The ‘Difficult Person Test’ Measures 7 Key Traits—Here’s What To Know
The quiz was created by Individual Differences Research labs, which creates tests based on peer-reviewed scientific research. The Difficult Person Test was inspired by research from Chelsea Sleep, PhD, about “darker” personality traits. (Sleep doesn’t have any direct involvement with the development of or language in the test and was not immediately available for comment.)
Essentially, the test aims to measure how easy—or not easy—you are to get along with by determining how strongly you rank on seven key traits of a difficult person: callousness, grandiosity, aggressiveness, suspicion, manipulativeness, dominance, and risk-taking. That brings up the question, though: Why are these the traits associated with being a difficult person in the first place?
A look into why these 7 traits might make someone difficult
The seven traits highlighted in the difficult person test may make someone, well, difficult because the traits come in direct opposition to what makes a relationship healthy, says licensed clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula, PhD. “On the simplest level, all of them are traits that are likely to put a person at odds with other people,” she says. “These are not behaviors that result in what we consider to be the core of a healthy relationship: respect, kindness, compassion, reciprocity, [and] mutuality.”
Because these traits can be harmful to relationships, taking the difficult person test to figure out where you land on each can help you be more mindful of your behavior—which, in turn, might promote healthier relationships.
Dr. Durvasula caveats that no matter your test results, you should neither feel sad or proud, because it reflects but a small part of you either way. Plus, no one is going to score zero on the test, because no one’s perfect. And with the help of some introspection, your results can highlight to you where in your life you might have room for improvement.
“At some level, knowing where you fall on that scale might actually show you some vulnerabilities.” —psychologist Ramani Durvasula, PhD
“At some level, knowing where you fall on that scale might actually show you some vulnerabilities,” says Dr. Durvasula. “For example, you know that there might be hotheadedness, stubbornness, or rigidity… If you learn about that and actually are willing to be vulnerable and self-reflective, you can be more careful [of that].”
The 7 key traits measured by the difficult person test
Dr. Durvasula says callousness, which is characterized by a lack of empathy, can make someone difficult because empathy is a core requirement for healthy relationships. Highly callous people “have no interest in the experiences of others," she adds. "They're dismissive of the emotional experiences, the hurt, or the harms other people are going through. They do not create a safe space for other people.”
Without empathy, Dr. Durvasula says, it’s hard to establish a healthy relationship, because you lose the ability to create a connection based on vulnerability.
When someone scores high in grandiosity on the Difficult Person Test, it may reflect a notion that they believe they're superior to others.
While a grandiose person can be really alluring because they have big dreams, they can also be exhausting to be around. “Grandiose people tend to suck the oxygen out of the room and hog all the attention,” says Dr. Durvasula. “They think everything should be about them.” They may be out of touch with reality, which stifles their interpersonal relationships, Dr. Durvasula adds.
Someone high in aggressiveness tends to be hostile and rude toward others, which doesn’t exactly lend itself to being an easy-to-get-along-with person—especially considering that these folks may walk into a room ready for a verbal altercation.
“Everything's a fight. They've always got their fists up, so there's no warmth with them,” says Dr. Durvasula. “You walk in, and it feels already like you're headed for a fight, so it's almost impossible to create healthy social linkages.”
Being aggressive toward others means that people interact with you from a place of fear instead of a place of collaboration—and, to be sure, that's not a good place to be.
Not to say that you shouldn’t be wary of people if they’re displaying signs they’re untrustworthy, but being unreasonably suspicious isn’t ideal for getting along with people, either. As far as the Difficult Person Test goes, a high score in suspicion reflects someone having trouble trusting, which is foundational to relationships.
“[Highly suspicious folks] just really think the worst of people—they're suspicious of everybody,” says Dr. Durvasula. “It's very difficult for them to establish trust. They always think somebody's working an angle.”
Suspicious people may believe that no one has their back, that everyone has ulterior motives, or that everyone is out to get them. When you meet someone like this, especially if you haven’t done anything to warrant the suspicion, it might signal that you'll have tough time getting along.
Put simply, people who score high on manipulativeness use different forms of exploitative behavior to get what they want (as opposed to just asking for help.)
This is problematic because it usually means only the person who’s manipulating is getting their needs met, says Dr. Durvasula: “Because they're exploitative, they're constantly taking advantage of other people, getting what they want, and getting what they need, which means that other people are probably not getting what they want.”
Similar to aggressiveness, dominance in relationships operates based on fear, says Dr. Durvasula. “In a dominant relationship, there's no equity. There's no sharing. It's not about connection,” she says. “It's about ruling by fear and another person feeling controlled, and it's not good for a person in a relationship. This is not a healthy relationship dynamic.”
Scoring high on risk-taking may mean more than having a strong sense of adventure. Rather, it may reflect a person who looks for ways to experience thrills through risky behavior or dangerous activities.
“Risk-taking falls into something we call impulsivity or disinhibition, so it's getting this rise out of doing things that are dangerous,” Dr. Durvasula says. “They can’t feel things unless they’re over the top.” This causes difficulties getting along with others because risky activities aren’t meant to connect with others, but meant to make you feel something. Additionally, risk-takers tend to get bored easily, which can push them to pressure the people around them to keep pushing the envelope so that the risk-taker can get a rush.
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