18 Undeniable Traits Of A Good Person

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How can you tell if someone is a good person? The concept of a "good person" exists in every culture, all over the world, according to the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, but there is no single definition of what makes someone a good person (via ResearchGate). Each culture has its own set of characteristics that they associate with being "good" based on what personality traits, morals, and beliefs are valued in that culture. In cultures where people are expected to adhere to societal traditions, having respect for traditions is a trait commonly attributed to good people whereas a culture that doesn't emphasize traditions may not consider this a trait of a good person at all.


However, cross-cultural research has shown that there are several personality traits that are globally associated with good people. So, if you want to know if someone is really a good person, be on the lookout for these 18 personality traits.

They're kind

One of the traits most commonly associated with good people is kindness. A study published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology found that kindness was consistently identified as one of the most important traits of a good person by people from multiple cultures, locations, and religious backgrounds (via ResearchGate).


According to Inspire Kindness, being kind means different things to different people, and kind people demonstrate their kindness in different ways. One person may demonstrate kindness by getting someone close to them a special gift, while another person may demonstrate kindness with words by giving genuine compliments or affirmations. Recognizing the emotions and needs of other people, holding space for those emotions, and meeting those needs is at the core of kindness.

Dr. Marcia Sirota, a trauma and addiction expert, wrote in HuffPost that kindness is different from just being nice. She said kindness comes from a confident, self-assured person who's truly interested in other people without ulterior motives. In contrast, being nice is often done from an inauthentic space and is often driven by insecurity. Good people demonstrate kindness in their words and their actions simply because they want others to feel good.


They're honest

One of the first lessons we learn as kids is that honesty is the best policy. But what does it mean to really be an honest person? Christian B Miller, a philosophy professor who's extensively studied people's behaviors around honesty, writes in Psyche that being a truly honest person goes beyond just not telling lies. Truly honest people tell the truth for the right reasons in any given situation. They don't just practice honesty when it's convenient or because they're afraid of getting caught. They're honest because it's one of their core values.


Ilene V. Fishman, a therapist and founding member of the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), is one of those people who believe that being honest is always the right answer, even when it's uncomfortable. But she also understands how difficult it can be to be truly honest. Fishman told Repeller that "honesty is an art," and for telling the truth to be effective, it must be told with kindness and love at a time when it can be really heard.

People who truly earn the label of "good" have mastered this art of honesty. They don't lie because they're committed to truth-telling as a way of life. But they also don't just drop harsh truths on people whenever they feel like it. They choose their moment and their words with expert precision because they're telling the truth to help you, not hurt you.


They're generous

When you give someone your time, energy, resources, or a gift to make them happy, that's generosity. According to WebMD, research has shown that humans are hardwired for generosity. In an article for Psychology Today, Tchiki Davis of the Berkley Well-Being Institute explained that this is because selflessly giving to others activates the parts of our brains that make us feel good, as well as the parts of our brains that are wired to foster social relationships.


However, the more logical parts of our brains often get in the way of our natural generosity. We think about how we need our time, energy, and resources for ourselves, so we decide not to freely give to others. Good people are the ones who decide to give their time, energy, and resources to other people in spite of the excuses their brains make. They know that regardless of how little they may have to give or how their giving is received by others, they always have something to give and they'll always be happier simply from the act of giving something to someone else.

They're altruistic

Being altruistic is like the next level of generosity. While generosity benefits both parties, the giver and the receiver, Erica Gordon of CircleDNA Magazine explains that altruism is when people give to others even though the act of giving requires a personal sacrifice. That personal sacrifice might be your time, physical energy, emotional energy, or actual money. Regardless, you are sacrificing something of yours to benefit another person without expecting anything in return. Altruism is about truly putting the needs of others above your own.


PsychCentral points out that being altruistic can look a lot of different ways. Perhaps you decide to pick up trash at your local park or volunteer for a local non-profit. Or maybe you take on the monumental task of being a caregiver for a sick or elderly relative. But altruism can also be as simple as helping someone carry groceries to their car or paying it forward at a local coffee shop.

Altruistic people are the ones who go a step beyond to help their fellow humans just because they know it's the right thing to do, which definitely puts them in the good people category.

