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Disagreeable individuals benefit most from compassion training

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Disagreeable individuals often lack empathy, even in their close relationships. They can be hostile, get into conflict and exhibit antagonistic behaviour. As a result, difficult people risk getting rejected or ostracised and experience a lot of conflict in their relationships. However, a study from York University found that compassion training may benefit disagreeable individuals.

For this study, 648 mildly depressed international participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: a loving-kindness meditation (LKM) exercise, acts of kindness exercise or a control condition involving the journaling of interpersonal relationships. The participants who were in their mid-thirties were asked to complete their exercise and report back via an online platform every other day for three weeks. Trait Agreeableness was assessed at baseline. Measures of depression and life satisfaction were administered at baseline, after the test, and one and two months later at follow-up assessments.

Disagreeable participants who performed acts of kindness in close relationships showed the greatest reduction in depression and the greatest increase in life satisfaction.

The researchers found that participants in both experimental conditions (LKM and Acts of Kindness) reported a significant reduction in depression compared to the control group. They also found that disagreeable participants who performed acts of kindness in close relationships showed the greatest reduction in depression and the greatest increase in life satisfaction.

In the LKM exercise, participants were asked to spend up to 10 minutes meditating on nurturing phrases such as “May you be happy” or “May you be safe”. This exercise was of benefit to participants as a whole. However, when examining interactions effects with the disagreeable personality variable, the researchers found the Acts of Kindness exercise was most helpful to disagreeable individuals. When hostile individuals implement acts of kindness in their close relationships, those in their close circle will often appreciate this changed behaviour. As a result, this makes the disagreeable individual less hostile and less depressed.

This study offers practical advice for health professionals to implement compassion intervention strategies that can help a disagreeable individual become more compassionate and kind.

Source: Translational Issues in Psychological Science


Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!