12 ways to be a genuinely nicer person

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You don’t think you’re a bad person. As a matter of fact, you consider yourself nice.

But now that you’re a little older, you’re starting to doubt it.

Sometimes, you have a feeling that you’re just faking it, that deep inside you’re actually selfish and evil. Sometimes you wonder if you’re pushing people away by your behavior.

We’ve been taught to say “Please” and “Thank You” since we’re little, but they don’t necessarily make a person nice. It would’ve been awesome if we’re taught how to be genuinely nice but I guess we have to figure this out for ourselves.

In this article, I will give you 12 ways you can become a genuinely nice person.

1) Try to keep a level head

One of the most important things to being a genuinely nice person is to know how to keep a level head. That is why this is the very first point on this list.

There are many people who do good things but despite that, you really just can’t say that they’re nice because they get absolutely volcanic when they’re pissed or if they don’t get what they want.

No wonder we judge people who’re rude to waiters.

See, if you lose your calm at the drop of a hat and fail to keep yourself in check, then it doesn’t matter how hard you try to be nice in other aspects. If you explode over the smallest things, you aren’t nice.

It’s also very much possible that some people actually do mean well but they just have problems controlling their temper. Understand that this is usually the case.

If this is you, you can tell yourself “But I mean well!” but you see, it doesn’t matter. You gotta make that change even if it will take you a while.

Even if you exhibit many good qualities—let’s say you’re funny, generous, and all that—if you have a bad temper, it diminishes your niceness by a lot.

You have to do something about it before you ruin your relationships and reputation.

What to do:

  • Remove unnecessary stressors from your life.
  • Learn some anger management techniques.
  • Try yoga and meditation.
  • Surround yourself with mild-tempered people so you’ll somehow mirror them.
  • Be patient with yourself. Controlling negative emotions is probably the hardest thing to do.

2) Avoid making threats and demands (especially subtle ones)

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to threaten and demand to be assertive. Most of all, don’t do them to manipulate people.

“Don’t break up with me or else I’ll tell everyone your secret.”

“Come with me to the café or else I’m not getting you anything!”

The first example is obviously a threat and obviously not something you’d call nice. But while the second sounds much more harmless — cute, even — make no mistake! It’s still not nice. It’s a manipulative way to get what you want.

Not only is it selfish, but you’ll also be hurting the other person’s feelings — at best they’d be mildly ticked off from having their agency violated.

Making subtle threats and demands when you’re the one in power is a kind of thing psychopaths do.

Don’t be around those people and do be one of those people.

You can’t really claim to be a good person if you think it’s okay to be bossy because you are in the position to do so.

What to do:

  • Pay close attention to how you act towards those who are “under” you—your assistant, your child, your SO who earns much less than you. Awareness is the first step to improvement.
  • Do you have manipulative parents or a boss that’s too demanding? Maybe you’re mirroring their actions. In this case, you have to go to therapy to rewire your brain.

3) Don’t give to get something in return

We all do this whether we’re conscious about it or not.

We give gifts to our bosses, family, and friends and we expect them to love us a little more. This is totally normal.

But if we blatantly use gifts as a strategy to get something we want, or if we expect to get something in return, that’s not being genuinely nice.

Don’t expect applause if you donate to charity.

Don’t give a free dinner to ask for a favor.

Most of all, don’t get in a bad mood if you’re not acknowledged for your nice gesture. If you’re genuinely nice, when it comes to giving, you care more about them than yourself.

What to do:

  • Try donating anonymously and don’t talk about it.
  • Give gifts and favors to people who can’t do anything for you

4) Be sincere when acknowledging your mistakes

People can pick up really fast on whether you’re sincere or not.

Be careful about abusing the word “but” in discussions.

“I know, I messed up hard. I should have prepared food for this trip BUT your boyfriend didn’t bring any food either.”

“Yeah, I know I made a mistake BUT you deserved that punch too because you yelled at me.”

You’re just passing the blame if you find yourself saying anything like the above.

You might think you’ve admitted to your part but by pointing out someone else’s shortcomings, you end up sounding insincere.

In fact, we all know that by doing this, you are not actually owning up to your mistakes.

Sure, you might feel rightly justified in thinking that others were at fault too, and feel that people are being unfair. But people are unfair, and it’s better to be kind than to be right.

What to do:

  • You will have to work on being less defensive.
  • Only say sorry for the things you’re truly sorry for.
  • You might feel like you’re being oppressed or bullied or manipulated. You have to tell the difference.
  • Learn conflict management techniques.
  • If you’ve been blamed a lot before, seek a therapist. Chances are it has affected your self-image that’s why you feel attacked all the time.

5) Try to truly listen instead of making yourself heard

We all want to be heard. It’s incredibly agonizing when people don’t know and don’t care to listen to what we’re just dying to say.

And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be heard! And of course, even in casual conversations, it’s important to pipe up every now and then lest you make a statue of yourself.

But there’s a time and place for that. See, if you get too obsessed with making yourself heard at every turn, you can easily end up drowning out others when they try to explain their side or share their interests.