They're tolerant of different perspectives and beliefs

Tolerance has been at the heart of functioning societies for centuries, according to an article in Scientific American. Tolerance is just as important in our personal relationships. Unless we put a lot of effort into avoiding people who disagree with our beliefs and values, we're going to meet a lot of people who believe and value different things. To avoid being in constant conflict with others, it's crucial to practice tolerance.


Good people don't just practice tolerance to avoid conflict, though. Good people practice tolerance because they truly believe that all people have a right to believe whatever they want to believe. Good people also understand that tolerance does not mean that they endorse beliefs or values they disagree with. It just means they radically accept that people believe different things than them. And good people understand that tolerance doesn't mean tolerating hate.

Karl Raimund Popper, the author of "The Open Society and Its Enemies," famously wrote, "If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them." So, good people tolerate the beliefs of others as long as those beliefs aren't intolerant, and good people stand up against intolerance to preserve tolerance.


They're respectful of others

Every culture has a set of rules about how you're supposed to treat people. Each person also has their own rules about how they want to be treated based on their beliefs and values. According to CogniFit, respecting someone means treating them in ways that align with their cultural rules, your cultural rules, and their individual rules.


Like tolerance, respect is at the core of interpersonal relationships. When people are treated with respect, they feel safe expressing themselves to others. When they aren't respected, this sense of safety is broken. They're likely to return the disrespect as a defense mechanism, which can lead to conflict.

Good people go out of their way to be respectful of others. They follow the rules of their own culture, go out of their way to learn the rules of other people's cultures so they can follow them, and they take the time to ask people in their lives how they want to be treated. Then they follow all those rules in their interactions with others.

Motivation matters to good people as well. They aren't respectful just because it makes them look good to others. They're respectful because they want people to feel safe, comfortable, and happy.


They're polite

Politeness goes a step beyond respect. A person can be tolerant and respectful of someone without truly being polite. As an article in The Atlantic points out, though some demonstrations of politeness like "please" and "thank you" are constant, other behaviors that define politeness are constantly in flux, determined by the current situation of any given place, society, or culture. What's polite in one place is insulting in another, and behaviors that used to be polite — like handshakes — abruptly became impolite when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. So, being polite requires up-to-date knowledge of the rituals that define politeness wherever you are and wherever the person you're interacting with is from.


It's a lot to keep track of, for sure. But good people go out of their way to keep track of those details, and they make a concerted effort to learn when they're interacting with someone from a place, society, or culture different than theirs. Even when they don't know all the rules, good people are the ones who follow the basic rules of politeness all the time, regardless of the circumstances. Good people never skip their "pleases" and "thank yous," and they always let kindness, respect, and tolerance guide their actions. And when they don't know how they should behave, they just ask!

They're fair

In his book "Virtuous Minds," social sciences expert Phillip Dow writes that being fair is not simply treating all people the same way regardless of the context. He asserts that truly being fair is actually being committed to a search for the truth. When a person is being fair, they listen to all parties involved, without judgment, and don't allow their personal opinions or beliefs to get in the way of their search for the truth.


However, Dow also acknowledges that objective truth is often difficult, if not impossible, to find. When objective truth is not available, a truly fair person is the one who sets aside everything they think they know so they can engage in careful, active listening to both sides of the argument. They then evaluate the arguments for themselves to form their own opinions.

The experts at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics state that the ability to evaluate situations with fairness is at the foundation of every free society, though each society has its own ideas about what's fair and what isn't. So, determining what's fair or unfair has a lot to do with the ethics of a given society.

Good people practice fairness by always being willing to listen, by approaching people with curiosity and a willingness to learn, and by withholding judgment until they've evaluated all the information. They then use their ethics, morals, and beliefs to decide what they believe is right.


They're humble

Many people equate humility with being docile, yielding, and undervaluing themselves. But according to PositivePsychology.com, being humble isn't about being an agreeable pushover who never celebrates their wins. Humility is really about having an accurate view of yourself and your place in the larger world and universe.


Humble people understand that they're a small part of a vast universe, but they don't feel small because of that knowledge. They simply understand that they're part of a much larger system, not the center of that system. People who practice humility don't take their failings too seriously. While they do celebrate their accomplishments, they focus more on celebrating the accomplishments of others because they understand that their accomplishments are no bigger or smaller than anyone else's.

Humble people also embrace their humanness and the humanness of others, according to The Greater Good Science Center. They know that all humans make mistakes, so they don't beat themselves up for their mistakes and they forgive the mistakes of others. They see every mistake as an opportunity to learn and become a better person.


