Having a Dry Personality – What It Means and What to Do About It

If you’ve ever been told you have a dry personality, it can be hard to get those words out of your head. After all, what do people even mean by that? Who decides what a “good” personality is? A good analogy would be food: while one person might love a particular dish and another would hate it, there is a general consensus:

What is a dry personality?

When someone says about someone else that they have a “dry personality,” they most likely mean that that person doesn’t show many emotions. The “dry personality” person might be generally subdued and doesn’t stand out much. They might not have any hobbies or hobbies that might seem boring to others. They may be pedantic and possibly a bit uptight. Someone might say “dry personality” when they really mean “boring.”

Put this way, having a dry personality sounds like it’s all bad. But people might also think of a lot of positive characteristics when they think of someone with a dry personality. They’re likely envisioning someone dependable, responsible, and intelligent.

How do you know if you have a dry personality?

If you don’t show a lot of emotion, don’t find many things funny, and are particular about the way things should be done, you might have a dry personality.

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Why do I have a dry personality?

Personality Traits

We seem to be born with certain traits that exist in every culture and tend to be stable throughout our lives. These traits are called The Big Five, or OCEAN: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.[1]

Someone who is very conscientious but not very open to experience or extroverted may come across as having a dry personality. A survey of 104 participants found that most of them rated TV characters who were perceived as open, agreeable, and extroverted as having “a lot of personality”.[2] On the other hand, characters that did not have these qualities were more likely to be perceived as having “no personality” or a “dry personality.”

About 50% of the variability of these traits is considered to be influenced by genetics. That means that your environment can affect the other 50%. If you want to become a little more open to experience or agreeable, it’s entirely possible to learn.

Depression

Being depressed may make someone subdued, with low energy and a lack of interest. Other symptoms of depression include slowed thinking or trouble thinking and a lack of motivation. In effect, what looks like a dry personality. If you’re depressed, you’re unlikely to be interested in hobbies or socializing. It may seem like you have a dry personality, but there’s a very real reason for your lack of interest. You simply don’t have any leftover energy.

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Luckily, you can treat depression, and a more lively self might reveal itself from within. Therapy, exercise, medication, a healthy diet, and support groups can help you on your road to recovery.

Here’s an article from HelpGuide on how to cope with depression.

Past trauma

When we experience trauma, our nervous system enters a fight/flight/freeze/fawn response[3]. That’s how our body prepares itself to deal with an incoming threat.

When we don’t release our trauma, our nervous system can get dysregulated.[4] Some people can be stuck in “freeze” states for a long time, leading to inaction and disinterest. This can look like having a “dry personality”.

We all experience some trauma in our lives. Trauma can include emotional neglect during childhood, car accidents, and bullying. Trauma isn’t limited to “big events”. Developmental trauma can include things like having a depressed caretaker.[5]

Somatic-based forms of treatment, meaning treatment that starts with the body, including yoga, can help release trauma from the body and come out of a frozen state.[6]

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Low self-esteem

If you have low self-esteem, you might believe that you don’t have anything interesting to add to conversations. This can result in hesitating to speak up. People with low self-esteem might also speak in a way that makes it seem like they have a dry personality. For example, they may refrain from showing excitement, making eye contact or making jokes.

There are many helpful books that can help you to increase your self-esteem.

We have a list of our recommendations for books on self-esteem. You can also use CBT worksheets or work with a therapist to identify and challenge negative beliefs you have about yourself.

Anxiety

Social anxiety can make you freeze up when you talk to other people and come across as dry or dull. When you’re feeling anxious, you’re probably caught up in your thoughts, rather than being present in the conversation.

Like depression and low self-esteem, you can work on your anxiety in therapy. If your anxiety is bad and getting in the way of your life, medication can help.

Read more about making friends when you have social anxiety.

Not having found the people or things that interest you yet

If you’re young, your personality isn’t set in stone yet. You might feel that you have no interests – but it could just be that you haven’t found the things that interest you just yet. If you think that you don’t have many life experiences or stories, go out and explore! It’s never too late. It’s usually fear that keeps us back from trying new things.

