How to be a good human

March 20, 2017


If you’re lucky, your parents instilled lessons about how to be a good human. And if you’re super-lucky, the lessons stuck. But in case they didn’t, here are my tips on how to be a good human. Because we sure do need more good humans around here. Right?

Be there.

Being present with your friends, especially in times of need, can mean many things. You can hold sacred space, you can give practical help like providing a meal, visit, send a card or note, simply sit and listen…the options are limitless.

I learned a long time ago that it’s a mistake to say “What can I do for you?”  Don’t ask. DO something. Offer something tangible. Because chances are they aren’t going to have an answer to the What can I do for you? Nor should they.

Of course, there are always people who pay lip service only. They offer, but it’s just an offer. You might ask them for something specific and they can’t / don’t do it. That’s ok. It says more about them than about you.

Be reciprocal.

Give as much as you get. At least.  It doesn’t mean you have to do the same thing and it’s not about keeping score. It’s about balance. Equilibrium. Not feeling used or that you are using someone.

Be happy for the good fortune of others.

Someone else’s good fortune is to be celebrated! It has nothing to do with your own good or bad fortune. Nothing to do with you. Nothing.

Don’t compare.

That old standby, the Desiderata, comes to mind and its caution: If you compare yourself to others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Oh, how true that is.


When someone invites you somewhere, respond. That’s right. Some of the common courtesies seem to be gone with the wind. One courtesy is the RSVP. Do it.

Say thank you.

Such a simple thing.

Say “I’m sorry.”

Another super-simple thing.

Follow up, follow through, meet deadlines.

In this strange new world of ours we often do business with people who have never worked in a big organization and therefore have never learned what I call “The Disciplines.” I’m shocked at how many professionals do not follow up when contacted, do not initiate a contact, do not anticipate client needs, do not meet deadlines and do not give even an excuse for missing deadlines–and do not communicate. Did I mention “do not deliver?”  If I had behaved that way when I consulted, I’d have no clients.

So be a good human. Take your work seriously. Take your clients seriously. Follow through.

Be nice.

It’s so easy! Much easier than being a jerk.

Be kind.

Why wouldn’t we? That’s all I will say, although I have plenty to say in this current unkind environment.

Don’t use others.

I could write a book on this one, from what I’ve seen and also experienced.

What would you add to this list?

And here’s one of my favorite songs ever. Title is related, maybe lyrics not so much. Enjoy!

42 comments on “How to be a good human
  1. robin masshole mommy says:

    Yes!!! You have so many good points here. I hate when someone doesn’t say thank you.

  2. Kristy says:

    All these points are spot on! I’m ready to be a good human 🙂

  3. There should be an exam with all these lessons before someone qualifies as human. Such fundamental lessons. And so hard for too many people to integrate into their lives. I’d add, “Be honest.”

  4. Debbie D. says:

    Excellent points, all. My mother raised me to be polite, something that is often lacking in this harsh, 21st-century world. It’s a sad statement that thoughtfulness and courtesy are met with pleasant surprise. It should be the norm!

  5. estelle says:

    I think saying thank you, including pleasantries and being polite goes a long way in any situation. Thanks for these great reminders!

  6. I wish we taught this wonderful simple tips on how to be a good human in school. The world will be a better place. I think you covered the list beautifully! Especially, the don’t ask how I can help……..just be there!

    I would add one more…………If, at times, the world around you doesn’t subscribe to these “Be A Good Human” traits, don’t let it change who you are!

  7. Beth Havey says:

    Saying thank you is so easy, but many have lost the ability to say those words. Even with
    strangers in a store, I always say thank you when they help me. And I try to use their name by looking at their name tag. So easy.

  8. Kate Mayerh says:

    We could all use some more good humans, especially these days. Can you please send this to the White House? h

  9. Damn straight. It does not cost a thing to be nice and you should always say thank you, it is basic manners x

  10. My favorite one here, is just DO something for someone. When they are in need, they don’t have the capability of asking all the time. You know what they need. Provide it. It’s usually a small thing, like you said, a meal, a gift card, a babysitting stint. something, anything to make a small dent in their struggle. Think how great the world would be if we did that even every week for someone. Love this post, Carol. It’s so sad that we’ve devolved into needing to be reminded of this. We can do better, and I hope reminding everyone with posts like this will make us all a bit better. 🙂

  11. I like them all, especially the “do something, don’t ask.” But I have started every so often, sending a text to someone who means something to me to tell them a thing they did that makes me feel that way. I end with “that is all.”