Good people embrace humility because they're dedicated to learning, growing, and continual improvement. They're also dedicated to the happiness and growth of others, which requires enough humility to know that they don't know what's best for anyone and that everyone has their own path.

They're a good listener

Being a good listener is a lot more than just hearing what someone has to say. According to the Interpersonal Communication Textbook, listening is a skill that has to be learned and practiced, and it's an essential part of being a good friend, family member, partner, parent, employee, and employer.


What makes someone a good listener? According to The New York Times, good listeners devote their full attention to the person talking, approach each conversation without ulterior motives or assumptions, treat each conversation as a learning opportunity, and demonstrate that they're listening by nodding, changing their facial expressions, or responding appropriately.

Good people are so good because of their excellent listening skills. Good people approach every conversation with clear heads, curiosity, and attention, and their only motivation is to be present and helpful. They pay attention to the details, ask clarifying questions, and offer their feedback but don't insist on giving it. Good people allow people to be completely heard and seen, which is invaluable.


They're reliable

When you think about a good friend, you probably think of someone who keeps their commitments, makes their actions match their words, and shows up when you need them. In a word, they're reliable.

Devin Gleeson, a life coach who helps people stick to their long-term goals, says many of us aren't naturally reliable (via Better Humans). We make excuses to cancel plans, walk back commitments, and not follow through on things we say we're going to do. We're not bad people for being unreliable. Life is just busy, many of us are bad at prioritization, and we never learned to be particularly reliable, or more accurately, we never learned to be reliable in some sectors of our lives. Maybe we're extremely reliable at work, but not super reliable as a friend. Or maybe the opposite is true. Either way, most of us are unreliable somewhere in our lives.


That's what separates the truly good people from the rest of us. They're reliable no matter what. In an article for The Good Men Project, relationship writer Margaret Pan asserts that one reason good people are so reliable is that they're so in tune with themselves. They know how to be honest with themselves and others about their needs, time, and capacity, so they don't make commitments they can't keep. They also treat their words as a commitment, so they think hard before they speak and don't say anything they don't mean or can't follow through on.

They're self-aware

Self-awareness isn't an easy practice. Meredith Betz, an executive coach and writer for BetterUp, says that being self-aware requires a person to look at the things they think, the actions they take, and the things they say from an objective perspective, without letting emotions cloud their judgment.


Of course, this is a lot harder than it sounds. Everybody filters their thoughts, actions, and words through their own lens, which is created by their life experiences and feelings. Stepping back from this lens and examining our inner and outer lives as a neutral observer requires a lot of discipline, honesty, and resilience, especially because we might not like what we see. However, self-awareness is crucial for personal growth.

Dr. Tasha Eurich, an organizational psychologist and researcher, conducted a study to find out how many people really practice honest self-awareness, and in an article for Harvard Business Review, she revealed that only 10-15% of the study participants were capable of truly practicing self-awareness. That 10-15% are the ones we call good people, and they're able to be good people because of their ability to practice honest self-awareness. They regularly reflect on their thoughts, actions, and words, do an honest assessment, and when they find things they could be doing better, they take action.


They take accountability

Truly good people don't stop at self-awareness though. They take it one step further and take accountability. According to MasterClass, taking accountability looks like identifying, acknowledging, and owning how your thoughts, words, and actions impact other people. People who honestly practice accountability are also capable of putting aside their pride and ego to acknowledge when they've caused harm. Then, they don't just apologize; they do the hard work to change so they don't continue to cause harm.


As OneLove points out, being accountable means not blaming others for what we say or how we act, regardless of how they're behaving. It's so tempting to say "You made me..." but this isn't really true. We can control our own behavior as well as our reactions to other people's behaviors, even when it feels like we don't have any control.

Good people understand this, so when they behave poorly, they don't blame others. They admit they were wrong, ask for forgiveness, and change their behavior in the future. Good people also take the time to regularly assess how they're thinking, speaking, and acting in relationships with others so they can identify patterns they'd like to change. And when they find them, they do the work.


They're empathetic

Though we often think of empathy as simply feeling what other people feel, PsychCentral explains that empathy actually involves three different emotional and cognitive processes. Cognitive empathy allows us to identify the emotions other people are experiencing. Emotional empathy is what we commonly think of as empathy — feeling what another person is feeling. Compassionate empathy is the skill that combines emotional and cognitive empathy to give us the ability to identify what another person is feeling, experience that feeling ourselves, and intuit how we can provide support.


