What are Character Traits and Why are They Important in Communication?

When discussing communication skills, someone once asked “What are character traits?”

This person had heard this term spoken about a lot, but wasn’t clear on what it meant or why it was important when communicating.

First of all, what are character traits? They are qualities that a person or other being, whether real or fictional, embodies.

Fiction Writers’ Mentor offers a nice list of character traits  with hundreds of examples of character traits.

Let’s consider a couple of famous characters – one real and one fictional – and ask what are the positive character traits, as some would judge them, that they embody:

  • Albert Einstein – Intelligence. Quirkyness. Innovativeness.
  • Superman – Strength. Courage. Righteousness.

Of course other characters, such as villains, would have what some would consider bad character traits like malice and violence.

One trick to naming someone’s character traits is to list adjectives that describe them as a person – not their looks but how they are on a deeper level – and then just turn those adjectives into related noun forms.

So perhaps you have a friend who you would describe as funny and warm. Then the traits they embody would be humor and warmth.

Why is this important in communication?

Let’s consider the answer to that question in each mode of communication.


When writing, whether a novel, a movie, a play or anything else involving characters, you must decide what traits those characters will embody at various points in the plot. It is the traits of the characters that people relate to and that often help drive the story. And how a character develops – how their traits change as a result of their experiences – is one of the central aspects from which the entertainment and lessons emerge.


Whether talking to one person or giving a speech to a crowd, it’s important to consider the character traits of your audience. Knowing your audience is one of the three keys to developing effective communication strategies. And character traits are a great way to think about understanding them.

Are you talking to someone with compassion, thoughtfulness and open-mindedness? Or are you talking to someone with insecurity, skepticism and anger? Give some thought to how you might approach these audiences differently.


When you are taking in something written by someone else, you will not only want to think about the traits of any characters in the writing itself, but also the character traits of the person who wrote that material. This may help you gain insight into the motives of the writer and how to best interpret the writing. A piece of work written by a person with the traits of humor and whimsy might mean something very different than the same exact work written by someone with the traits of seriousness and hyper-rationality.


Similarly to when reading, as you listen to a speaker, consider both the character traits of those they speak about, as well as their own character traits that might influence the meaning of what they say.

Do you have any thoughts about this subject? Leave them in the comments below.

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