When you think of what you look for in a friend, what's the first quality that comes to mind? For many people, it's kindness. While it's wonderful to have friends who are spontaneous, hilarious, or smart, all those things don't mean a thing if your friend is someone you can't rely on. And conversely, you can't get away with not being kind just because you have those other qualities.
Why else should you be kind? For some, kindness is a religious or spiritual virtue. Actions are associated with consequences; some people attribute kindness to a universal moral code. But whether or not you believe in karma or some other form of retribution, it's important to prioritize kindness in life.
Kindness can mean a few different things, depending on who you ask. It can mean acting selflessly, expressing affection and care for others, or simply being a little more thoughtful about your actions and their consequences. It can entail hosting an event to bring people together or raising money for charity. It can mean consoling a friend when you're needed or giving people space when you're not.
But there are some attributes of kind people that are relatively universal. These 50 small ways to become a kinder person are a good place to start.
Make Punctuality a Priority
What's the big deal if you're late? Well, ask the people who are left waiting for you to show up. When you show up late to something, you give off the impression that other people's time isn't that valuable. Being punctual is a simple way to let other people know you think they are important.
Say 'Thank You'
This might seem obvious, but many people don't say this polite phrase enough. A little appreciation goes a long way. If someone does something for you, make sure you thank them accordingly. Whenever someone does you a small favor, when a waiter brings you a new glass of water, or whenever you're feeling just a little grateful, throw this phrase out. People like to be appreciated, even in this small way.
Learn the Right Amount as a Tip
Speaking of waiters, many people don't treat their server right when dining out. Not leaving a tip - or tipping cheaply - is one of the rudest things you can do at a restaurant. Tips are where restaurant servers make most of their wage. And since many restaurants pool their tips at the end of the night, by skimping on one server, you're punishing the whole staff. If you're not sure how much to tip, here's a comprehensive guide to tipping in almost any situation.
Remember to Keep in Touch
Relationships require at least a little TLC to stay alive, let alone grow. Even if you got really busy, moved to different states after college, or whatever else, make a concerted effort to keep in touch with the people you care about. The effort is much appreciated by your loved ones - and valuable relationships add much to your life, as well!
Ask More Questions
People love talking about themselves, so it's nice to take a general interest in the people that you meet. Ask questions about their lives in addition to talking about your own. Make small talk with those around you by asking engaging questions (and follow ups) about their lives. Not only will you let your friends know you care about them, but you just might make some new friends along the way!
Turn Your Phone Off
Cell phones are distracting; not only are they pulling you away from being present in your life, they're also pulling you away from connecting with those around you. Phones seem like they help increase connection in relationships. But if you're constantly staring at a screen, you aren't interacting with the people you're physically spending time with. When you're around others, make a point to put your phone away and shut off your notifications.
Give Small Gifts
Thoughtful gifts are a great way to express your gratitude for the people you care about. These gestures don't have to be grand. Even a small gift sends the message "I saw this and thought of you" to demonstrate your kindness.
Let People Know You Appreciate Them
There's truly no downside to letting someone know you're thankful for them, even if they haven't done anything specific to deserve a "thank you." Everyone likes to be appreciated. Tell your loved ones you appreciate them, even if it's just for showing up when you ask, being their bright and bubbly selves, or putting a smile on your face.
Support Other People's Endeavors
Let your friends know you want the best for them. Is your friend starting a new, risky career path? Is someone you know trying to raise money for a cause? Support their self-promoting endeavors, whether it's by lending a helping hand or cheering them on from the sidelines. The only time it's acceptable not to support a friend is when they're pursuing something that is doing them more harm than good, like remaining in an abusive relationship or doing something solely to impress other people. In those cases, the caring and kind thing to do is to gently let them know you're worried of what might go wrong.
Make Time for Self-Care
You can't pour from an empty cup. In other words, you can't effectively take care of other people if you haven't taken care of yourself. Give yourself the time and resources that you need to take care of your mind and body - whether that means cooking yourself a nutritious meal, making sure you get enough sleep, or calling a friend to ask for support.
Let People Know When You Need Space
Boundaries are an important part of self-care, too. Reinforce your boundaries when you need to, but do so politely. Tell people when you're overwhelmed and need a little space to yourself. Let a friend know if they're overstepping or intruding. You're allowed to have boundaries, and to ask that people respect them!
Offer to Help When You Can
People aren't always the best at asking for what they need. Meet them one step ahead by offering to help when you find you have the resources. The worst that can happen is they politely decline, but appreciate your offer. The best that could happen is that you end up making someone's day by giving them help they really needed. It's a win-win!
Try Not to Gossip
It can be tempting to fall into talking about other people, especially when you discover some juicy secret about their lives. But gossip is never a good idea - it's rude and, more importantly, can really hurt other people. Before you open your mouth, you might want to think through the consequences of gossiping you might not have anticipated.
