Looking good is something everyone pays attention to. Even if they are blessed with natural good looks, everyone takes the time to get their hair in place and their shirt tucked in before they walk out the door. We don’t think twice about taking time to look good.
What if I were to tell you that one of the easiest things you can do to look better is to simply be nice to people? Rather than getting a makeover, you can instantly look better to people you meet by acting with kindness and compassion. Do you believe that? Let’s think it through this way.
Say you are at an airport, waiting for a plane, when you overhear someone of the opposite sex talking on the telephone. The person is seated behind you so you can’t see him or her. And let’s say the person seems to be talking to an assistant who has made a mistake. In a tone that couldn’t be more rude or disagreeable, he or she is saying something along the lines of, “Well, I went over this last week, and if I must go over it again perhaps you need to pick up a pencil and write down what I say.”
Compare this with the same scenario, but the person is engaged and cordial while explaining what he or she wants, addresses the person by name, puts the mistake in context, provides a helpful hint on how to handle such situations, and moves on.
When you turn around, who is going to look more attractive to you?
Recent research suggests that individuals who show positive personality traits such as kindness, honesty and helpfulness are perceived as better looking, while those who exhibit negative personality qualities such as unfairness and rudeness appear to be less physically attractive. Participants were shown pictures of people of the opposite sex and asked to rate them by physical attractiveness and desirability as a friend and as a romantic partner. The key to this experiment was that they rated each person both before and after receiving information about the person’s personality. First they reacted just to physical appearance, and then they reacted to physical appearance in combination with personality.
Positive personality was found to correlate with a greater desire to be the person’s friend. The desire to be a friend led, in turn, to a greater desire to have the person as a romantic partner. Having a desire for a romantic relationship ultimately led participants to view the people in the photos as more attractive.
To put this simply, nice is beautiful!
The findings did not differ based on gender; they were also consistent regardless of how attractive the person was initially perceived to be. That is, even beautiful people benefit by being nice.
The really good news is that we can all learn how to be nice people. Few of us are ever going to look like movie stars, but we can all increase our compassion and kindness. Researchers in Wisconsin found that people can be very easily trained to activate the part of the brain associated with happiness and compassion. By focusing on others and taking time to get outside of our own daily hassles, we do something that people cannot help but find appealing on every level. Beauty does start on the inside.