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15 Things You Can Do to Be a Better Person

15 Things You Can Do to Be a Better Person

We’re all on a journey of growth, change and evolution, and hopefully most of us are trying to make a conscious effort to be better human beings. I’m not talking about being better at math, or improving running speed, but being more aware, compassionate, kind, noble, and honourable. None of us are perfect, but by engaging in some of the examples listed below, maybe we can leave this world a little brighter than how we found it.

Kindness

    Photo: Jesper Sachmann, via Flickr

    Let Go

    Learn to let go of pain, anger, bitterness, resentment, and all the other destructive emotions that tear us apart. All we ever have is this present moment; this breath, this heartbeat, this opportunity for growth and presence. This is a moment we’ll never get back again, and if we consider the fact that we have no idea how long we’ll live, do we want to waste precious moments roiling with emotions that don’t do any good for anyone? What’s passed is past, and tomorrow doesn’t exist. Be present, and do not hold on to negativity.

    Consider the Consequences of Every Action

    Being conscientious is extremely important, as every action causes ripples that extend far beyond what can immediately be seen. For example: if you throw a piece of litter on the ground, not only does that pollute the environment, but if there are any children around to see you do so, they might think that such behaviour is acceptable, and then they’ll do the same, and so on.

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    Be Willing to Admit Ignorance, So You Can Learn

    Very few people seem to be comfortable with admitting that they don’t know something. Maybe they feel that admitting ignorance about a subject will make them seem stupid, so they’ll feign knowledge and attempt to go with the flow in any given situation. This is highly detrimental on many counts, from a person being seen as an insufferable know-it-all, to projects going awry because an employee claimed to know something they didn’t.

    If you don’t know something, admit to your lack of knowledge, and then immerse yourself in the subject so that you familiarize yourself with it. The universe is full of things that we don’t know, but the only way to grow and change is to open ourselves to opportunities to learn… and those won’t come about if we don’t leave space for them by saying “I know” to everything.

    Try to Be Less Judgemental

    This is something we’re all guilty of on occasion, but we can be conscious of this behaviour and try to lessen it over time. Each and every one of us is on a difficult journey, and we have absolutely no right to judge another’s life choices, especially since we may not have any idea what their lives have been like. Remember that none of us are any greater or lesser than any other, so approach all with an open mind and open heart, as equal travellers on life’s road.

    Consider Another’s Point of View

    When faced with a viewpoint that differs from theirs, many people get defensive, and lash out. I’m sure we’ve all seen comment discussions on Facebook or other webpages that began with a simple difference of opinion, but then dissolved into name-calling, insults, and other abusive language. What’s the point of that, really? If someone’s opinion differs from yours, try to understand their point of view—you don’t have to agree with them, but that doesn’t mean that they should be insulted or made fun of for thinking differently.

    Be Generous with Compliments

    We will all go through difficult times, including periods in which we might not feel great about ourselves. Relationships can fall apart, jobs can be lost, school subjects can be failed, and emotional upheaval generally accompanies each of these experiences. Do you remember what it felt like the last time someone told you something wonderful that they thought about you? Imagine what others will experience when you say something lovely to them out of the blue.

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    You don’t necessarily have to approach a stranger to tell them that you like their hair/clothes/etc. (although you can absolutely do this as long as you’re not creepy about it), but you can even send someone a quick text or email to tell them something great. A simple line such as: “I was thinking about you today, and wanted to let you know how grateful I am to have someone as amazing as you in my life” can change the entire course of someone’s day, and you can rest assured that they’ll pay that beauty forward.

    Cultivate Empathy and Compassion

    We won’t always understand what another is going through via firsthand experience, but we can try to put ourselves in their shoes in order to have a bit more patience and compassion for them. Let’s say that you’ve been frustrated with someone because they’ve been complaining about their kids non-stop for weeks, and you just wish they’d shut the hell up for a change. Rather than focusing on your own irritation at their sprog-talk, think about where they’re coming from. They may not have slept properly for weeks, or may be incredibly worn out dealing with an autistic or special-needs child. Are they getting the help they need? Is this person in despair? Are they reaching out for any measure of comfort?

    We’re often so blinded by our own emotions and responses to situations that we don’t consider the bigger picture, but taking a step back and analysing the situation can shed a lot of light, and help us change our thoughts and actions accordingly.