Learn About Social Issues
You don't live in a vacuum. As much as you might wish it wasn't so, the things happening in society affect you and the people around you. We are all interconnected; what's happening to one group of people inevitably affects another. Expand your capacity for empathy by getting familiar with the adversity and social challenges people might face.
Don't Overbook Yourself
Learning to say no is just as important for other people as it is for taking care of yourself. You might think you can do it all. But things are going to start to fall through the cracks. Do others a service and only bite off as much as you can chew.
Honesty is the best policy. Lying to try and impress other people or stretching the truth for your own benefit is selfish - even if the lie seems innocent. You don't actually know the consequences of dishonesty until they happen. Plus, authenticity is important for your character. If someone discovers that you can't be trusted, it puts your relationships at risk.
See the Good in Other People
Not every person you meet is going to be your favorite person - and even your favorite people are going to have their flaws. Cultivate a more positive outlook by choosing to focus on the good qualities in others, rather than on where they fall short of your expectations. Almost everyone brings something great to the table.
Give More Compliments
Start sprinkling little compliments - genuine ones - throughout your day. Focus these compliments on the things you truly value about a person: their sense of humor, their talents, or their passions. These compliments are harder to give, but they mean a whole lot more than compliments focused on appearance ever could. The energy you give out into the world comes right back at you. You might find that spreading the positive vibes ends up making you feel more confident, too!
Discover Your Biases
Everyone has stereotypes and preconceptions about other people hidden in their brains - it's not your fault that they're there, but it is your responsibility to uncover them. Notice when you assume something about another person based on their appearance or background. Then, do the work to unlearn these biases one by one.
Complain Less Often
Constantly complaining doesn't do anyone any good - all it does is drain your energy and the energy of those around you. Instead of complaining when something isn't going right, suggest a change that might make things better. Add to the situation, don't detract from it.
Say 'Excuse Me'
Listen: We hate slow walkers, people who stand in front of the train doors, and oblivious people who pause at the top of a staircase as much as you do. But instead of barreling past people and slamming your elbows in to their sides, use this phrase. Who even knows?! You may wake these sleepy people up to their own impolite behavior.
Introduce Yourself to New People
See someone hanging out alone at a social event or looking worried at a train stop? Approach them and say hello! You might be able to help them if they're in a bind. And who knows? Maybe you'll make a new friend.
Ask What You Can Do for Others
Rather than thinking of what other people can do for you, ask what other people could use your help with. What goes around comes around! You could just perform an act of kindness without asking. But this way, you know you're doing something really beneficial and not spending time that could be better used elsewhere.
Be a Better Listener
Let your friends know you're listening. When someone confides in you, make a point to practice empathy rather than making it about you. A simple hug and an "I understand" goes a long way! Sometimes, silence and acceptance can mean more than even the most well-meaning advice.
Introduce Friends to One Another
Why not share the love? Connect people, make plans, and host events. A little human connection can turn even the worst of days into a better one.
Learn When to Apologize
An apology isn't always necessary - and oftentimes, people apologize way too much. If you spoke a little louder than expected or just took up space on the subway, saying sorry is uncalled for. But if you did really wrong someone, or inadvertently cause someone pain, a sincere apology is worth it. The best apologies aren't clouded in excuses or hoping for something in return. Leave it up to the person receiving the apology whether or not they choose to forgive.
Before using someone's hand sanitizer or giving a surprise hug, check in and ask if you can invade their space. Don't assume! You know what they say about what happens when you assume...
There are two simple phrases everyone needs to say in order to be the most basic polite person. This is one of them. Whenever you ask for something, tag on a "please." You'll find you get what you want just a little bit quicker.
Give People Advance Notice
It's OK to ask people for things. Just make sure you respect their time as much as you can. Give people advance notice when you need their help. And conversely, if someone expects you to show up, be considerate and let them know if your plans change.
Make a Point to Talk More in Person
Conversation has really taken a hit this generation. Sure, a text or a phone call is great, but nothing compares to a good, old-fashioned in-person chat. There's something about looking someone in the eye and being physically in his or her presence that ends up in a far more genuine connection. So use your phone, go ahead and text - but use it to make in-person plans, too. Those mean a lot more.
Remember People's Names
And remember other details about people, too! It shows that you care, and helps you to be there for people when possible. Did someone mention they had a stressful event tomorrow? Remember so you can send them a "good luck" text.
Respect Others' Opinions
You need to be considerate and kind to others, and that means respecting their differences and opinions. You may disagree or dislike something someone does - and you're allowed to! You don't have to like everyone. But you need to at least have some compassion for them and try to understand where they are coming from. It's just the nice thing to do.
