It seems like there are certain qualities everyone’s looking for in a mate. Nail the perfect combo of good looks, quick wit and career success, and you’ve got the perfect formula for attracting a partner, right?
Well, it’s partly true: Physical appearance, humor and ambition are certainly attractive to potential romantic partners. But it turns out that a bit of benevolence may be what your dating game’s missing.
More than 10,000 men and women from around the globe consider kindness — yes, kindness — to be one of the most important qualities in a romantic partner, according to a recent study.
Even small gestures, such as giving a stranger a flower, lending a close friend an ear or simply doing someone a small favor (like carrying their groceries), can enhance our likability and increase others’ willingness to commit to us.
And it seems to translate to physical attraction. Genuine trustworthiness, authenticity and reliability may even boost our sex appeal. (“Wow, you really did keep your word.” Swoon!) And being a kind and honest person can cause people to perceive your face and body type as more attractive.
By being authentically kind, we can also positively influence others’ moods, foster warm feelings of connectedness with friends and family members and soothe folks when they’re super stressed. Who doesn’t want those qualities in a date?
Even our ancient ancestors agreed. Evolutionary psychologists believe that kindness survived natural selection because it allowed for stronger parent-child bonds and enabled partners and tribe members to stick together — all crucial abilities in our ongoing fight for existence and proliferation.
Being nice won’t only benefit your love life. People who do nice things for others on a regular basis are happier, healthier and may even have longer life spans.
Here are some ways you can raise your niceness factor.
1. Adjust your mind-set.
Have empathy and compassion for where someone else might be coming from, instead of reacting to what they’re saying or doing solely based on how it affects us, suggests Carrie Cole, a certified couples therapist.
“Being kind can mean giving people the benefit of the doubt instead of jumping to the conclusion they’re a bad person or harbor malicious intent,” Cole explains.
So if she’s being a bit standoffish on the first date, try easing back a bit and approaching her more warmly rather than writing her off as frigid. Or refrain from assuming he’s no longer into you just because he sounded distant on the phone.
2. Put it into words.
Expressing gratitude (“I so appreciate you meeting me for dinner tonight”), verbalizing what you admire and respect about a date (“I love the way your mind works”), or offering a mate encouragement (“You’re getting so good at learning how to make me feel amazing in bed”) are spoken versions of kindness, Cole points out.
Find something you truly consider positive about another person — without, of course, falsely praising their every characteristic. And while it may be easier to focus on the superficial, pointing out a person’s beneath-the-surface perks makes a much more significant impact.
Post-date, it never hurts to text them to make sure they arrive home safely to show that you care about their safety. And don’t hesitate to break that ridiculous 24-hour-no-texting rule with a simple “Hey, thanks for a really nice time tonight.”
Finally, ask questions — about his or her job, weekend plans, new nephew. Flexing your niceness muscle also means demonstrating a genuine curiosity about the other person’s life.
3. And … action!
Kindness comes through most in what we do and how we treat people. Putting it into action ranges from asking if your date needs to borrow your jacket or umbrella in bad weather to being responsive when you’re together, Cole says. (Read: Put. Down. The. Smartphone.) It’s also nice to always acknowledge communication, even when you’re busy (“Great to hear from you! I’ll write you back once I’m off work.”)
As your relationship evolves, it’s also important to demonstrate to your partner that you’ll be there for them when they need it, adds Cole. This is what’s called being trustworthy, and it’s a major application of kindness.
In addition to hugging your partner, offering them a shoulder to cry on or making time to meet them after work when they’ve had a rough day is a way to build trust.
And while you may think of kindness as an extra effort, Cole reminds us that the art of being nice can sometimes mean doing less.
If you know you err on the side of being overly communicative, or if you’re getting hints that your texts, calls or e-mails are a bit overwhelming, try giving your partner more space to process your well-intended missives.
There’s no reason to cancel your gym membership, lose your sense of humor or stop striving for that sought-after promotion. But if you’re looking for a lasting, satisfying and sustainable relationship, the key may be simpler than you ever thought: Just be nice.