Of the five major personality factors, emotional reactivity is most closely associated with psychological health and well-being. This factor has been identified by many researchers as, e.g., anxiety, neuroticism or emotionality. It reflects the tendency to be tense, anxious, easily upset or high strung. However, the eTest personality inventory was normed on a well adjusted sample (business people as a population typically score higher as a group on measures of psychological stability and emotional adjustment than do people in the general population). Therefore, a high score on this measure doesn’t necessarily indicate pathology or abnormality when compared to people in general. If the primary score is extremely high, the person may be stress-prone or possibly going through an upsetting or anxiety-provoking experience. In the case of extremely high scores, it’s helpful to find out if they are an indication of State Anxiety (a response to a particularly stressful situation) or Trait Anxiety (a more generalized pattern of tension, emotional reactivity or anxiety). High scores are an indication of negative emotion.
People scoring high on the primary factor of Emotional Reactivity describe themselves as tense, anxious, easily upset, impulsive, emotional and reactive. Low scorers see themselves as relaxed, calm, stress tolerant, complacent, etc. In addition to the score for the primary domain of this trait, the eTest profile generates the following three related sub-scores. These facets add nuance to the overall reactivity score and help predict how the primary trait is likely to be expressed.
As noted previously, no personality trait is inherently positive or negative. There are potential upsides and downsides to any point along the spectrum. The further towards the endpoints (high or low), the more pronounced and observable the behaviors associated with the particular trait under consideration are likely to be. People with exceptionally high or low scores are likely to demonstrate both the positives and negatives associated with the characteristic under scrutiny.
We can’t change our personalities to any significant extent, but we can learn new behaviors and skills. We can get better at most anything, given the appropriate goals and the insight, resources and motivation to achieve them. Below are some thought questions and suggestions for people with high or low scores on this trait.
If you feel you’re too anxious or stress-prone, you can find techniques and systems to help you build your confidence and reduce tension and anxiety. There are many paths to success here, and you should be able find something that works for you with a bit of effort. Do what you can to respond to the realities of the situation, not to your initial reactions to it. Find ways to increase your positive emotion. On balance, we upset ourselves by reacting to our feelings about events, rather than to the actual events themselves. If you’re low on this trait, be careful that people don’t mis-read your calm demeanor as disengagement or aloofness. And remember that there are times when it’s quite appropriate to react with negative emotion.
Regardless of your profile, remind yourself that others are wired differently and that they may be responding to threatening situations with very different experiences and reactions.