Be Less Judgmental
"Oh, she did not just rush past me without saying hi." "Can you believe he's wearing that?" Whatever the judgment, keep it to yourself. You have no idea who that person is or where they're coming from. Maybe she had a really difficult day and can't handle a conversation right now. Maybe he isn't getting enough sleep and had other priorities than his clothes this morning. You don't have to agree with everything anyone ever does or says. But judging people never did anyone any good.
Give Second Chances
Nobody's perfect. We're not saying that you need to go on a second date with a major jerk or phone up that co-worker you never got along with on the weekends, but it's never an awful idea to dole out a second chance. If someone comes across as a major grump, they could just be having a bad day. You don't know until you try again.
Agree to Disagree
This is another way of saying "pick your battles." In life, you're going to have to work with people who have different beliefs than you do. You're going to have to work with people who disagree with your methodology. But you can't try to pummel people into seeing everything your way. You'd be arguing constantly. Instead, learn when to take a step back (and a deep breath) and agree to disagree. That way, you can both move on.
Smile More Often
Not only are smiles actually contagious, but they have a number of physical health benefits. It can lift your mood, prevent depression, and banish stress all at once. By helping others, you're also helping yourself!
Be Kind to Yourself
True kindness starts from within. There's the age-old saying, "Treat others how you want to be treated." But this saying can just as easily be reversed. Treat yourself how you would treat another person. Would you berate, fail to forgive, and pick apart the flaws in someone you care about? Why do we do these things to ourselves? The more positivity you foster in your relationship with yourself, the better you'll be able to spread the same positive energy to others.
Admit When You're Wrong
Being stubborn isn't cute. It's annoying, and sometimes, it's abrasive. When corrected, learn to accept that you were wrong with grace - and a little humor, if you like. Spare others from the frustration and set a good example that it's OK not to always be right.
Be More Observant
A bystander can only intervene to help if they are aware something's going on. Pay attention to your surroundings and to other people. You'll be better able to figure out where you're needed and what you can do to lift others up.
Get Rid of Generalizations
The human brain likes to generalize and group things - and people. But people are really unique, and shoving people into boxes can create stereotypes and do harm. Seeing everyone as an individual increases compassion.
Celebrate Others' Successes
When other people succeed, people have a natural tendency to want to put them down or compete, as if there's only one seat at the winners' table. But that's not how everything works. You won't climb any higher trying to claw at someone else's heels. Different people were meant to succeed in different ways. Learn to cheer other people on instead. You can climb even higher together!
Walk in Someone Else's Shoes
This is a good perspective shift to catch yourself before judging someone. Think about what it would be like to be that person, even if only for a day. Flex that compassion muscle a little bit.
Give Regardless of How Much You Get
Trust that the universe will work out the rest. The reward of giving - whether it's giving time, money, or a gift - is in the action itself. It feels great to put others before yourself. Keeping a running tab on what you owe will only breed resentment and bitterness, rather than joy.
Make Everyone Feel Included
Don't let your actions make anyone feel left out. If you're inviting most people, invite everyone. If you're chatting with a group in the break room and one person is off to the side alone, usher them to join the conversation. You have little to nothing to lose, and you're making that other person feel a whole lot better.
Stand Up for Other People
Do you see someone getting bullied or pushed around? Is someone being treated unfairly? Say something! Step in the way you'd want someone to step in and stick up for you.
Criticize Constructively (or Not at All)
What's the point in criticizing someone if not to be constructive? If your comments are stated tactfully and have a constructive purpose, then by all means make your suggestions known. If no one ever received constructive criticism, things would take a lot longer to improve. But if you are just saying something negative for the sake of it, you might want to hold back. That negativity is going nowhere good.
Learn to Accept Criticism
Conversely, you also want to learn to accept constructive criticism when it's given. The person delivering the criticism probably has your - and other people's - best interests in mind. Accept constructive criticism with grace.
Give Credit Where Credit Is Due
If someone took on more responsibility but didn't get acknowledged, make time to acknowledge them. Shout out your underappreciated colleague at the office. Give a toast to thank people who helped you plan an event. Public acknowledgement means a lot to those who receive it, and it's often those who work the hardest who get overlooked.
Only show physical affection when it's appropriate. Remember the tip about asking permission? But hugs, kisses and even pats on the shoulder are impactful ways to show someone that you care. Affection can release oxytocin, which in turn reduces stress for both people and improves overall mood.
Change is inevitable. Being resistant to positive change will only make you frustrated and can hold others back. Be open-minded to new people, new experiences, and other things that defy your expectations. If you're having trouble dispelling the anxiety that comes with change, don't be too hard on yourself. Just try a mindfulness trick or two - a few minutes are all you need to start to feel better.