One might argue that selfishness is at the root of almost all major global issues.
In fact, even smaller, more localized problems seem to revolve around some form of selfishness, whether it be greed, callousness, or ignorance, which is why we as individuals need to reflect on our thoughts and actions to assess if we’re contributing to these small or widespread injustices.
Granted, a certain kind of selfishness isn’t altogether bad, and actually, can be quite necessary, so the trick to reducing the negative impact of your behavior is to curtail particular forms of selfishness.
However, it’s not easy breaking a habit as ingrained as selfishness — It’s basically an evolutionary drive.
So, today, we’ll be taking a look at some simple things you can do to try and be a better, more selfless person.
Defy Your Selfish Impulses In Small Ways
Selfishness is often equated with thoughtlessness, and this is a more astute synonym than many first realize.
The problem with selfishness is that it’s not always calculated, rather, it’s an impulse that simply plays out with our minds and bodies on autopilot.
This means that to combat selfishness, we need to start identifying these impulses, taking pause, thinking, then modifying the eventual action.
Don’t worry about the big stuff for now. The key here is to start very small.
For instance, if you’re sharing a candy bar with somebody, offer them the last piece, or if you’re making tea, and you pour too much milk in one, drink that one yourself, and offer the better-made one to someone else.
Food and drink preparation offers a little microcosm of our behavior in the grand scheme of things.
It’s so easy to automatically snatch up the largest slice of cake or gobble the last cookie in the pack.
But if we can exercise selflessness in these small ways, we can start changing the way we approach the bigger, more damaging instances of selfishness in our lives and the world at large.
Pay Attention To Others
All too often, people are either not listening to others at all or simply waiting for their turn to speak, and it’s one of the most prevalent and damaging forms of selfishness of all.
People need to feel heard, and when you don’t listen to what they’re trying to communicate, you are devaluing their thoughts and thus reducing their value as a human being.
In other words, you’re inadvertently creating a hierarchy in which you are above the person talking to you.
It’s demeaning and aggravating for the ignored party.
There’s very little chance of a positive relationship forming in this scenario, and if there already is a relationship, it’s bound to crumble before long.
To nip this problem in the bud, try practicing active listening.
Active listening is a process of dedicating yourself to an interaction. It’s all about showing that you’re listening.
You can do so by maintaining strong eye contact, sympathizing without hijacking the conversation by positioning yourself as the subject, and by asking open-ended questions to allow your co-conversationalist to elaborate and fully express their thoughts on the topic.
If you practice this concept long enough, you’ll find that it becomes second nature, making you a better listener and a less selfish person.
Understand What Others Want From An Interaction
This one ties into the previous one a little, but it’s worth mentioning separately.
Interactions aren’t always simple engagements.
With more and more communication taking place in a digital format, people have more time to think about what is said and how it’s said, which means the nature of the conversation can be quite complex.
Before you reply, do some careful reading of what has been said and try to deduce what it is the person reaching out is hoping to extract from the interaction.
Unless you are asked about your own experiences directly, it’s almost never the best move to start talking about yourself.
That’s not to say that you can’t draw from your experiences to give advice, but present it as such, rather than making yourself the protagonist of the matter at hand.
You can absolutely be selfish whether you have a controlling personality or not, but if you are something of a control freak, loosening your grip on matters is another fantastic way to demonstrate selflessness.
For instance, if you often decide where you and your friends go to eat when socializing, ask one of your co-diners instead, and be happy with and positive about their decision.
Get Into The Giving Mood
Ever heard the Walt Whitman quote, “The gift is to the giver, and comes back most to him – it cannot fail.”? Well, truer words were never spoke.
While it’s certainly nice receiving gifts, giving gifts offers a greater sense of well-being and lasting satisfaction, all while showing an unselfish attitude.
So, whether you treat your friends or family to, say, a spa day, or you set up a monthly donation to your favorite charity, you’ll feel you’re making some real progress on your journey to become a better person.
Of course, don’t give more than you can afford to, but any small gestures you can make will often have a seismic impact on the world around you.
Cleaning Up After Others
This one can be quite a hard pill to swallow, as it’s only natural for us to believe that people should be responsible for their own mess, but cleaning up after others is a great way to shed your ego, stop looking out for number one, and make the world a better place.
If after doing this for a while you feel you are being taken advantage of, you can pause for a bit, and let those around you notice all you do.
Give People A Chance
We all struggle with selfish biases. For instance, if somebody is late, we might say that they’re rude and careless, but if we’re late, we were just dealing with an impossible situation, such as traffic.
Don’t use just one or a handful of acts to paint a picture of an entire human being. Give people a chance to show their whole honest selves.
Being less selfish is harder than you’d think, and again, that’s because it’s primarily ingrained behavior that we act out without thought.
Recognize your selfish instincts when they crop up, and you can start making small changes in the way you think and act that will inevitably lead to some larger beneficial changes in your life.