Campus News

Psychologist discusses how to identify difficult people

Joshua Miller, a personality researcher and professor of psychology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences discussed ways to help identify people who may be difficult with MindBodyGreen.

In a study from the university, researchers created key factors that might result in someone being viewed by others as antagonistic.

“We call it disagreeableness—it is a spectrum that spans antagonism to agreeableness,” Miller said.

The study then describes the seven traits that can be used to determine if someone is difficult: callousness, grandiosity, aggressiveness, suspicion, manipulativeness, dominance and risk-taking.

“It can be annoying for people to constantly be callous if it psychologically wounds the receiver,” Miller said.

He also added that context was important when using these seven traits.

“In academic work, I could argue with people in my field and be disagreeable without a lot of trouble or costs—but if I behave that way at home and in other contexts in a pervasive manner, it would be closer to something we might consider a problem,” he said.

Ultimately, Miller says that this is a starting framework, but not all inclusive or the only thing you should use. There should be a natural flexibility of your personality to fit different social and personal situations.

“Flexible personality is healthy personality,” he said. “You want your personality to shift to some degree based on the circumstance. If you cannot shift your personality to meet certain needs, it’s a problem. [In other words], if you’re difficult in every setting, it could be considered a disorder if the problems are pervasive, persistent and long-standing.”

Miller notes that there are many factors that go into any given interaction, even outside the context of antagonism.