How to Be a Nicer Person: 50 Ways to be Kind When You’re Not

November 19, 2021

In today’s world, it’s hard to know how to be nice. The online landscape is rife with trolls and negative comment sections. The offline world is a rat race to fighting to get to the top. It’s easy to fall into the trap of negativity and judgment when it’s all around us. 

A quick scenario to strike home the importance of being kind:

Imagine you were late to work, which put you in a bad mood. You slammed the door on a coworker as you hustled into the office. That coworker became frustrated and yelled at the delivery person for an incorrect package. That delivery person became rude to every-single recipient he encountered that day. Those recipients then went home and were nasty to their partners. 

Why spread negativity when you can spread kindness?

Just like meanness is catching, so too is kindness. The moment you share a smile with a stranger on a bus or help carry heavy grocery bags for a fellow shopper, you instantly made their day better. 

How to be a nice person starts with one single act of kindness but quickly spreads to others. It’s a deliciously good feeling for you and the other person.

20 Ways to Be Nicer to Yourself

Young laughing woman against pink background

The funny thing about learning how to be kind to others is the journey most often starts with yourself. Learning to love yourself allows you the space in your heart to offer that love and acceptance to others.

To get you started on this adventure of kindness, let’s start with you. 

Self-love and inner-pep talks are scientifically proven to improve wellbeing. Athletes use positive self talk to improve motivation and cognition during games. Studies have also found benefits of being kind to oneself among Olympic gymnasts, professional wrestlers, and even among darts players. 

Practicing a little bit of inward kindness is the first step to developing it in your relationships with others. How to be a nice person starts with your number one – you.

1. Stop Blaming Yourself

Do you find yourself in a constant battle against yourself? This inner critic is your biggest enemy in developing self-love. The first step to stopping the self-blame-train is to notice when it happens and what it says. The second is to redirect those self-deprecating thoughts onto positive tracks.

2. Practice Loving-Kindness Meditation

Loving-kindness meditation is a radical act of self-love. While the full scope of this meditation encompasses others, it always starts with the self. Get comfortable, breathe deeply, and repeat the following lines to yourself, “May I be filled with loving-kindness. May I be safe from inner and outer dangers. May I be well in body and mind. May I be at ease and happy.”

3. Abandon Perfection

The quest for perfection has become significantly more challenging with the rise of social media. Scrolling through the images of other people’s lives makes our own feel insignificant. But nobody’s life is perfect. Perfection is a myth, and chasing it will only bring you down. 

4. Forgive Your Past Indiscretions

When you reflect on your actions of the past, does it bring on feelings of shame and guilt? Remember, you have a vast potential for positive inner-growth. While you might not be able to change the past, you can control the way you act in the future. Just as it’s important to forgive others, it’s also important to forgive yourself.

5. Start a Gratitude Journal

The gratitude journal is a daily practice of positive reflection. What did you appreciate today? What went well? What are you grateful for? Gratitude is like a muscle— you strengthen it with practice. 

6. Make Time for You

How to be nicer to yourself starts with spending time with yourself. Quiet time doing yoga, meditating, or even walking the dog helps give you time to think. Spending time with yourself is just as important as spending time with others. It’s healthy to give your mind some downtime to reflect on your inner thoughts.

7. Reflect on Your Personal Story

Speaking of reflection, have you ever thought about your personal story? How have your experiences made you into the remarkable person you are today? Both the ups and downs have contributed to your life story. Each experience and relationship has played an essential role in your development. Shine a light on your past to better understand your present.

8. Take a Social Media Break

Not surprisingly, new studies link social media to a rise in mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Could your social media scrolling be causing some simmering negative talk and feelings of anxiety? Try taking a week off of all social media channels. Reassess how you feel at the end of the week. Maybe it’s time to change.

Young woman using smart phone,Social media concept.