See our guide on how to be more outgoing.

What to do if you suspect you have a dry personality

Practice being easy-going

Consciously make a decision to be more easy-going. Be self-aware every time you get worked-up or stiff because something isn’t going your way, and remind yourself that “It’s not that big of a deal even if I feel that way right now”.

For better results, you can practice physically relaxing your body by doing a relaxation exercise every time you get worked up.

Here’s our guide on how to be easy-going.

Try to pick up new hobbies

Picking up new hobbies will help you in several ways. You’ll have an opportunity to meet people who share your interests, and it will give you something to talk about with others, as well.

Don’t be afraid to try weird or different things. If nothing else, a good story can come out of it. Here’s a great list of hobby ideas that are free.

Generally, you can divide hobbies into artistic/creative (playing an instrument, painting, collaging, knitting, woodworking, and so on), physical (hockey, hiking, dancing, roller derby…), or social (board games, team sports).

A good way to think of hobbies that you might like is to try and remember what you enjoyed doing as a child. If you read a lot of books, perhaps you might like to try writing. If you climbed trees, maybe hiking or birding could be fun.

Develop your sense of humor

Often, when people say that someone has a dry personality, it means that they don’t have a sense of humor. Now, this is highly subjective, of course. You may not have a mainstream sense of humor, but others might find you hilarious. However, if you do think your sense of humor is lacking, this is something that you can work on.

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We tend to think of a sense of humor as an innate talent – you’re either funny, or you’re not – but in truth, it’s a skill that you can develop like any other.

Try researching different types of humor. You can even read about the various elements people use to be funny, like the element of surprise and tone of voice.

See our guide on how to be more fun.

Show appreciation

If you fear that you are coming across as dry or insincere when you’re expected to show appreciation or be high energy (for example when congratulating someone) here are some tips.

If your voice tends to be flat, and you have difficulty showing emotion, you may come across as sarcastic or insincere if you just say “good job”. Adding just another fact-based sentence might help you come across as more sincere. For example, you might say:

“I see that you put a lot of work into that. Well done!”
“Wow, a lot of people submitted their work, and still you won. That’s impressive.”

Use your body language

People often use hand gestures when they’re talking about something they’re passionate about. Gesturing while you talk, making eye contact, and smiling can add “pop” of personality in your conversations. When appropriate, you can try a short shoulder or an arm touch.

You can read more body language tips here.

Try to be more interested in others

One of the best ways to keep a conversation going is to show interest in others. Ask them about their experiences, their pets, or their interests. If you’re able to show genuine interest in the things they’re saying, you’ll automatically come across as less dry.

Balance your question by sharing your own experience. Some are uncomfortable sharing about themselves because of low self-esteem: “Why would anyone care about what I have to say?”. But it’s not true that people only want to talk about themselves. They also want to get to know the person they’re talking to.

Don’t be afraid to share about yourself, especially when it’s something that you and your conversation partner share – similarities bring people together.

See our guide on how to make conversations more interesting.

Accept yourself as you are

Self-acceptance might seem like a contradiction to the tips to having “more personality,” but it doesn’t have to be. As humans, we tend to want to improve ourselves and our surroundings. That’s a good thing. At the same time, if we’re always looking and what we don’t like, we miss the good in ourselves and the world.

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Just because someone else perceives you as having a dry personality doesn’t mean it’s true. Even if you believe these things about yourself, it doesn’t make it a fact.

And remember, there’s nothing wrong with having a dry personality. It might just mean that you’re not as outgoing as some. But there are a lot of introverts out there. You may just not have found “your people” just yet.

You don’t have to be always exciting to be valued as a person. People who are always “exciting” can sometimes be tiring to be around. What works at a party might not be as valuable in a long-term relationship. Remind yourself of your good qualities that will be appreciated by the people you build closer connections with. Are you faithful to your word? Perhaps you’re handy with computers? A good listener? These qualities will be valued by the people you have in your life.

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Viktor is a Counselor specialized in interpersonal communication and relationships. He manages Socialpro’s scientific review board. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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