7 qualities of a truly kind-hearted person, according to psychology

Are you a kind person?

You might think you are because you hold the door open for people at restaurants or shovel your elderly neighbor’s walkway in the wintertime.

These acts certainly seem kind, but they may be taken out of self-interest instead of just niceness.

You might hold the door open to make people like you or shovel that walkway so your kids will be safe walking past their house.

So, if we can’t just accept seemingly kind actions on the surface, how are we supposed to know if a person is truly kind-hearted or not?

This is when we have to turn to the experts on human behavior and the mind to see what they say about kindness. And the results are probably going to surprise you.

Here are seven qualities of a truly kind-hearted person, according to psychology. Maybe they define you!

1) They’re happy

According to psychological studies, kind people are happier, and happier people are kind.

You probably didn’t need a degree to know that this is the case, did you?

And yet, it’s interesting to look into just what’s happening here and why these two things are related. It also begs the question: Does being happy make people do kind things, or does being kind make people happier?

As it turns out, the effects seem to go both ways.

According to a 2019 Oxford study, performing kind acts increases a person’s happiness. Not only that, but as the number of kind acts, the person’s happiness increases. 

The researchers also found something interesting. While they expected people to be happier when doing kind things for friends and family, they found that showing kindness to strangers was just as effective for building happiness.

These kindnesses could be helping people in need, writing nice messages to others for no particular reason, or giving things away.

In another study, however, researchers found that happier people were better at recognizing kind acts, were more motivated to be kind, and performed more kind acts. However, that same study found that when people actively counted their kindnesses, it had a greater effect on improving their happiness than simply performing the acts.

So, through all of this research, we can see that kindness and happiness are intimately related.

2) They’re generous

Psychologists have studied kindness and generosity in many ways and for many years, and they’ve clearly found a link between them.

However, generosity in the form of giving one’s time, money, or things to others differs.

Many people are generous with their friends and family, the people closest to them. Fewer people are as generous with strangers.

Other times, people seem to be generous but are acting this way as a strategy. They want to appear kind and make public displays of generosity but wouldn’t do the same things without lots of witnesses.

Even being generous directly is different from indirect generosity, and according to psychologists, people are more inclined to give directly because they get more of a reward from this behavior. This is the difference between giving a hungry person some food and donating to a food bank.

In most cases, people are generous because they are kind and want to help others even if they don’t get anything in return.

3) They have less stress

You probably already knew that being kind feels good. But did you know it can have real positive effects on your health as well?

Psychologists who have studied the effects of acts of kindness have discovered that they can do more than just help the person they’re aimed at.

In studies that asked participants to perform acts of kindness and then report later on their feelings, there were clear benefits to these acts. People felt happier, healthier, calmer, and more resilient.

All of this contributes to lower levels of stress.

Doesn’t this seem to naturally make sense?

It takes so little to be kind, but as social animals, we humans gain a lot from it. And now we know that the rewards are more than just generally feeling good about yourself.

Researchers even suggest that acts of kindness can be “prescribed” as an intervention to reduce stress levels for people in intense, high-pressure jobs! 

4) They take care of themselves

You may have heard that you have to be cruel to be kind, but this certainly doesn’t apply to being kind to yourself.

While others might need so-called tough love, what you really need for yourself is compassion, acceptance, and appreciation of your true self. This is what it means to be kind to yourself.

But it also includes self-care.

If you’re not getting enough sleep every night, are perpetually stressed, and don’t feel like you have the time to prepare and eat healthy meals, you’re doing yourself a great disservice.

Not only are you not being kind to yourself, you’re also dramatically reducing your capacity to be kind to others.

It’s almost impossible to be kind to others without starting with yourself and making sure your needs are met. So many people try to please others but manage to simply exhaust themselves in the process.

So remember that kindness starts with being kind to yourself, and that can build your capacity for kindness to others.

5) They’re empathetic

It’s hard to be kind to others without being empathetic.

After all, empathy helps you recognize and understand other people’s emotions and, through them, their needs.

So, if kindness is helping a person in need, a person’s empathy helps them figure out what those specific needs are.

As an example of what I mean, without empathy, you might see a person living on the street as someone who just likes it or values their freedom. 

But with empathy, you would think about the conditions they face day to day and how those create challenges in their life. You would expect them to be cold, hungry, or even lonely, so you might help them to find better shelter, food, or even counseling as an act of kindness.

Empathy is even more highly associated with kindness toward friends and family than it is with strangers. This is probably the case since we’re better equipped to understand and relate to the emotions of those close to us since we have more experience with them.

It should also be noted that, according to research, women score more highly on empathy-related kindness than men. This suggests that, for whatever reason, they’re generally more empathetic and, therefore, more likely to be kind to the people close to them.

6) They’re principled

The same research also indicates a second motivation for kindness, which is being principled and honorable.

This means that instead of or in addition to feeling empathy for another person, many people simply do kind things because they see them as the right thing to do.

This can include things that are seen as socially positive, like recycling and donating blood, and the reason the person does them is because these actions agree with their principles.

These are pro-social activities, even though they’re not motivated by an emotional response. 

Think about the difference between donating money to a cancer charity because a loved one passed away from cancer and returning a wallet you found on the ground.

Both are kind acts, but they differ in their motivations: one is empathetic, and the other principled.

But in most cases, kind people share both of the motivations and do things from both their heads and their hearts.

7) They’re humbly altruistic

Real kindness is represented by doing positive things for others while expecting nothing in return. 

However, researchers have found that most people underestimate the impact of their acts of kindness. 

In their studies, researchers asked participants to judge how happy people would be if they received something for free. But what they found was that people who received a random act of kindness were much happier than predicted.

In other words, people who do kind things are doing them out of empathetic or principled motivation. While they want others to feel good, they seem to greatly underestimate just how much of a positive impact their acts can have.

This suggests that their motivation is genuine and altruistic, not to make themselves look great or to gain something else. It also shows humility in that they don’t expect the effects of their actions to be so significant.

But they are, and being on the receiving end of a random act of kindness can absolutely make someone’s day substantially brighter.

Kind-hearted people

These seven qualities of a truly kind-hearted person, according to psychology, show a whole lot of positives. 

Kind people want to help others with their generosity and selflessness, but they also get a whole lot back from it. They’re happier and less stressed, and that can make them even more inclined to do kind things for others.

So if you possess these qualities or want to cultivate them, keep being kind, and you’ll find your life is a whole lot better!

If someone is emotionally mature, they’ll never say these 9 phrases

If someone is trying to distance themselves from you, they’ll display these 5 subtle behaviors