become more prosocial: a proven process for better behavior

Two people sit by a river.

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“Prosocial” behavior is just that: acts that enhance our bonds with other people. 🤝

Being more prosocial increases happiness levels, fights loneliness, and builds community.

If you feel like your social compass 🧭 needs some recalibrating, these steps offer a surefire way forward.

Improve your own happiness by performing acts of kindness.

Doubt that kindness improves your well-being? A 2018 meta-analysis (study of studies) wondered the same thing.

Combining the results of 27 studies on how kindness impacts happiness, the researchers found that the two are positively correlated. There may even be an evolutionary basis 🧠 for this relationship.

“As social animals, humans possess a range of psychological mechanisms that motivate them to help others, and that they derive satisfaction from doing so,” the study read.

Averaging the 27 different studies’ findings, the researchers reported that the effect of acts of kindness was similar to that of mindfulness and gratitude. Combining these “positive psychology” habits can have an even greater effect.

Improve others’ happiness with compliments.

An ideal act of kindness is a simple compliment. Compliments not only benefit both giver and recipient — their benefits to recipients are larger than givers tend to expect.

That’s according to a 2020 study titled Kind words do not become tired words. In the research, people were asked to give written compliments over the course of 5 days. The givers anticipated that each compliment would leave the recipients feeling a little less positive than the one before it. But that wasn’t the case. 🤯

“Each new compliment is distinct and so repeatedly receiving compliments is more unique than people abstractly imagine,” the researchers said.

We may underestimate just how profoundly compliments can boost other people’s moods. 🤗 And others tend to not grow tired of receiving compliments — even if they get them every day.

A key point in the research was that each daily compliment was unique. So, for your kudos to have maximum impact, consider doling out a new one each time.

Complete the loop by giving thanks.

Expressing thanks is a powerful means of building social bonds. A 2018 study explored how strangers balance thanks, apologizing, bragging, and blaming in conversation — finding that people overwhelmingly tend towards thankfulness.

While expressing thanks may just be a shortcut to appearing more likable, it has a real impact on our relationships. Stranger pairs who were given the opportunity to express thankfulness in conversation were much more likely to want to work together in the future. 🙏

“Whether people express gratitude can really influence how people feel being on teams, and whom they choose to work with,” one of the researchers said.

While thankfulness maps to greater warmth and likeability, it does have a negative impact on our perceived competence. Therefore, in charged situations like negotiations, thankfulness can actually work against us.

Still, in interpersonal relationships, expressing thanks has meaningful effects — for both parties. 👀

Photo by Harry Tran on Unsplash.

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