The idea of purposefully trying to be nicer could make some of us cringe, as sometimes we may confuse ‘being nice’ with pretending to be polite or feigning interest for the sake of seeming acceptable. This ‘induced niceness’ may, in fact, get quite burdensome very quickly, as it requires additional effort on one’s behalf to seem something they’re not feeling genuinely.
However, in reality, nicer people are easier to be around, as they’re genuinely interested in what you think and do. Being nice translates into treating others as you may want to be treated, being empathic, anticipating and respecting others’ needs and feelings, and being kind.
While it may be difficult to exactly define ‘niceness’, psychologists rely on the personality traits that we associate with it, like kindness, politeness, empathy, and thoughtfulness, etc. Researchers also point out that the major personality traits associated with ‘agreeableness’ such as kindness, compassion and politeness are also the aspects that we often consider as ‘being nice’.
Being a nicer person entails prosocial behaviors such as extending kindness, sharing our happiness, respecting others’ vantage point on different issues, etc., which promote well-being and boost social connections. However, research suggests that being nice to others can benefit our mental health and boost longevity as well.
Indulging in acts of kindness results in release of happiness hormones such as oxytocin, which can improve heart health, regulate blood pressure and foster a greater sense of inclusion, according to researcher James Doty, M.D. at Stanford University.
How to be nicer: helping with shopping is one easy way
Being nice by way of kindness may also alleviate stress and offer faster relief from pain, as research indicates. Furthermore, niceness can also lower anxiety and boost relationship satisfaction for socially anxious individuals.
Indeed, being nice may not always be the easier choice. However, with mindfulness and dedicated practice, it’s possible to learn how to be a friendlier person. Here are some simple ideas that can help us incorporate niceness into our daily life.
A study by researcher Sarah A. Schnitker suggests that patient people are better friends and neighbours, as they tend to be more impartial, more attentive and have a higher tolerance. Developing mindfulness, or the ability to stay in sync with what is happening in the present moment, can also enable you to reframe a situation, reevaluate your emotions and respond with improved patience, according to research. Practising mindful listening and cultivating patience is therefore one of the surest ways to be a nicer person.
Learning how to be a nicer person may not be the easiest feat, but experts agree that casting judgements aside and learning to transcend our perceived differences through bridging can help us respect other people’s perspectives and acknowledge their viewpoints in a better light.
Engaging in deep listening and positive communication, taking care to avoid social media outrage trap, and a regular meditation practice are some of the research-backed ways to cultivate deep empathy and avoid snap judgments.
Sometimes we shun the opportunity to open up and share our feelings with others, owing to the fear of being judged or compared. Researcher Dr Brené Brown describes this feeling as a vulnerability hangover, wherein one may experience regret or ‘emotional cringe’ upon revealing their feelings or thoughts to others. While vulnerability is mistakenly regarded as a weakness, embracing it as an act of courage and developing shame resilience can help you learn how to be nicer.
“Research suggests that being nice to others can benefit our mental health and boost longevity. Indulging in acts of kindness releases feel-good hormones.”
"Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center of meaningful human experiences," explains Dr Brown. Being vulnerable enables us to develop radical empathy towards ourselves and others, thus opening us up to the possibility of making new friends and forming meaningful connections.
Reaching out and anticipating someone’s needs is an effective way to work towards being a nicer person. This can involve small gestures that do not cost a lot but can brighten someone’s day, like offering somebody your seat, or helping someone carry their groceries. Offering support or solicited advice to someone who may be feeling lost in life, dealing with depression, or struggling with grief or loneliness are some other ways to help out and show your friendly side.
Small gestures like being on time, saying “thank you”, being respectful online, or holding the elevator door open for strangers do not involve a lot of effort, but convey a positive tone and genuine interest on your behalf.
However, take care to avoid the lure of lying to appear polite, as that would be a violation of trust. Instead, strive towards articulating your thoughts and convey your feelings in an open and honest manner, albeit respectfully.
The power of kindness is real, as we seldom forget an act of kindness bestowed on us, even as we may fail to recall other things. Nice people understand the ‘ripple effect’ that kindness creates, wherein the acts of benevolence inspire more people to extend the same kindness to others around them.
You need not go out of your way every time to extend kindness. In fact, one can carry out random acts of kindness like running errands for an elderly neighbor or volunteering for a cause you genuinely care about. Don’t forget to choose kindness every day for yourself as well. After all, you can only truly learn how to be a nicer person through practising self-compassion and self-care.
Helping out elderly neighbours is one way to be nicer
Forgiveness as a character strength can help you be a nicer person, in addition to improving overall well-being, as revealed by researcher Kathi L. Norman. Indeed, our inability to forgive can also result in trust issues and a tendency to self-sabotage relationships. Whether you’ve suffered a minor stumble or a major setback due to someone’s actions, words or thoughts, learning to forgive someone who caused you hurt and replacing these feelings with empathy, compassion and kindness can improve your mental and physical health, in addition to strengthening interpersonal relationships.
“While vulnerability is mistakenly regarded as a weakness, embracing it as an act of courage can help you learn how to be nicer.”
“Harboring unforgiveness breads negative thoughts,” says Catherine Jackson, a licensed clinical psychologist and neurotherapist. “Decide to let it go and make a plan to never go to bed angry,” she continues. Forgiving is a process and may not happen in a day but can surely improve our capacity for love and happiness. Setting your intention for forgiveness with a mantra like “I forgive you and release you” or “I forgive everyone for everything” can help you let go of the hurt amassed over time.
Happiness is contagious, as proven by research. An evaluation study conducted on 4,739 individuals revealed that our happiness is also determined by the happiness levels of others around us. Sharing our happiness can boost our mood and improve morale, in addition to encouraging fulfilling friendships. It is easier to be a nicer person when you have a positive outlook on life and when you understand that happiness is a choice that you can consciously make each day.
Authenticity is a valued trait, especially in the current tech-obsessed era where we’re constantly being overwhelmed with the messages of how we ‘ought to’ appear, behave and live in an ideal manner. Cultivating your authentic self by honoring your core values and making your time matter can help you be a nicer person.
Being authentic also enables us to treat others the way we want to be treated. Also, embracing our true selves allows us to act gracefully even in the face of criticism or adversity, as we realize our worth fully well.
Being a nicer person does not mean encouraging a forcible semblance of it or appearing nice. Niceness also doesn’t require you to tolerate behavior that violates your core values or suppress your true feelings for the sake of seeming kind. On the contrary, people who are genuinely nice enjoy being authentic and showing empathy and compassion towards others.
Genuine niceness nurtures a circular relationship with happiness. Being a nicer person can boost our mood and improve well-being, but research also demonstrates that an upbeat state of mind can further enhance our prosocial behavior and help us be nicer and kinder. Indeed, inculcating niceness as a habit is immensely rewarding. •
Main image: shutterstock/DGLimages
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Altruism | Compassion | Happiness
Fitness and healthy food blogger, food photographer and stylist, travel-addict and future self journaler. Sonia loves to write and has resolved to dedicate her life to revealing how easy and important it is to be happier, stronger and fitter each day. Follow her daily pursuits at FitFoodieDiary or on Instagram.
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