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According to personality researchers Gerald Matthews et al., the Greek philosopher Aristotle was probably the first writer to mention personality traits, in his discourse on morality. The notion of weak character may be over 2,300 years old. Many years later in 1968, U.S. college students were asked to rate personality traits, in a test conducted by N.H. Anderson. Sincerity came out top, while lying, often a sign of weak character, was rated least favourable.
People who continually change their minds are often considered to have a weak character. Being unable to decide on a course of action can be unsettling to others, especially if they are adversely affected by your inability to make decisions. Failure to decide upon a chosen course of action may indicate someone who cannot weigh up the pros and cons of a particular choice. Vacillation, or indecision, is often the result of seeing advantages and disadvantages in all possible courses of action.
People who allow others to push them around, or otherwise dominate them, are often seen as weak characters. Some people seem to prefer to let others rule them rather than standing up for themselves, as it can often be easier. "Anything for a quiet life" is a phrase sometimes used to explain a subservient nature. However, subservient people may be secretly playing a clever game, utilising the brainpower of others to guide them through life.
Shy people are sometimes thought to be weak characters. People who join in only reluctantly, or who prefer their own company to being in a group, are in danger of being evaluated negatively by peers. Psychology Professor Jerry M. Burger believes that shyness is widespread in society. Indeed, about 40 per cent of people admit to being shy, with a significant portion of the remainder admitting to shyness in some situations. Though some people consider it charming, shyness can be socially inhibiting.
Rudeness is often a sign of weak character. Rude people have not yet realised, or simply do not care, that impoliteness, discourtesy and even offensiveness are low on most people's lists of preferred character traits. Being sarcastic may be amusing in some situations, but it is often regarded as the lowest form of wit, and may indicate weakness of character. Saying one thing and doing another, cowardice, vanity and fecklessness may also be part of a weak character.
- "Personality Traits"; Gerald Matthews, Ian J. Deary, Martha C. Whiteman; 2003
- "Personality"; Jerry M. Burger; 2007
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