Skills are tasks you can do well, whereas traits are features of your character. You learn skills through experience in life, whereas traits are theorized as integral to you either through genetics or experiences in life. Trait theory explains human personality; many theorists believe traits remain relatively constant over your lifespan. Skill acquisition, on the other hand, is potentially far more manageable through training.
Trait Development and Change
Theorists argue over whether radical shifts in personality trait are possible, with many believing they are not. Some studies suggest that personality factors remain reasonably stable in most individuals from age 12 until 18. However, changes in traits do occur in some people; culture, ability to make adaptations and the course of life may contribute to changes in personality traits.
You can learn and refine skills through training, education or life experience. A dramatic increase in ability usually occurs over time if you practice a skill, in contrast to the tenets of widely held trait theory. Skills improve with acquisition of knowledge or understanding of a subject. Skills learned in one environment can also transfer to another. For example, you can learn soft skills — people and social skills — during daily life and apply them at work when managing people.
Relationship Between Traits and Skills
Your personality traits can make it easier to pick up certain skills than others. Take extroversion as an example — a trait that can increase your outgoingness, your assertiveness and your drive for excitement seeking. Possessing this trait can help you with the acquisition of certain skill sets such as public speaking skills. However, remember that applying effort to improving your public speaking skills would also help you learn without the need to be extroverted.
Skills and Traits at Work
Skills management explores, develops and uses employees' skills as a part of human resources. This field identifies skills gaps in a workforce, and targeted training can fill this gap. Computer classes can help bridge the gap in IT skills, for example.
Personality testing at work is a contentious issue but occurs commonly during job interviews and at work. Personality trait testing can detect learning styles, communication styles, ability to act as part of a team and behavior under stress. Certain traits are also stronger in certain job fields than others. Some personality types are attracted to steady work, rules and deadlines, whilst others prefer constant change or creativity.
- Encyclopedia Brittanica: Learning Theory, Acquisition of Skill
- The Stability of Personality over Time as a Function of Personality Trait Dominance
- Journal of Personality Social Psychology: Personality Trait Development from Age 12 to age 18: Longitudinal, Cross-Sectional, and Cross-Cultural Analyses, R McCrae
Clare Jackson is a freelance writer who started writing in 2008 and began writing for eHow in 2010. She writes on areas related to physics and health. With a background in scientific writing she tends to include lots of information in her articles. Clare has a Master of Science in clinical research and a Bachelor of Science in physics.