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What Personality Traits do Humanitarians Have?

Many HR studies show that certain types of people do best in specific jobs. Humanitarian work is no exception. While skills and education are also essential, some personality types do better in humanitarian aid. Here are some of the personality traits that most humanitarians possess, which make them great at their job.


The first and foremost trait for a humanitarian is compassion. Being compassionate does not merely mean feeling bad for others. It means genuinely comprehending and being able to understand the hardship that others are going through without prejudice.

Compassion is a vital skill for humanitarians, which allows them to work with others and provide much-needed aid. It also ensures that they treat participants with dignity and agency.

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Humanitarians often work in unpredictable situations. They may deploy to emergency or conflict settings, find themselves in hard-to-reach areas, or living among new cultures and traditions. These conditions require a high degree of adaptability.

There are various ways in which humanitarians need to be adaptable. They have to adapt to different living conditions. But they must also be able to adapt to multiple types of people and situations. In this way, they can work on intercultural projects, with people from diverse backgrounds.

Takes initiative

Most humanitarian organizations are donor-funded, meaning resources may be scarce. So, humanitarians need to take action and be proactive in ensuring that projects are as efficient as possible. Plus, when in the field, humanitarians need to be able to make quick decisions, and lives could depend on this.

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Emotionally intelligent

Negotiation is a big part of humanitarian work. Those who have high emotional intelligence are more successful in negotiating with others. They can also adapt better to new settings and different types of people. This is particularly important when working for international humanitarian agencies.

Further, humanitarians may be working with people who have suffered trauma or stress. Having a high level of emotional intelligence helps them to support participants in a more meaningful way.

Good communicator

In line with emotional intelligence, communication is critical. The flow of information in a humanitarian setting can mean life or death. So, humanitarian workers need to be proficient in communicating with others, both verbally and via e-mails, reports, or even social media.


It can sometimes be challenging to feel motivated about long-term humanitarian or development projects. For example, behavioral change projects can take generations to show results. Humanitarians need to be both patient and goal-oriented to succeed under these conditions.

If you can set clear goals and achieve them, the project is more likely to be successful. Further, due to a thin spread of resources, humanitarians need to achieve goals independently, with little supervision.

Deals well with stress

While humanitarian work is gratifying, it can also be extremely stressful. In an emergency, everything happens very quickly. The smallest mistakes can cost lives. And the decision needs to happen on-the-go.

As such, humanitarians need to work well under pressure. While some people are naturally good at dealing with stress, this is a skill that humanitarians can develop. For example, meditation and self-reflection are great ways of addressing high-stress levels.


When we work with people from all sorts of places and various walks of life, it can sometimes be difficult to leave our prejudices aside. But for a humanitarian, it is vital to be open-minded about people, situations, cultures, and traditions.

After all, impartiality is one of the humanitarian principles. It means that a humanitarian must provide help to those who need it most, without any regard for their gender, race, political beliefs, and so on.

Critical thinker

Humanitarians spend a lot of time on studies. They often hold master’s level degrees in their field and have a lot of technical expertise. But once you are in the field, that knowledge won’t be enough. You will need to be able to critically assess a situation and respond to it according to the given facts.

That’s why critical thinking is such an essential personality trait for humanitarians. It helps them to make the right decisions in a short timeframe. Which, in turn, can help to save people’s lives.

What other essential humanitarian traits can you think of?

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