6 Ways to Become a Nicer Person

A front view shot of three beautiful mid-adult women enjoying brunch together in a restaurant, they are sitting around a table and laughing with each other.

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Being nice to others is an important way to spread kindness and positivity. Not only does it benefit others—research suggests that this type of prosocial behavior can also boost your own mental well-being. So, if you want to become a nicer person, there are things that you can do to show compassion, empathy, and kindness in your everyday interactions with others.

Defining Nice

What does it mean to be nice? How do you know if you are a nice person? Some characteristics that are often included in definitions of niceness include:

  • Altruism
  • Empathy
  • Fairness
  • Generosity
  • Helpfulness
  • Honesty
  • Kindness
  • Politeness
  • Responsibility
  • Thoughtfulness

The exact definition of "nice" can vary from one person to the next. The field of personality psychology suggests that there are a few different personality traits associated with this quality. 

Psychologists often describe personality in terms of five broad dimensions. One of these dimensions is known as agreeableness. It encompasses several traits that relate to how you treat others. For example, many of the characteristics associated with niceness, including kindness and empathy, are aspects of agreeableness.

Research also suggests that agreeableness can then be broken down into two main components: compassion and politeness. Both of these traits play a role in what we often think of as “being nice.”

Compassion is a trait that involves understanding and sympathizing with the emotional states of others and feeling moved to help. Politeness involves behaviors that are respectful of others and often motivated by a desire for fairness.

Signs You Are a Nice Person

  • You're kind to others.
  • People seem to enjoy your company.
  • You give people genuine compliments.
  • You feel compassion and empathy for others.
  • You're supportive of other people.
  • You're kind to yourself.
  • You take responsibility for your mistakes.
  • You're honest but respectful.
  • You listen to what other people have to say.

The Benefits of Being Nice

Prosocial behavior
is the term psychologists use to refer to actions concerned with the well-being, safety, and feelings of others. In other words, many "nice" behaviors such as sharing, cooperating, and comforting are all prosocial actions that promote the welfare of other people. 

Such behaviors obviously benefit those we help and foster greater social connectedness. However, research also suggests that being nice to other people can also benefit your own mental health.

Increased Attractiveness as a Potential Partner

Being a nice person can make you more attractive as a partner. In a 2019 study published in the Journal of Personality, participants rated kindness as the single most important characteristic in a life partner. This means people felt it was more important than financial prospects, physical attractiveness, and a sense of humor.

Better Mood

Being nice feels good. Research suggests that engaging in kind and helpful acts can help improve your mood. In one study, researchers found that engaging in kindness activities each day for seven days increased feelings of happiness and well-being.

The study also found that the more kind acts people performed, the happier they reported feeling. It also didn't matter if these acts of kindness were directed toward friends, strangers, or even the self—all had an equally positive impact.

Decreased Stress

Niceness may also play a role in stress relief. Studies also suggest that being nice may also help people cope more effectively with the effects of stress. For example, in one study, researchers found that people who performed acts of kindness reported feeling less stress and negativity.

Increased Kindness

Research has also shown that kindness can be contagious. One study found that cooperative behavior tends to have a cascade effect, spreading up to three degrees of separation from the source.

This means that being nice to others is likely to cause them to be nice to others as well, triggering a wave of kind and cooperative behaviors within social networks.

Things to Consider

While there are clearly several important benefits, being nice can have some downsides at times. This is particularly true if the need to be nice impedes genuine communication and authenticity.

Some potential negative outcomes of suppressing your real feelings include:

  • Emotional outbursts: If you are constantly repressing your true thoughts and emotions just for the sake of presenting a "nice" persona, chances are that those feelings are going to rise to the surface at some point. Pressure may continue to build until some stress sets off a reaction, which might manifest as a sudden outburst of irritability or outright anger. 
  • Feelings of resentment: Hiding your real feelings or denying what you really want because those emotions or desires are not seen as "nice" can ultimately lead to feelings of resentment or bitterness. This can create a backfire effect and negatively affect your relationships with others.
  • Superficial relationships: If you aren’t stating the things you really want in a relationship for the sake of avoiding conflict and being nice, it may mean that you aren’t revealing your authentic self to others. This often results in relationships that lack both depth and emotional intimacy. There may be few arguments and conflicts, but there is also a lack of connection and closeness.

While superficial niceness can be a negative force, that doesn't mean that you shouldn’t strive to be a nice person. The key is to focus on niceness driven by consideration and mindfulness and not by an artificial veneer of politeness that masks your real feelings. 

How to Become a Nicer Person

There are things you can do to live your life with more niceness, kindness, and empathy. Some steps that you can take to help make your everyday interactions with others nicer and more pleasant:

Practice Gratitude

Spend a few minutes each day thinking about something for which you are grateful. You might find it helpful to keep a gratitude journal

Research suggests that gratitude can have many health benefits, including reducing stress and increasing happiness. Focus on positive thoughts can help you develop a more positive attitude and can make it easier to cope with life's daily hassles and difficulties.

Practice Forgiveness

Letting go of past resentments and forgiving others can help you move forward with a more positive attitude. It’s easier to be nice when you feel good about others. Forgiving yourself is also important, so work on letting go of negative experiences from the past that hold you back from cultivating a more positive mindset.

Look for Ways to Be Helpful

Make an effort to find small ways to be helpful in your daily interactions with other people. From smiling at others in the grocery store to helping a co-worker with a project, being helpful can be a great way to practice kindness throughout your day.

Be Polite

Politeness is only one aspect of being nice, but it is an important way to set a positive tone in social interactions. Remember that other people’s behavior does not need to bring yours down. If others are being abrupt or rude, responding with politeness can be a way to change the direction of the interaction.

Think About Others

Empathy and respect are also important components of niceness. During your day, try to see things from the perspective of the other people in your life and think about things that you can do to respect their needs. This might mean helping a family member with chores or helping keep shared workspaces tidy. 

Act With Kindness

In addition to being nicer in general, you can help improve your chances of making this kindness a part of your everyday life by doing more random acts of kindness.

Research suggests that kindness can positively impact your brain, which can help make being kind a self-reinforcing habit. Individual acts of kindness trigger the release of oxytocin and endorphins and appear to foster the creation of new neural connections.

A Word From Verywell

Research suggests that being nice has many benefits, from improving social connectivity to decreasing stress and anxiety. So if you feel like this is something you want to improve on in your life, there are plenty of ways, both large and small, that you can incorporate niceness into your daily life. 

You might start by responding to an email with a thank-you, showing your appreciation for someone in your life, performing an act of kindness, or volunteering for a cause you care about. Being nice also feels good—so making niceness a habit is often its own reward. 

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