I Want to be a Good Person

About a year ago, I heard a few words from psychology professor Dr. Rebecca Lawson that I will never forget. She told me and a group of other orientation leaders that when approaching and interacting with people, you should try to be a generally good person. This might not seem like the most profound statement ever, but I remind myself every day to do exactly what she said.

Being a good person, as she later explained, consists of treating everyone with respect and kindness, no matter the situation. By speaking to people in a way that they will react positively or at least neutrally, I can make others’ experiences around me more comfortable.

Words are one of the most powerful vessels for changing emotion. One sentence can change a person’s entire opinion of you, of the university or even of themselves. That’s why I believe it’s important to deliver an equal or greater amount of encouragement when you give criticism or negative news. Without encouragement, people often can assume that they have done nothing right. It’s something I hear expressed a lot from students: “Nothing about the work I’ve done is good. I just really suck at this.” No one is talented in every single aspect of education or life in general, but everyone has specific talents and abilities that can be praised.

Self-presentation also holds a high level of importance in my efforts to be a “good person.” Eye contact, friendly body language and the ability to respond to others’ body language can help in making any situation more comfortable and pleasant. Especially in professional situations, appearing to be a friendly, approachable person can set other people in the room at ease. The saying “smiling is contagious” reflects how easily body language is recognized between people, and the exchange of smiles almost always works. Next time you see someone who’s not smiling, try it and see how quickly they react. Usually, the reaction is almost immediate.

I believe it’s important to be able to respond to different situations and accommodate people with different needs than your own. In customer service, employees often ask clients, “How may I help you?” This is not a question that has to stay at the local department store. Being willing and eager to help when you can shows that you value relationships with others. Even small acts of kindness can make a difference. For example, by sharing an umbrella or a bottle of water with someone, you’re strengthening that relationship and making their life just a little bit better.

All people have feelings, and I think that’s a hard thing to remember sometimes. You never know if something you say will be remembered a year, or even 10 years, later. By being careful with what I say and how I act, I hope to grow as a “good person” and improve the lives of others around me. As my professional writing professor Dr. Lynn Hanson likes to say, “Every day is an audition. Everyone is watching.” I’m constantly affecting others with my actions and my words. I’m being observed, even by people I don’t know, and how they perceive me can change our relationship even before we have officially met. If I form a reputation for being a good person, I can maintain positive relationships.