In short, you risk becoming that person who makes everything about them, the kind of person who butts into conversations and just straight-up steals the show every time.

Nobody likes those people. Nobody.

They’re boring.

Good communication should have a back and forth, ideally in almost equal amounts of air time. Except of course, if one has something grand to share or has a problem, then give them the limelight.

Imagine if you need someone to talk to because your SO cheated on you but then your friend would change the topic that’s more about them? Don’t be that person!

What to do:

  • If you want to be genuinely nice, be genuinely curious.
  • Next time you’re with someone who steals the show, pay attention to how annoying they can be to remind yourself not to be like them.
  • Ask questions and then listen with both ears.
  • Don’t think of something else while they’re talking.
  • Be comfortable when the conversation gets relaxed. You don’t need to think of a new topic every time there’s a 10-second silence.

6) Stop being so critical, you’re not their boss!

Or maybe you are, who knows… but the more you need to be a little nicer.

It can be incredibly easy to get annoyed if people aren’t holding up to the expectations you set.

“How can they be this incompetent?”

“Why does this cashier look so grumpy when it’s his job to serve?”

You have no idea what other people are going through. If they’re not committing something fatal, let it slide.

The disappointment and annoyance are going to come at you particularly strongly if you see people failing at something you have been doing for a long time.

It’s as easy as breathing—why are they messing it up?!

Now, hold up.

No two human beings are alike. We all learn at different rates, with different methods, and are smart at different things.

Moreover, people simply have different levels of experience or exposure and it’s easy to lose sight of that. Plus, let’s not forget moods. They affect how we do things.

I’m sure even you had your off days. You know, times when you don’t do so hot at things that would normally be a breeze to you.

What to do:

  • Avoid assuming the worst out of people from the get-go.
  • Try to ask people what’s up, and then try to listen and empathize.
  • Be open-minded towards differences in opinion, experience, and perspective.
  • Try to put yourself in their shoes and try to relate with them.
  • Identify and remind yourself of your own flaws and weaknesses.
  • Try to give to others what you want to be given to you.
  • Remind yourself that no matter how good or informed you are, there will always be someone better than you.
  • Look at Karen memes to remind yourself that it’s not cool to complain a lot about every little thing.

7) Don’t go around bursting people’s bubbles

Some people might think it’s cool to be cynical. And there is a bit of an edgy appeal to it. It makes them seem smarter and deeper.

But honestly, cynicism has a significant downside and it’s only going to drag you and the people around you down.

It traps your mind in a pattern where you always find yourself looking for the negatives in everything you see and the longer you indulge in cynicism, the harder it will be to break out.

Sure, you can be a good person at heart while being cynical, but you likely won’t be a pleasant person to hang around with.

As you grow older and the people around you grow out of the ‘Cynics are Edgy and Cool!’ club, you’ll find that less and less people want to hang out with you.

Someone who always has something negative to say about things other people find fun or enjoyable, you become a black hole sucking in all the joy and enthusiasm in the room.

You don’t want that.

It’s far, far better for everyone in the end if instead of being all gloom and doom, you instead try to raise the overall mood around you. Or just shut your mouth.

This is what being genuinely nice also is: not bursting people’s happiness even if you think they’re kinda stupid.

Don’t be that person who feels good by telling kids Santa isn’t real. Let them discover it on their own!

What to do:

  • Stop thinking being dark and brooding and edgy is cool. What’s cool is letting people hope, imagine, dream.
  • Try stopping yourself when you catch yourself being negative. Be aware of your pattern and try to tame the cynical voice in your head.
  • Identify and stay away from sources of negativity such as in news and social media.
  • Ask yourself why you have the tendency to look at the negative side of things. Are you scared? Were you hurt before? Maybe you have things to process.

8) Be truthful (even if it’s hard)

If you’re nice but you lie a lot, you’re not genuinely nice.

I’d rather be with someone who’s not the nicest person on the surface but is honest.

Sometimes you’ll lie because you felt like the reality is not as flattering as you wished it were. Sometimes you lie because you’re ashamed or scared or just plain lazy.

Sometimes you’re not even aware that you’re already lying. Instead, you might have simply thought to leave out some inconvenient details from the truth. But this is dishonesty, and it’s called lying by omission.

It can be tempting to lie and to keep lying especially because the more you do it, the better you are at it. By lying, you’re underestimating just how well other people can think!

And, well, people are actually smarter than you give them credit for. Sooner or later the truth will catch up to you.

You’ll end up losing the trust of the people around you. Even worse, you become more used to lying the more you lie and after a point it becomes as easy as breathing.

What to do:

  • Ask yourself why you lie. Do you lie to please others? Because you’re scared? Address the root.
  • Own up to any lies you might have said. This will give you a clean slate.
  • If you ever feel like lying, assume that it WILL be exposed and ask yourself if it’s worth it.
  • Acknowledge that it will take a while to get rid of the habit and that it can return if you’re not careful.

