intrinsic traits.
Acquired Personality Traits and Qualities
Now that you know what acquired personality traits and qualities are, let’s check out some examples of them:
- Leadership. Leadership skills encompass a wide variety of abilities, such as delegation and decisiveness, that help spearhead projects and direct people toward common goals. You can develop and improve these skills by seeking leadership roles, taking other people’s feedback into consideration, and/or working with a mentor.
- Time management. Time management enables you to make the most of your time and increase your productivity. Making a habit of planning your daily activities, minimizing distractions, and prioritizing critical tasks are some ways of developing time management skills.
- Resilience. Resilience helps you overcome and recover from difficulties. You can become more resilient by learning to embrace change, cultivating a positive mindset, and improving your problem-solving skills.
- Assertiveness. Assertiveness is a skill that enables you to communicate with others in an honest, confident, yet respectful way. If you’re looking to become more assertive, consider identifying what assertiveness means to you and embodying it; rehearsing your speech ahead of time; and learning to say “no” to people directly but politely.
- Emotional intelligence (EI) Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage emotions—both yours and those of others. It is closely tied to empathy, which is both an acquired and an innate personality trait. You can develop your EI by taking the time to reflect on your emotions and practicing active listening, among other things.
How Innate Personality Traits Impact Your Life
Your innate personality traits can impact all areas of your life, including your interpersonal relationships, career, and so on.
When it comes to relationships, innate personality traits play an important role in determining your compatibility with others. For example, if you are open to new experiences, you may get along better with people who also have this trait due to your shared sense of adventure and craving for novelty.
Your innate personality traits may also influence how you communicate with others—both in your personal life and at work. Introverted people, for instance, tend to prefer one-on-one conversations rather than group discussions.
Speaking of work, knowing your innate personality traits can help you narrow down your career choices and pick the right career path.
For example, if you’re very extroverted, you’d likely excel at jobs that rely heavily on social interaction, such as sales. Similarly, staring at a computer screen without talking much to anyone might drive you crazy, which is why something like programming may not be the best choice for you.
Your innate qualities also affect how you cope with challenging situations in life. If you’re an introvert with high levels of neuroticism, for instance, you may struggle to regulate your emotions in stressful situations. While an extrovert may seek support from others to feel better, you might find it easier to find peace in the comfort of your own company.
The bottom line is that understanding the traits you were born with can help you make better decisions and lead a more fulfilling life.
How Acquired Personality Traits Impact Your Life
While being aware of your innate personality traits can refine your decision-making, acquired personality traits impact your life by helping you improve the quality of your personal and professional life. In other words, these traits are crucial for your growth.
For instance, if you have trouble maintaining harmonious relationships with others, you might want to improve your communication or conflict resolution skills.
By learning to effectively express your thoughts and attentively listen to others, you can forge closer bonds with the people in your life. Meanwhile, conflict resolution skills can help you navigate disagreements in a healthy way.
Acquired qualities can also help you achieve career success. For example, if you want to advance in your career, you may increase your chances of getting a promotion by developing your leadership skills.
Meanwhile, if you struggle to reach your professional goals, consider identifying why this happens and adopting qualities that’ll help you eliminate the cause of this problem.
Do you give up as soon as things get tough? If so, consider building resilience. Alternatively, if you can’t seem to find the time to work on your goals, you might want to develop better time management skills.
Not to mention, certain acquired traits can improve your psychological well-being. A good example of this is emotional intelligence, which can help you not only relate to others and connect with them emotionally but also understand and handle your own feelings and emotions.
Which Are More Important: Acquired or Innate Personality Traits?
Without a doubt, both acquired and innate personality traits are very important, as together, they make up your unique personality. That said, which of these traits has a bigger impact on your life and well-being also depends on the context.
For instance, at work, some acquired qualities may be more important than your innate personality traits. After all, without certain skills, you wouldn’t be able to perform your duties effectively. If you’re a manager, for example, it doesn’t really matter if you’re introverted or extroverted as long as you have excellent leadership skills.
Now, if you’re making important life decisions, you might want to pay more attention to your innate personality traits. Otherwise, you may end up unhappy with your life. For instance, if you’re extroverted, you might want to avoid moving to a house in the middle of nowhere, as this may cause you to feel isolated. Meanwhile, for an introvert, this could be a dream come true!
Ultimately, you should aim to strike a balance between your acquired and innate personality traits, as this is key to your overall well-being. By learning to embrace your innate traits while also developing useful acquired characteristics, you can foster your personal growth and greatly improve the quality of your life.
On that note, let’s discuss how you can leverage your acquired and innate personality traits.
How to Leverage Both Acquired and Innate Personality Traits
Here are some useful tips for making the most of your acquired and innate personality traits:
- Develop self-awareness. Take time for self-reflection and analyze your innate personality traits along with the strengths and weaknesses that come with them. Then, identify which acquired traits you possess and how they influence your innate traits. This way, you can see which areas of your personality still have room for improvement.
- Play to your innate strengths. Seek out opportunities to let your inherent strengths shine. For example, if you’re agreeable, compassion and patience may be some of your greatest strengths. So, consider opting for a career path that requires these qualities (e.g., education, social work, etc.).
- Compensate your weaknesses with acquired qualities. Completely changing your innate personality traits is next to impossible. However, if you have any traits you wish to change, consider adopting skills and qualities that could help improve them. For example, if you struggle with neuroticism, you may want to work on your resilience, emotional regulation, and similar skills.
- Strive for balance. Rather than fighting your nature, learn to accept and honor your innate personality. Avoid extremes—as much as you might want to be the life of the party, it may not be in the cards for you if you’re a hardcore introvert. However, cultivating certain acquired qualities, such as communication skills, can make social situations more joyful to you.
And that’s all you need to know about acquired and innate personality traits!
To wrap it all up, let’s briefly go over the key points we discussed:
- Innate personality traits are influenced by our genetic makeup rather than external factors, whereas acquired qualities are those that we develop through experience.
- Examples of innate personality traits include extroversion, openness, and neuroticism, whereas some examples of acquired characteristics are leadership, assertiveness, and resilience.
- Creating a balance between acquired and innate personality traits can help you downplay your weaknesses, cultivate your strengths, and lead a happy, harmonious life.