9. Be Present

Take a big deep breath right now. Hold it for several seconds and slowly let it out. See your thoughts enter your mind and allow them to pass without judgment. Often it’s hard to be kind to yourself when you are always worried about the future or ashamed about the past. Allow those worries to come through your mind, but allow them the pass.

10. Treat Yourself with Respect

We often talk about treating others with respect, but it’s also important to treat yourself with respect as well. Respect for self means “Respecting yourself means giving and defining your own worth and value as a human being,” as per Good Choices Good Life. You deserve it just as much as the next person.

11. Start a Daily Self-Care Routine

Instead of waking up after three snooze buttons and rushing out the door, why not schedule 30 minutes of space into your morning for a little self-care? Ask yourself what would make you feel better in the morning and start scheduling it in. It might be a quiet cup of coffee while reading the news or 15 minutes of sun salutations. Self-care is different for everyone, but it’s a useful way to be kinder to yourself.

12. Identify Your Inner Critic

According to Rick Hanson and Forrest Hanson in an article for TED, most people have an influential inner critic. In their words, “the inner critic goes way overboard, throwing dart after dart of scolding, shaming, nit-picking and faultfinding.” It takes a lot of hard work to overcome this inner self-doubt, but the first step is to identify it. When is it most vocal? What does it say to you? These are useful tools you can use to begin to take its power away.

13. Talk to a Professional

With the guidance of a therapist, you can learn how to be kind to yourself. First, they listen with an unbiased ear. Second, they use practiced techniques and approaches which help you build self-kindness. You might even find a therapist pulling from some of the helpful practices mentioned on this list.

14. Repeat Positive Daily Affirmations

There is scientific support for the positive impact of affirmations. According to “The Psychology of Change: Self-Affirmation and Social Psychological Intervention,” a literature review, there are long-lasting benefits from a little positive and repetitive self-talk. As per their analysis, “Timely affirmations have been shown to improve education, health, and relationship outcomes, with benefits that sometimes persist for months and years.”

15. Stop Avoiding Your Feelings

For many people, it’s much easier to avoid feelings than to face them. Does this sound familiar? Instead of reflecting on why you feel self-loathing or shame, do you push those feelings aside and distract yourself? With the help of a therapist, you can learn to face these emotions head-on safely and healthily.

16. Seek Soul Filling Adventure

What lights your soul on fire? Maybe it’s visiting a distant city. Perhaps it’s learning a new skill. Life can get in the way of doing what makes you feel the best, and this can dampen the way you think about yourself. Big or small, plan adventures to ensure your mind and body are getting what they need.

Woman standing near big tropical river

17. Practice Patience With Yourself

Patience is a virtue. We hear that all the time, but when was the last time you were patient with yourself? Learning new skills, accomplishing goals, and inner growth all take time and effort. Be patient with yourself as you move towards these objectives. Few things happen overnight, so it’s important to enjoy the small wins. The journey is just as remarkable as the final result.

18. Accept Imperfections

Accepting your imperfections is a secondary step of abandoning the quest for perfection. No matter what you see online, nobody’s life is perfect. Our flaws are what make us unique and what makes life enjoyable. In the words of Emilio Estevez, “We are all wonderful, beautiful wrecks. That’s what connects us–that we’re all broken, all beautifully imperfect.”

19. Step Away From Negative Influences

Sometimes our inability to be kind to ourselves is influenced by others. If you have negative people in your life that bring you down, it’s time to press pause on that relationship. Surround yourself with supporters and cheerleaders, not critical Debbie downers. 

20. Learn to Self Soothe

In our darkest moments, it can be challenging to find comfort within ourselves. Learning to self-soothe is an incredible tool for overcoming difficult times. Self-soothing may mean mediation, and it may mean turning on a season fo Friends reruns. Again it looks different for everyone. Try making a list of what makes you feel better and use it as a resource when you need it most.

30 Ways to Be a Nicer, Kinder Person

The second stage of this “How to be kind” journey is an outward stage of practice. You’ve worked on building up your confidence, self-love, and respect, now how can you bring those very same practices into your relationships with others? 

