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Good Housekeeping
Jennifer Chan, Assistant Managing Editor
January 22, 2012

Humble People Are More Helpful toward Others, Study Shows

Research reveals that humility can be a strong predictor for human helping behavior. By Jennifer Chan

How often do you go out of your way to help someone out? Do you tend to help out only once a year (usually just around Christmastime), or do you extend your aid all year round? According to a new study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, your helping behavior may be affected by your level of humility. The more humble you are, the more likely it is that you’ll help someone out.  

While there are other factors that can spur you to help play the good Samaritan—time pressure, empathy, and witnesses—only one personality trait—agreeableness—has been classified as a predictor of helpfulness. Until now, that is. After 30 years of research on helping behavior, research findings reveal that humility is another personality trait that can be linked to helpfulness. 

Before reaching their conclusion, the researchers conducted three different studies to analyze human helping behavior. In the first study, students were asked to evaluate themselves. Those who answered that they were humble also reported that they were helpful. 

To counteract any answers that might have been exaggerated, the second study made use of a more neutral measure of humility. The participants were asked to evaluate an audio recording which they were told would be aired publicly on the campus radio station. The recording spoke of an injured student who wouldn’t be able to attend class regularly. The students were then asked how many hours they would be willing to give to meet with the said injured student to help out. The results? Those who were more humble were more willing to give up their time. 

In the third study, students were asked to describe their character traits. When they used words like "down-to-earth," "respectful," and "open-minded" among others, they basically admitted their own humility. When words like "arrogant," "egotistical," and "conceited" were thrown around, the participants categorized themselves under the other end of the spectrum. 

Aside from becoming a predictor of helping behavior, humility has also been linked to other positive things like career growth and better social skills. With such a promising future, it wouldn’t hurt for you to try practicing humility more often.

For more on humility, check out these articles:

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Jennifer Chan
Assistant Managing Editor
Jennifer Chan was a contributing writer for Female Network for two years before formally joining the team as a staff writer in July 2012... Read more...
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