    It’s amazing how much it surprises people to learn exactly what they mean to others.

  12. Everybody should read and know your list, seriously! Say thanks or sorry is so simple and should be natural… so why some people just are not able to?!

  13. Haralee says:

    These could be marriage vows! I would add, don’t say what you know you don’t mean or will never do, like; ‘Let’s get together” or “I miss you so much”.

  14. Payastyle says:

    Really easy steps to follow, and life it’s so much more enjoyable.

  15. What struck me the most was ‘don’t compare’ And that is something I need to work on constantly. It is fuel for unhappiness for sure. Great list of ideals to strive for.

  16. renee says:

    they need to start teaching “Life 101” in school because there are a whole lot of kids these days that aren’t learning these simple things…adults too…maybe they need to go back to class.

  17. Jacqui S says:

    This is something I hope to instill in my son. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who do not follow the general rule of thumb of how to be a decent human being.

  18. These are all wonderful points. We all must strive to be kinder and better people. I try my best to teach the importance of it to my kids as well.

  19. Helene says:

    Perfectly said! I feel like shouting these from the rooftops.

  20. Amber Myers says:

    Yes! People need to be kinder. It seems people are crankier these days. I always say thank you too. So many don’t anymore.

  21. Oh my gosh, I couldn’t even tell you the number of people I’ve experienced who could really use some remedial “good human” classes. Even now, so many people in my life (yes, sometimes even me!) need to be reminded of these things.

  22. Elizabeth O. says:

    We’ve lost a lot of things about being “human” these past years especially this year. I think it’s about time we re-learned them. It all boils down to respect and being kind, which we’ve been lacking very much.

  23. I wish I can e-mail this to someone I know. She has forgotten how to be nice. I would like to add that people should not assume or judge right away. It is so easy to assume but if you are the one who is being judged then you would get hurt.

  24. It is very sad that all this needs saying.

  25. Otilia says:

    I really like your advice and your site altogheter. So happy I discovered you

  26. Anna Palmer says:

    I’m sure it says something that “be nice” is not easy for me. Yet it is worthwile and I strive to be nice very day and in every interaction. I am going to share this with my boys. I wonder how many of these lessons will strike them as new…

  27. I have to admit, these seem so obvious. But then again, they don’t teach etiquette anymore, do they??
    I think we need to share this everyday—they are so important!!

  28. Beth Giusti says:

    I hope the many, many people out there that need some advice on this topic, read this post!! Seems obvious, but so many people are lacking!

  29. I’m so glad you wrote this Carol. These are all attributes and actions we should have learned growing up, however in today’s society of ‘ME’ first, good manners and being a good human being seem to be disappearing. It isn’t hard to be kind to others is it? Have a beautiful day xx

  30. Cameron says:

    So many good points! It’s amazing how many people don’t get this, so it’s nice someone took the time to list it! Love it!

  31. Kelly Reci says:

    This is really something we need to improve. I totally live this and worth sharing.

  32. These are so goo! . We all need to be reminded of these. I really love the reminder of not comparing. I do this way to often and yes, it does nothing but bring bitterness. .Great advice!

  33. Austin says:

    Excellent advice. Isn’t it a little sad, though, that we actually have to post instructions on how to be good people? What doesn’t this just come to us all naturally? Looks like this Modern Philosopher is going to delve into some Deep Thoughts on this one. 🙂

  34. Julie says:

    You stated valid points. Not saying thank you is disrespectful and can come across and entitlement. As simple and sitting and just listening is a tremendous gesture of love.

  35. Stacey W says:

    Some really good advice!

  36. Gary Mathews says:

    I blame millennials! It just irks the hell out of me how rude people are these days.

  37. UB Rey says:

    Thank you for the very insightful read, I can see why these points make one a good human being. Hopefully more people incorporate it in their lives

  38. Glenda says:

    These are some really great tips on how to be a good human. I agree with all of them, “Don’t use others especially.”

  39. Elizabeth says:

    This is such an informative post! We would all be better people if we followed these suggestions. 🙂

  40. Silly Mummy says:

    Well said! Particularly good to remember not to compare yourself and to be happy for others. Comparison really is the thief of joy!

  41. Thank you so much for linking at #overthemoon! I look forward to seeing what you share every week. Please come back for #WonderfulWednesday or #ThursdayFavoriteThings. Enjoy your week ahead.

  42. shelley says:

    Love the reminders! These ought to be common things we’ve all learned but unfortunately that’s not always the case. And we need the reminders anyway. Sharing this in a roundup post to publish on 9-9-17.

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