1. Look People in the Eye

Looking people in the eye may feel extremely unnatural at first, but give it time. Eye to eye contact strengthens a relationship by the brute force of personal interaction. It’s letting the other person know you are listening and tuned in to the conversation.

2. Offer a Helping Hand

Look around you in a crowded room, who needs your help? When you walk down the street, is there someone you can offer five minutes of your time. Willingly donating five minutes of your life to open a door, find a set of lost keys, or carrying groceries to a car will instantly make someone’s day better.

Senior man with middle aged woman shopping

3. Listen, Listen, Listen

It’s surprising how many of us don’t know how to listen in a conversation. Listening, while seemingly a passive action, is really an active one. Practice active listening in your next conversation by withholding judgment, asking questions, reflecting, and then summarizing what you’ve heard. 

4. Try to Avoid Talking About People

The lessons behind “How to be Nice” to other people start when even those people are there. Gossiping about another person is a negative judgment about their behavior. Disparaging comments will impact your long term opinions about that person. If you catch yourself talking about a friend or family member, immediately try to end the conversation on a positive note.

5, Practice Forgiveness 

There is a reason why many of the world’s great religions were based on forgiveness. It makes the world a better place. Learning to forgive past grievances helps you move forward in your relationships. You can stop feeding all your energy into negative thoughts and feed it into positive, forward-thinking growth.

6. Talk to a Stranger

With everyone glued to their phones, we live in an extremely isolated world these days. Instead of talking to our neighbors on the elevator or fellow commuters on the train, we zone-out on mindless scrolling. Did you know social isolation is statistically more dangerous to someone then smoking and obesity? Today, strike up a conversation with your bus-buddy or your usual barista who always gets the coffee right.

7. Loving Kindness Meditation (Again)

Once again, we find the loving-kindness meditation on our list of “How to be Nice.” In this version, we move the meditation away from ourselves and towards our friends, family, and acquaintances. Repeat: “May they be filled with loving-kindness. May they be safe from inner and outer dangers. May they be well in body and mind. May they be at ease and happy.” Breathe and believe.

8. Tell Someone How Much you Appreciate Them

Don’t hide your appreciation, shout it out! Tell your coworker how much their support means. Send a thank-you note to your mother for that great birthday gift. The best way to show someone you care is by vocalizing it out loud. 

9. Let Someone Bump You In Line

You are standing in line at the grocery store, and the father behind you is shopping with two screaming kids. Sure, it’s annoying, but you know what would make his day better? Getting the groceries over with. Why not let him bump you in line? It will make his life so much easier, and in return, you will likely even feel better yourself.

10. Give People the Benefit of the Doubt

Is your default reaction to something always negative? Why not give someone the benefit of the doubt? Few people in this world have genuinely evil intentions. Someone’s lousy action is likely a simple mistake. Maybe that person is having a truly terrible day. If you take the approach that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, it gives everyone the space to have that bad day. You are empathetic to whatever led them to that moment.

11. Give Without Needing Anything in Return

Sometimes we can get caught up with an expectation of fairness. You only offer a gift, expecting one in return. You take on extra work, hoping your coworker to help you out later. The world typically doesn’t even out in the ways we plan. Why not spread kindness by eliminating the requirement of the favor in return? Give with no expectations.

12. Filter Yourself Before Speaking

How many comment sections could benefit from a filter? Many of those toting nastiness online could benefit from taking a deep breath beforehand. Sometimes a few seconds is all it takes to cool down and truly see what your comments might do to someone else. If you are getting riled up, pause before speaking. Consider where your emotions are coming from before speaking.

13. Remember the Similarities, Not the Differences

Being kind starts with building connections with those around us. Politicians and media outlets increasingly highlight the differences between us, but in reality, there are far more similarities. We are biologically 99.9 percent exactly the same as the person sitting next to us. That’s a scientific fact.

