7 qualities of a truly decent man, according to psychology

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The “bad boy” image is alluring to some people, but in the end, most people looking for a partner want a good man.

But what does that mean exactly?

You might have a picture in your mind of a straight-laced, buttoned-down dweeb who’s no fun and always looking down on others from his moral high horse.

But you’d be wrong.

A decent man doesn’t have a superiority complex and won’t try to make other people feel bad. He also doesn’t have to be a stick in the mud.

He can be fun, exciting, interesting, and even mysterious.

If that’s what always attracted you to bad boys, it seems you were looking in the wrong place.

So, let’s look instead at seven qualities of a truly decent man, according to psychology. Who knows – what makes a good guy just may surprise you!

1) He’s flexible

If a guy can touch his toes, he’s decent at stretching.

But if we’re talking about what makes a good person overall, we need to think about a different kind of flexibility.

According to psychologist Dolly Chugh, it can be dangerous to think of yourself as a good person in really fixed terms.

To her, self-image can’t be too stuck in a fixed mindset, or a person can become brittle and break.

For example, if a man thinks, “I’m a good person if I never drink,” and then he has a drink, he’ll think of himself as bad.

This all-or-nothing attitude denies the simple truth that men can strive for goodness, but nobody is perfect. Thinking in these terms can actually make a man defensive when challenged by his behavior or cause him to lose self-esteem when he can’t live up to his own impossibly high standards. 

Chugh says that being “goodish” is good enough.

A man who tries his best but occasionally makes bad choices or does things that he sees as negative isn’t necessarily a bad person.

And if he can accept that he still has room to learn and grow, this makes him a pretty decent guy.

2) He keeps good company

Have you ever heard that a person is the sum of the company they keep?

Psychological research seems to think there’s some truth to that.

According to one study, how good or bad a person appears is actually based at least somewhat on how the other people around them are seen.

This study had participants learn about explicitly good or bad guys and then predict a third person’s moral behavior, like returning incorrect change.

Wouldn’t you know it, the people who heard about a good guy first thought that the third person would do the right thing!? But the people who heard about the bad guy first didn’t think so.

However, this is only about perception.

But what if a guy hangs out with other people of questionable character all the time?

Chances are that he won’t be such a good guy since he accepts other people’s bad morals. But a guy who surrounds himself with other decent people will probably try hard to maintain his own goodness.

So, it seems as though perception can actually make reality. 

3) He makes sacrifices

I think we have to be really clear about what kind of sacrifices we’re talking about here.

I’m not talking about pentagrams and the blood of virgins!

I mean that a guy sacrifices his own resources and welfare in order to help others.

Think about a rescue worker risking life and limb to airlift someone out of shark-infested waters. Or what about a guy who volunteers his time at a homeless shelter?

When we think about these acts of sacrifice, we usually see them in very positive terms.

So, does sacrifice make men good?

According to psychological research, this is what most of us feel. When we see a man hurt or suffer hardship when doing a good deed, we see him as having strong moral character.

This is true whether or not the injury is actually a direct result of the good deed or is simply incidental.

So what this means is that if a man tries to do something good and suffers because of that, we’ll see him as being a terribly decent human being.

4) He listens

How many times have you just wanted a guy to keep silent and actually listen to you for once?

If you know what this is like, then you won’t be surprised that listening is seen by psychologists as a really positive attribute in men.

As just one indication of this, research has found many times that men who listen better have high relationship satisfaction, and so, naturally do their partners. No surprise there – being listened to makes us feel appreciated and more likely to appreciate our partners back.

So what exactly is good listening, and how can you tell if a guy is actually doing it or singing his favorite commercial jingle in his head while staring you dead in the eye?

Great listeners give you a lot of eye contact, too, but they also practice active listening. Rather than just sitting there passively, they give you indications that they’re really paying attention.

You’ll get feedback like nods and “uh-huhs” at the appropriate times. They’ll ask you relevant questions and even paraphrase what you said to check if they’ve understood correctly.

If a guy’s doing this, trust me, he’s not the sort of man you want to let get away.

5) He can forgive and move on

There’s a huge burden to staying hurt and angry at someone, and it’s not only an emotional burden.

Holding onto these negative feelings can cause a lot of pain and stress. 

According to psychologists, it can even increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and depression.

On the other hand, if a guy can forgive injuries against him, it can relieve his stress and lower his blood pressure.

That’s great but not the only reason to practice forgiveness.

Forgiveness is related to personal growth and emotional maturity. It usually also requires empathy for the person who did you wrong and an attempt to understand them and their motivations. 

Most of us take time and effort to develop this ability. So, if a man is able to forgive others when he’s really been seriously hurt, this makes him a very strong and mature individual.

We can say he’s a really decent guy if he can forgive himself, too, rather than trapping himself in cycles of negative self-talk and self-criticism.

6) He’s benevolent

In case you’ve never heard the word benevolent used except with a king, here’s what the dictionary says it means:

“characterized by or expressing goodwill or kindly feelings; desiring to help others; charitable.”

In other words, he’s nice to other people, does kind things for them, helps them, and gives them what he can.

This is really one of the basic things we think about when we picture a good man. In fact, according to one study of cultures around the world, this is the top quality people everywhere point to when they define someone as good.

It’s pretty clear that if a man is benevolent, he’s a truly decent person as far as the rest of us are concerned. He’s probably the kind of guy who gives to charity and helps little old ladies across the street.

Sort of like Superman!

7) He’s courageous

Like Superman, once again, a decent man will have courage, according to psychology.

However, this might not be exactly the kind of courage that you might expect.

Superman, as the Man of Steel, is actually pretty much invulnerable, so he doesn’t need a lot of courage to go out and fight crime or duel with baddies.

That takes about as much courage as an adult arm wrestling a baby.

But real men of steel show courage when it’s really needed. 

Being able to express their feelings in public is courageous in a world where it’s still not considered acceptable for a man to cry.

Standing up for someone else’s rights even when he might risk punishments or other repercussions is courageous.

Even being able to admit that he was wrong and apologize, taking responsibility for his mistakes shows courage and fortitude, which is just not in every man’s character.

A guy who’s meek and mild but stands up when he must is a truly decent guy. But if you know a man who is able to demonstrate this kind of courage day in and day out, you’ve found what amounts to a real-life Superman. 

These seven qualities of a truly decent man, according to psychology, are what will set some guys apart from the rest.

Sure, a good guy might not have all of these qualities, or at least not all in great amounts. 

However, the other thing to consider is effort. If he’s trying to cultivate these qualities, he definitely has his head on right and is trying to be the best that he can be.

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