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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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      Last Updated on January 15, 2019

      How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

      How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

      Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

      In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

      Step right up, don’t be shy!

      Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

      The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

      Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

      Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
      So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

      A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

      Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

      Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

      When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

      Culturally Conditioned

      We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

      I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

      The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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      Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

      Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

      Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

      1. Broadens Your Network

      After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

      2. Improves Your Communication Skills

      I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

      Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

      3. Continually Learning

      So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

      Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

      4. Increases Self Confidence

      Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

      Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

      So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

      How to Talk to Strangers

      Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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      1. Say Hello

      Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

      Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

      Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

      2. Ask About Them

      Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

      You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

      As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

      3. Just Do It

      One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

      When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

      Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

      4. Don’t Take It Personal

      One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

      When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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      5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

      I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

      One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

      6. Detach

      A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

      Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

      7. Share Your Stories

      Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

      To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

      So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

      8. Give a Compliment

      Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

      When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

      9. Relax Your Body Language

      If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

      When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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      If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

      10. Practice, Practice, Practice

      Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

      Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

      After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

      The Bottom Line

      As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

      There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

      Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

      Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

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      Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

      Reference

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