14. Practice the Gold Rule

According to an analysis by Normal Rockwell, many of the world’s great religions live by the gold rule. In Buddhism, it’s “Hurt not others with that which would pain yourself.” In Hinduism, “This is the sum of duty, do naught to others which, if done to yee would cause thee pain.” In Islam, it is the same idea, “No one of you is a believer until he loves of his brother what he loves of himself.” A valuable lesson for learning how to be a nice person.

15. Learn Patience

In an international analysis of patience, the authors describe patience as “the ability to wait calmly in frustrating situations.” When was the last time you were patient with others in a frustrating situation? 

16. Put Yourself in Another’s Shoes

When someone cuts you off in the freeway, don’t flip them off. Put yourself in their shoes. What led them to that moment? Maybe they are going through a divorce, lost a loved one or spilled their hot coffee on their lap. Again, give them the benefit of the doubt. They likely weren’t trying to make you angry.

17. Volunteer Your Time

Keep in mind, learning how to be kind is a muscle that needs strengthening. If you struggle to find time in your day to day to practice kindness, schedule it. Volunteering for a soup kitchen, a community organization, or even a litter clean-up bakes niceness right into your schedule. As you get better at being kind, start introducing it into your daily interactions.

18. Ask before Offering Advice

Even if your heart is in the right place, sometimes unwarranted advice can make a situation worse. When someone opens up to you about a tough time, do they want advice? Sometimes unsolicited advice hurts. Take a step back before doling out your wise thoughts. Are they asking for advice? Have you listened? Do you have the experience to advise on this issue? Are you forcing your opinions on them?

19. Buy a Sandwich for Someone in Need

Every night, 553,742 Americans spend the night homeless. Arguably a single sandwich won’t end the crisis, but it will help someone at thaty moment. It’s another act of random kindness that is a real way to spread kindness to strangers.

20. Spend Time with Family

In a publication from the pages of Innovations in Aging, “For better and for worse, family relationships play a central role in shaping an individual’s wellbeing across the life course.” Whatever your family looks like (chosen, biological, built from the ground up) schedule a little family time. Put your phone away and commit to spending quality time with those who support you the most.

21. Bring a Thoughtful Gift 

According to the world-famous relationship book, “The 5 Languages of Love,” one of these languages is gift-giving. Why not start incorporating some of the lessons from this relationship classic into your non-romantic relationships? Bring a dessert to a dinner party, a box of donuts to work, or loan an entertaining book to a friend. 

22. Pay for Someone’s Coffee 

While standing in line at your local cafe, spread a little kindness to the next person. Ask the cashier to throw an extra coffee on your bill. This little step in your “How to be Nice” journey doesn’t even require you to talk to someone else. Yet it still puts a smile on someone’s face.

23. Always Do the Dishes

Do you know what really makes people happy? Skipping dishes. The next time you visit your parents, do the dishes after dinner. At a housewarming party? Take a stand at the dishes station. People will notice just how nice it is to have someone like you around. Doing someone else’s dishes is so much more satisfactory than doing your own.

24. Make New Friends

Purposefully expand the circle of people you can be nice to. Welcome a new team member into your click, invite one of your coworkers to dinner, and, most importantly, practice all these newfound kindness skills on more people.

25. Loosen Up

If something doesn’t go your way, it’s going to be fine. Your way isn’t the highway, and other people can be in charge. Loosen up, pull your stick out of the mud, and have a little fun when something goes awry. 

How to Be Nice is a Big Journey, But an Enriching One

Your kindness won’t heal the world from all the modern calamities, but it absolutely will make someone’s day better. As per research out of the UK, “being kind to others causes a small but significant improvement in subjective wellbeing.”

Be patient with the journey towards niceness. How to be kind starts with a single step and grows from there. Arguably, it gets easier the more you practice, though. Start the process today, what are you going to do to show someone you care?

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