Empathy is at the core of personal relationships. To connect deeply with someone, we must be more empathetic toward them. However, empathy can be an example of too much of a good thing. According to Greater Good Magazine, some people feel distressed when they experience empathy and get stuck in the same difficult feelings the other person is having. This can lead to emotional burnout. Others practice empathy concern. Instead of getting stuck in empathy distress, where their own feelings are impacted by the other person's feelings, good people become concerned about the other person and go directly into support mode.

Good people are skilled at identifying the feelings of others, using their own emotional intelligence to form a deep understanding of how that person is feeling, and practicing empathy concern instead of empathy distress. That's what makes good people so awesome at supporting others through difficult situations.


They practice self-restraint

Sometime during the toddler years, we all learn that hitting, throwing things, and screaming aren't appropriate ways to express our emotions. BetterHelp explains that the repeated boundaries set by our parents and caregivers during tantrums are our first lessons in self-restraint.


While some people learn emotional self-restraint fairly well during childhood, others don't. They weren't taught effective methods of self-soothing to control their emotions and they weren't taught appropriate alternatives to throwing the adult equivalent of tantrums. According to Susan Simpson, an experienced career coach, adults who never learned emotional self-restraint have trouble controlling their words and actions when they get emotional and often relate with others in an aggressive manner (via Pairin).

On the other hand are people who did learn how to practice self-restraint when they were young. Of course, they get angry, frustrated, sad, and stressed just like the rest of us. But when they do, they don't lash out.


Good people tend to sit toward the higher side of the self-restraint spectrum. They know that an outburst won't get them anywhere, and instead opt for calm, diplomatic conversations. And they rarely say things they'll later regret because they understand the consequences of harsh, rashly-spoken words.

They're patient

Patience is one of the reasons good people are able to practice self-restraint so well. Maggie Wooll, researcher and managing editor of BetterUp Blog, describes patience as the "ability to wait without becoming annoyed, upset, or angry."


When you feel that anger, annoyance, or frustration building up in your body, when your jaw starts to clench or your face starts to turn red, self-restraint is what keeps you from exploding at someone, while patience is what allows you to tolerate that feeling, take a step back, and calm down. Patience is also what gives you a higher tolerance for difficult feelings. Things that would drive someone else to a screaming fit bother a patient person much less. Dr. Thomas Barbian, a marriage and family counselor, wrote in Columbia Metropolitan that people who continually practice the skill of patience find that they are better able to deal with the annoying, frustrating things that happen every day.


Good people practice patience frequently. They slow down, take the time to think about the situation and what they might want to do or say, and make deliberate choices about their words and actions. Because of this, they're able to deal with a lot more, making them great people to have around during a difficult time or when interacting with a challenging person.

They stand up for others

When good people see something they don't think is right, they're the ones who intervene. According to Quartz, while most of us would probably intervene if someone was messing with a family member or a friend, good people intervene because they generally care for others, whether they know them or not. 


Learning for Justice, a publication of the Southern Poverty Law Center that teaches people how to practice justice in their everyday lives, explains that standing up for others is based on a fundamental belief that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and kindness. Good people speak up every time someone makes a racist joke, every time someone makes an ableist comment, and every time they see discrimination taking place. Though they may fear retribution, they believe that action is worth the risk and that inaction is a form of harm. Good people take regular actions to fight for the rights of marginalized and less privileged people and create a more equitable world.

They understand the power of words

Behind many of the other traits of good people is a fundamental understanding of the power of words. As scientist and author Dr. Hyder Zahed points out in HuffPost, words can be used to uplift and inspire others or they can be used to slander and tear people down. He adds that good people are the ones who carefully consider what they're going to say in every situation and speak with honesty, humility, and kindness.


Beverly D. Flaxington, an author and professor, wrote in Psychology Today that deliberation is what allows good people to say what they mean and only speak when they mean what they say. They go into important conversations knowing what they want to say, they wait for the appropriate time to have the conversation, and they make themselves clear. Good people also don't fall into the trap of letting their emotions dictate what they'll say. Often, in the heat of the moment, we lose the ability to discern what we really mean and say things we later regret. Of course, good people do this too sometimes; they're only human. But their patience and self-restraint allow them to keep their mouth shut when they're emotional more often than not.