The Common Qualities of Good People

I’ve been blessed with the opportunities to meet many people in my short time in life. Strangers on the bus, parents of friends, CEOs and cashiers. I’ve met terrible people who have wanted nothing short of harming others, and I’ve met people who have travelled cities to help a stranger.

There are common qualities in good people in life: the supportive, encouraging, and inspiring figures that change lives and make the world a better place. Their existence is often subtle: while some enjoy the spotlight (don’t we all from time to time), they exist in the places we rarely get to see them: amongst the crowd, or in the comforts of their own homes. We know they exist: because we’ve crossed paths with them before. In line at a grocery store, in a classroom, or sitting next to us on a plane.

These people aren’t born. They are made. By their own hand and their response to their experiences in life. Here are some of the common themes I, and others, have seen in this rare breed of a human being.

  • They challenge us. They ask us why we do what we do, and why we think the way we think. They do not belittle us, but challenge our ideas to ensure what we’ve decided to do is what is best.
  • They lead by example. They set an example of behaviour by acting in ways that they believe is good and right: be it staying calm in the face of hostility, extending their hand to help others, or remembering to smile, (especially during the tough times).
  • They’re introspective: they reflect on their actions and hold themselves to a higher standard, always noting how they can improve, and how easy it is to slip.
  • They set boundaries: good people are often tolerant, but don’t hesitate to address poor and damaging behaviour in others: when someone is doing something bad, or mistreating others.
  • They’re encouraging: They remind us that we can still pick up the guitar and learn music, go travelling, volunteer at the local animal shelter, and do the things we always say we want to do.
  • They look for the good in the bad: they don’t disregard the reality of what is in front of them, but they always look to see what can be done, and what is beneficial for our wellbeing to focus on.
  • They teach: like a good parent or mentor, they give time to help others (through volunteering, telling stories, or offering bits of wisdom and insight).
  • They give you the spotlight: when you interact with them, they somehow make you feel like you have their undivided attention. Even when they’re working on a project or interacting with people in passing, it feels like they’re fully invested in you at that moment, listening to every word you say.
  • They have a philosophy: good people almost always have a code or guide they live their lives by. This code is rarely ever public, but they adhere to certain rationales for how they live life. You’ll hear it in passing: “I always tell myself that I’ll be okay,” or “all I can do is what I believe is right.”
  • They’re simple: in today’s age of complexity and anxiety, they’re often living life by a way of simplicity. They don’t own as much, focusing on what’s needed and what’s valuable to them, they acknowledge and try to spend more time with the things and people that matter in their life, and they try to distill the complexities of life to be as simple as possible. It makes life easier to live when you understand plainly what is important and what isn’t.
  • They care: they have something in their life that matters to them, and it is a prominent part of them. This can be a charitable cause, a child, or their work.

These are the qualities that I have seen in good people throughout my life. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and there are plenty of qualities that I have missed.

Good people exist. Whether it’s the prominent public figure leading the charge on lifting people out of poverty, the teacher that brings the best out of you, or the young 20-something that starts a conversation with you on the bus: the way they conduct themselves in life is subtle, yet inspiring. When you walk away from that interaction, a part of you feels a bit better. Like you’ve been reminded that there is some good in the world.

It’s important that we give them the attention they deserve: our attention. In today’s age of conflict and confusion, people like them hold us together and keep us from slipping into apathy. And when we embrace these qualities, not only do we help ourselves, but we inspire others to do the same. And that’s how we get better as a society. One person at a time.

Or, as the phenomenal Mr. Rogers said:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Helpers. Good people. All the same. Look for them. I promise you that if you look hard enough, you’ll find them.

Carpe Diem, kids.

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Poli Sci grad, Comms Strategist, great at remembering names and terrible at pronouncing them. I write on a number of different topics!