Is it possible to ALWAYS put others first?
As hard as it sounds, there are people who have cultivated the capacity to do this seemingly impossible task.
To know them and learn how to be like them, here are 12 personality traits of people who always put others first.
1) They are great motivators
We humans operate better when we’re given a bit of TLC.
When we know that someone’s got our back, we’re instantly more motivated to do better.
Instead of doing the bare minimum because “no one cares anyway,” we feel that someone genuinely does and it motivates us to do better than we normally would.
Since I was a kid, if my mom told me to do a chore, I’d drag my feet.
But when she asks me how I am first, or if she baked my favorite cookies and makes me feel considered, I wouldn’t even need to be told what to do— I would just finish the task plus extra!
2) They are exceptionally creative and resourceful
People who put others first will not have the capacity to do so if they weren’t exceptionally creative. You see, it requires a kind of thinking that isn’t linear.
For instance, when someone needs financial support when their house burns down, a person who lacks creativity will just decline and say “Sorry, I just have enough for the bills. I wish you well.”
Meanwhile, creative and resourceful people will think up a multitude of ways to raise funds even if they’re also broke AF.
From baking for a cause, to hosting a gig, or holding a fundraising dinner—creative people are never constrained when they want to put others first.
3) They are energized by service
You might be wondering where people who put others first get all their energy.
It’s just impossible to do it all and always, right?
Their not-so-secret source of ‘power’ is the very act of service which reduces stress, increases positive feelings, and releases dopamine.
They’ve probably been doing small acts of service since they’re little, and realize it’s something they want to do all their life.
4) They have an abundance consciousness
People who always put others first have no concept of scarcity nor the belief that “if they give, they lose.”
They think the opposite— that if they give, they’ll get more in return.
They see putting others first as simply being a part of a flow—of giving and receiving. In other words they believe in INTERDEPENDENCE.
People who put others first are not the type who will decline gifts, or acts of service. That would be absurd!
What’s different with them though is, they don’t ever mind doing it first and doing it often.
I learned this from my grandmother: Whenever harvest time for our fruit trees came, it became my task to help give it to neighbors.
At a certain point, I got tired.
“Why do we give away so much? We’re not even rich, why don’t we sell this instead?,” I asked her.
My grandmother just smiled, but throughout my vacation with her, I noticed that the kitchen counter was always full with various fruits, home baked goods, vegetables, and herbs all given by her neighbors.
And that’s when I understood that she was in abundance consciousness and how it felt to be a part of an interwoven fabric of community.
5) They have the capacity for agile thinking
One of the annoying things for people who don’t know nor want to put others first is that it means adjusting their plans for someone else— often quickly!
Applied psychology defines “agile thinking as the ability to actively switch your thinking according to what’s needed across different contexts.”
This means seeing obstacles as opportunities for growth, having empathy and respect, having a collaborative worldview, and seeing different perspectives almost simultaneously within a single situation.
Without the skill of agile thinking, people who put others first would easily be paralyzed.
Instead, they are able to move at a rapid pace with deep focus towards finding solutions.
6) They are “super-connectors”
People who always put others first— whether they are aware of it or not—are usually super connectors.
I know what you’re thinking. NO, it’s not the salesman kind of networking where you connect with someone with the intention of benefitting from them now or in the near future.
Actually, it’s the opposite.
For instance, if you’ve been having trouble finding an architect who can design an aging-friendly home, a super-connector will introduce you to one or (three) in their network of friends without expecting to benefit in any way.
They are hyper aware of the needs as well as the gifts and skills of the people around them.
They’ll connect two people who can mutually benefit from each other, then simply gracefully exit, moving on to save the day for the next person on their list.
7) They have high self-esteem
High self-esteem is a key criteria of prosocial behavior, defined as “actions characterized by a concern for the rights, feelings, and welfare of other people.”
They don’t have a problem offering help or support because their self-esteem is solid enough that if someone declines, they will still be happy and at peace with it.
In other words, they won’t focus on themself—but on other people. They know it’s not about them. And because of this, they don’t take anything personally.
They also don’t help so they’ll feel good about themselves.
When we did charity work, I always knew which volunteers had low self-esteem because they were the ones who would help if they would be praised or given attention for doing so.
Meanwhile, the high self-esteem volunteers were energized by the very task of serving others.
8) They are agreeable
According to research on Prosocial Personality, the biggest predictor of whether people will help someone in need is if they have the personality trait of being agreeable.
Out of the Big Five Personality Domains, agreeableness was the special trait possessed by people who have the combination of kindness, compassion and consideration of others, and affectionate behavior.
Not only that, agreeable people are happier.
And here’s the thing: happy people have the ability (and willingness) to help other people.
After all, in order to fill other people’s cups, you have to put some on yours first.
9) They have hope
People who always put others first have the determination to move forward against all challenges and setbacks.
Based on research called Tenacity in Children, one of its roots is “the belief that gratifying and successful outcomes can be achieved despite existing challenges.
Tenacity is built by allowing a sense of personal control by highlighting “islands of competence” or building on strengths rather than weaknesses to build confidence.
People who help others first have confidence only in their own capacities, but also that they will receive support when they need it which makes it natural for them to help.
They see setbacks and mistakes not as flaws in their personality, but rather as areas of growth.
And this is what allows them to continue helping out even when others have long given up hope.
10) They have virtuous responsibility
Virtuous responsibility is defined as the instinct to make ethical and moral actions with the goal of enhancing the lives of their social circles and society at large.
It’s holding oneself accountable to improve the situation of other people.
When a strong typhoon ravages a town, for example, they feel it’s their DUTY to do something, no matter how small.
It’s a special personality trait that people who always put others first develop, often from their childhood and upbring where doing the right thing and helping out others in the norms.
It can be nurtured in children by parents, and in work and social environments by leaders and peers by giving importance to qualities of self-discipline and accountability.
11) They have integrity
People who always put others first have attained wholeness— where their inner and outer lives are in harmony with each other.
They “walk the talk” and “practice what they preach,” even when it isn’t the most popular course of action and even when there’s a cost.
If they believe that fairness is extremely important, they’d be an ally to the ones who are treated unfairly. And even if it could cost them their job, they’d side with them.
They often ask themself “What kind of world do I want to live in?” and they try to achieve that by their own actions and by helping others.
12) They have the guts for the long haul
Always putting others first may not seem like something that requires guts since the usual image that comes to mind is that of a meek person.
But in a time of war, genocide, or disasters, putting others first requires immense guts or what psychologists call “courageous resistance”.
Think of rescuing Holocaust survivors and the long planning needed over time.
“Courageous resistance” is the voluntary, conscious, selfless behavior, at high risk or cost that is sustained over a long period of time.
Even people who are usually helpful lose courage when the stakes are high, but not people who always put others first.
While always putting others first seems like a difficult task reserved only for the saints among us, I hope this article has convinced you that you don’t have to lose yourself—or move heaven and earth— to put others first.
If you’re scared of being used and abused, practice developing only one trait at a time and notice the shifts in how you feel, along with the relationships you’re building.
With consistency, you’ll learn to be a part of the flow of compassion and community with these 12 special personality traits.