9) Avoid gossiping and talking ill of others

Gossip, sweet juicy gossip!

It can be fun to talk about all the latest rumors and hearsay with your friends. Talking about others will make your bond seem stronger.

But this is a dangerous habit. Not only is it a waste of time, you’ll be ruining other people’s lives with every gossip you spread.

These things can be extremely unpleasant and stressful for the person being talked about. Even if you hate the person being talked about, it is still not justified.

Give it some thought.

Gossip can kill. The sense of shame people feels when they learn that everyone knows and is talking about that one mistake they did a while back can drive people to commit suicide.

What to do:

  • Surely there are better things to talk about other than all sorts of random things about other people. Talk about hobbies, weather, and even politics.
  • If you need to vent, try to find a therapist or get a journal.
  • If you find yourself talking about someone, try to imagine as if they were there to listen to you speaking.
  • Ask yourself what the point of repeating or sharing gossip is, and what it can do if it becomes widely known.
  • Try to do something about the problem. If you must have a personal one-to-one talk with the subject of gossip, do it.
  • Try to imagine yourself as the person being talked about.
  • Ask yourself often, “What business is it of mine?” and “Will this improve my life?”

10) Know when to hold your tongue

Do you really have to point out to your friend that her acne is getting worse and that she gained weight?

Do you really have to give “advice” to your brother on how to raise her children right?

No and no.

Don’t say you’re doing it to help them because sometimes we do this for our own pleasure. It’s sometimes nice to imagine we’re Dr. Phil and we’re trying to fix someone’s life.

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, you might as well not say anything.”

The above saying is, as a rule of thumb, worth abiding by.

Imagine talking to someone, and finding yourself getting sucked into what you thought was a good conversation… and then out of nowhere the person, you’re talking to begins complaining about your favorite artist’s newest album when they are well aware that you’re a diehard fan.

It’s as if they’re doing this to make you feel a little bit awful.

Then before you know it, they’re making your ears bleed by teasing on your other insecurities. You’re best friends, they say. They do it because they’re comfortable teasing you and you can tease them back.

Chances are you won’t like hanging out with people like these, especially when you get older and have little time for negative interactions.

What to do:

  • Think before you speak or type.
  • Don’t give advice unless they really ask for it.
  • If you’ve been asked to give critique, start withsome positive ones.
  • Try your bestto find something nice to say.
  • If you seriously can’t find anything good to say, just keep quiet and listen.

11) Know when to be brutally honest and when to do some “tough love”

This one is tricky.

If you’re genuinely nice, you’d risk not looking nice to help others.

You can’t smile and act all nice if someone you care about is wasting their life away?

You’d rather that they hate you now as long as it could help them in the long run.

We are talking about the more obviously problematic cases here like a loved one using drugs, a friend who’s cheating on their spouse, a coworker who’s about to commit a crime.

Make sure you confront them and do it in the most loving way. Offer any kind of help and don’t shame them or make them feel less than for their flaws or situation.

You don’t want to be with someone who just lets you make stupid life decisions, would you? That would not be a nice person even if they’re kind and sweet.

What to do:

  • Be gentle when you give “tough love
  • Don’t be scared of losing your relationship or being called cruel. Focus on their welfare but do it in the most loving way.
  • Don’t just give your 2 cents, offer help.

12) Know that you’re not perfect but you can always be better

Last but not the least is introspection.

We all know nobody is perfect. That we are flawed is part of what makes us human.

But that doesn’t mean you can simply say “So what, nobody’s perfect” or “But this is me” if you are criticized for something you have done, or are doing.

To be a good person, you should learn to confront, acknowledge, and deal with your flaws instead of pretending they don’t exist.

Or, worse, staying willfully ignorant of them.

The person who insists that they are always right is going to blind themselves to the possibility that they are wrong.

The person who insists that they are good is going to blind themselves to the possibility that they might not be what they think they are.

But that person who listens to what others have to say and is willing to think deep and hard to identify their strengths and weaknesses?

They have the power to deal with their flaws.

They can either compensate for them, cover them up, know how to avoid bringing them to the fore, or you know… fix them little by little.

Choosing to acknowledge and improve one’s flaws is what makes them a better person overall than someone who doesn’t even try.

What to do:

  • Acknowledge that you’re not perfect.
  • Don’t use “nobody’s perfect” to dismiss any criticism directed at you.
  • Identify your flaws and shortcomings and look for ways to deal with them.
  • Make introspection a habit but do it the right way
  • Reward yourself for the small changes you’re making about your life, especially when it comes to your behavior towards yourself and others.

It’s easy to be “nice”, but to be genuinely nice? It takes a lot of work!

Be patient with yourself in your journey to becoming a better version of you because you have to remember: in order for you to be nice to others, you first have to be nice to yourself first.

Don’t beat yourself up.

The fact that you’re reading this is enough proof that you’re on your way to becoming a more genuinely nice person. Some people never even think about this until they’re 60.

You can do this, one day at a time.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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