    Study History, Even if it’s Uncomfortable to Do

    Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, which is why it’s so vital to really be aware of what has happened in the past; so we’re well aware of what brought us to where we are now, and how we can avoid their recurrence in the future. If you’re unfamiliar with the African slave trade, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, Cambodia’s killing fields, the Cathar Heresy, Pinochet’s regime, the Trail of Tears, and countless other atrocities that most people don’t even want to think about, let alone remember, it’s a good idea to delve into them. It’ll hurt like hell to do so, but it’s incredibly important to know about such topics so we can ensure that they never happen again.

    Spend Time in Nature

    The Senegalese ecologist Baba Dioum once said: “In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” He was quite right, wasn’t he? If people are only exposed to material wealth, that’s what they will cherish and place priority upon. By spending time in nature, we can learn to appreciate all the beauty that the natural world provides.

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    Spending time in the forest can also have a marked effect on our well being: in Japan, “forest therapy” is becoming more popular, as the natural environment can lower blood pressure and stress in those who spend at least 20 minutes immersed in a wooded environment.

    Baby Sparrow

      Photo: the author

      Help Those Who Cannot Help Themselves

      Take in abandoned kittens to foster, or help to rehabilitate an injured bird. Stop in at a retirement home, hospice, or children’s hospital a couple of times per month to assist in volunteer programs. There are so many beings out there (both human and non) who could use a helping hand, and making a connection with a being who is vulnerable and in need of our help, is a life-changing experience. You cannot help but discover vital aspects about your self and your place in the world when you care for another.

      Get to Know Different People

      In many cities around the world, libraries participate in a “human library” project: folks from all backgrounds and walks of life volunteer a few hours of their time, and you can take the opportunity to sit down and chat with them for a little while. You may have never had the chance to chat with a Buddhist monk, a lesbian single mother, a Wiccan priestess, a police officer, an Imam from your local mosque, an ex gang member, or a person who has been disfigured in a fire or accident, but by sitting down and chatting with them (especially in an environment where no question is considered “stupid”), you can have the opportunity to connect on a very human level and move past any preconceptions or prejudices.

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      If your city doesn’t have one of these libraries, consider taking the time to seek out those whom you have always been curious about—you may discover that they are far more open to chatting with you than you’d expected. We all like to be understood and respected for who we are, and open dialogues are so conducive to greater compassion and acceptance of differences.

      Along that very line…

      Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

      This could mean immersing yourself in subject matter that you’re unfamiliar with (or even vaguely uncomfortable with) as a means to understand others more, going to a festival centred around a culture other than your own, attending religious services for a faith other than yours, or even just trying a new food. Every experience helps us grow as individuals, and even if you find that whatever you tried isn’t to your taste, at least your opinion stems from a place of awareness and experience, rather than just aversion and preconception.

      Speak Gently

      That seems like a simple concept, but it can be fairly difficult in practice. There’s a song by The Smiths that contains the lyrics: “It’s so easy to laugh. It’s so easy to hate. It takes strength to be gentle and kind”, and those are quite apt, aren’t they? Most of us are quite harried and stressed out, and it’s easy to overlook social niceties like thanking fast food workers, or excusing yourself if you bump into someone. Remember that people will always remember how you treated them, even if it’s just a couple of words tossed in their direction, so make them count.

      Practice Random Acts of Kindness

      This goes along with the previous recommendation, and can also make a monumental impact on more people than you can imagine. Paying for someone else’s coffee, offering your seat on the subway to an elderly passenger, or even just putting a bowl of water outside your workplace for dogs to drink from are just a few examples of little acts that can mean a great deal to others.

      Appreciate Beauty, and Share It When You Can

      There is an abundance of beauty around us at all times, if we but take a moment to really notice and appreciate it. Music, art, literature, nature, a partner’s smile, an animal’s friendship—these are all gorgeous, beautiful gifts that make life worth living. Appreciate them, be creative in your own way so you can bring even more beauty into the world, and share bits of joy as you come across them; you might just change another person’s life by doing so.

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      Catherine Winter

      Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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      Published on April 7, 2021

      6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

      6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

      Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

      While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

      1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

      Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

      If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

      In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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      2. They Make Everything Transactional

      Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

      For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

      Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

      A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

      Some statements to be wary of include:

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      • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
      • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
      • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
      • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

      3. They Criticize Everything

      One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

      However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

      Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

      • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
      • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
      • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
      • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

      4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

      We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

      For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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      This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

      5. They Socially Isolate You

      Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

      Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

      This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

      In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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      6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

      It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

      Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

      Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

      • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
      • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
      • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
      • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

      Final Thoughts

      It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

      More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

      Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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