The price of being agreeable

An ability to calm the waters is good. But the sea is wide, and we can’t spend our whole lives doing it. Photo by Philip Graves on Unsplash

You want everyone to like you.  So you act in ways which make that likely.  If this is you, you may be predisposed to agreeability.

There is a character trait called ‘agreeableness’ which Jordan Peterson talks about  eloquently. When we are agreeable, we are compassionate and polite.  When we are disagreeable, we are competitive, and focused on what we want to get done.  People differ.  Some people are naturally more agreeable, and some more disagreeable.

It can be a constructive thing to naturally seek to smooth the waters between people, and make the environment comfortable and nice.  For example, when dealing with vulnerable people such as children, or the ill, an easy, pleasant environment is highly desirable.

If you are agreeable, though, you may have to make sure you are not taken advantage of.  Disagreeable people may even select people like you to do their dirty work.  This is why some agreeable people end up seeking counselling: they are taken advantage of, because they are not prepared to deliver harsh messages.  They get squeezed by others.

If, as an agreeable person, you are being taken advantage of by a less agreeable person, what can you do about it?  One thing is to learn to speak up, and give those harsh messages when necessary.

However, if you are an agreeable person, you will know just how hard that is.  If you are programmed to take others’ feelings into account, then it can be torture to try and overcome those wishes for inclusiveness and caring, and cut to the thing that needs to be done.

If you are naturally disposed to agreeableness, and notice that you need to negotiate better, then you are going to have to learn to say what you think more, even if the message sounds harsh.

In order to do that, you are going to have to get in touch with what you want to achieve, instead of only being in touch with what other people want to achieve.


I can still use my talent for agreeability. It is valuable, particularly in giving the vulnerable a happy and comfortable place to thrive.

But if I solely focus on what others want to achieve, and sacrifice my wishes for them, then am I really doing what’s best?

Sometimes I need to dare to speak out, to deliver messages that sound harsh. I may be afraid of offending, of losing friends. But the trouble is, if I don’t speak out, then I will be putty in everybody’s hands.

I can practice with simple steps. I can learn to say no sometimes. I can learn to explain my position to others, and why I need to get things done a certain way.

I am allowed preferences, and a character. I am allowed, sometimes, to ask for what brings me joy.