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Six Ways to Instantly Make Yourself a Better Person

24/09/2013 11:00 BST | Updated 23/11/2013 10:12 GMT

Everyone thinks they are a good person, and why wouldn't they?

Most people don't run around with axes or intentionally set out to hurt others and sadly this seems to be the barometer that we seem to judge ourselves on.

'Well I haven't chopped anyone up lately so therefore I must be a saint'.

Yes well done, you're not a murderer but can you honestly say that you treat people the right way?

To help you out I have come up with 6 flaws that nearly everyone reading this will recognise in some form. Maybe you have been guilty of these in the past, maybe you know someone who does some of these things regularly.

Maybe you are hurting someone right now and don't even know it.

It's never too late to change so have a read through this article and see if you can positively impact someone's life today by becoming a better person.

1. Never use silence as your preferred method of communication

There are two types of people in this world - those who have mastered the art of communication, and those who leave people hanging for no good reason. If you're the sort of person who fits into the second category then give yourself a nice cold slap in the chops. It's rude and you are showing a lack of respect.

It's understandable that you may not know how to respond, especially if you are worried about hurting someone's feelings or are trying to hide from something but if you want to be respected in this life, you must start respecting others.

Most people are mature enough and resilient enough to handle rejection. You may think that ignoring someone's calls is the easy option and you would be right, but it's also the coward's option. You don't need to go into detail about why you feel this person isn't right for you but a courtesy call or text will set their mind at ease and they can then move on.

This can be applied to any situation where a definitive cut off is the best solution. If you're giving interviews because you wish to hire someone for a job then it's your duty to let them know if they have been unsuccessful.

If you have been on a date with someone and you don't wish to take it further then let them know as soon as possible.

Even if a friend texts you wanting to know your plans for the evening, don't be one of those people that thinks 'oh, I'll reply later'. You're not so important that this person deserves to put their life on hold to wait for your response. Deal with it now.

2. Learn how to say sorry

We all screw up.

Every person reading this has recently upset someone, whether intentionally or by accident, but how many of you have yet to officially apologise for your actions?

Of course you didn't mean to throw away your flatmates 'One Direction' CD but you mistook it for the rest of the rubbish. It's easily done. You might even think you have done them a favour by saving their ears from the horrific warbling of Harry Styles and his merry men (boys?).

The point is, whether something was done on purpose or not, it's your duty to confess and apologise for your actions. Our ego will do its upmost to absolve us from any blame, creating a logical reason for our actions but sometimes we just have to accept that we have done something to upset another person and it needs to be put right.

You can justify almost anything with enough ignorance. You may not have realised that you hurt someone's feelings but when you find out, don't use that as an excuse to carry on as if nothing has happened. People have long memories and even if you genuinely believe that you are in the right, sometimes just saying sorry is enough to stop any negative emotions from brewing.

3. If someone lets you down, give them the benefit of the doubt

The flipside to the above is learning to let things go, especially if you don't know the facts behind their actions.

I often say that one of the most destructive things that anyone can do is to take a fact and put your own opinion toward it. For example; you were planning to meet someone for drinks but they cancelled at the last minute, apologising but not actually giving a definitive reason.

The natural instinct is to play 'brain detective' - that annoying game where you try and come up with as many reasons as possible why this person hates you. Have they had a better offer? Have they come to their senses and backed out? Did they ever truly intend to meet in the first place?

Or you know, maybe they just didn't feel in the mood to socialise. Maybe this person is too nervous or lacks confidence. Maybe there are a million good reasons why they cancelled.

The thing is, you have no idea so until you find out the reason behind the fact. Give them the benefit of the doubt. By not doing so they will become the bad guy in your own little story. You will feel a form of resentment towards them and should you re arrange and meet in the future, these emotions will present themselves in subtle ways. Perhaps sabotaging any relationship you may potentially have with this person.

Even if they have done something that you feel is wrong. Learn to accept it and let it go immediately.

4. Only offer an opinion if you know what you are talking about

This is one of my biggest pet hates.

Back in the day, when I worked for a totally useless company (not this one), I would always look forward to my 15 minute morning break. You see, I would eat 4 fried egg rolls and if I'm being honest, I would make a huge mess whilst doing so.

Hey I like my yolks runny.

For some reason the sight of me sat in the canteen covering my face with egg prompted various people to jump in with this little gem;

'You shouldn't eat so many eggs, they are bad for you. Don't you know they are high in cholesterol?'

Thanks for your misinformed opinion, now shut up and go away.

People like to feel superior when they think they know something the rest of the world doesn't. They like it even more when they are presented with an opportunity to share this 'knowledge' with whomever they deem deserving of such factoid nonsense.

Just don't.

That was a fairly trivial example but sometimes the wrong advice can actually be harmful. Such as when a friend is having a tough time and all they need is to feel like someone is there for them, not a lecture in how to deal with their issues. I would go as far to say that if you have no direct experience, especially in successfully resolving what they are going through, then you should practice the ancient art of 'shutting the hell up'.

5. It's ok to talk about someone behind their back, just don't say anything you wouldn't say to their face

In the UK we have a saying that is used to describe someone who pretends to be your friend but will happily put you down behind your back. We call it being 'two faced' and other countries and cultures will probably have their own version but everyone views these people the same way.

We are brought up in world where it is frowned upon to talk about other people behind their backs and with good reason. If everyone knew everything that was ever said about them, then nobody would have any friends. I'm sure that's a quote by someone famous but I can't for the life of me remember who.

It's true though. We need a certain level of ignorance regarding the world's perception of us. Our frail egos would never recover if we knew everything.

This is why our natural instinct to talk about other people is not a bad thing in itself; if we couldn't discuss other people then nobody would ever be hired, we couldn't warn our friends about others, we couldn't share good or bad news and the world would never find out about that embarrassing occasion when you witnessed your mate walk headfirst into a lamppost.

It's ok to talk about other people, even in a negative sense if it's justified (nobody is 100% bulletproof from criticism), but remember to not use any unnecessary language or to say something that you wouldn't say to their face. If you show your dislike for someone to others then don't pretend to be their friend either.

People don't need false friends, they need real ones.

6. If you have agreed to do something then you should do it

One word - integrity

Five words - follow through with your intentions

There is a massive difference between genuinely being unable to follow through with something and choosing not to because you simply can't be bothered.

I have been guilty of this one in the past and once I came to the realisation that I was one of these 'flakey' people it was quite a sobering moment. The irony being that I found it incredibly frustrating when other people would exhibit such behaviour around me. It was only trivial matters, nothing too serious but enough to frustrate friends and cast me in a bad light.

This is where the word 'no' can be very useful. In the past, if someone asked if I wanted to go out at the weekend I would respond with 'yeh I don't see why not', then once that weekend came I would often change my mind and refuse to go out. Obviously annoying the hell out of the friend who assumed all week that plans were set in stone.

These days, if I am unsure about arranging something then I will flat out say so. I will even say no if I have a feeling I would only 'flake' when the time comes.

It just saves a whole lot of time and aggravation.

Upscale this to more important matters and it's obvious why your integrity is important.

If you agree to raise a child with someone, don't bail when the going gets tough

If you enter a relationship with another person then you must remain monogamous

If you offer to help someone out then keep your word

If you like to boast about certain things then make sure you can 'walk the walk'

If you are compromising your values to please others then you are lying to yourself

These are just a few ways in which your integrity can be called into question.

If you have ever been told that you can't be trusted then it's because they feel you are someone who struggles to follow through with your intentions.

By being the kind of person that does what they say you will make the world a better place.

Can you think of any ways to make yourself a better person? If so share your thoughts below and let's see what we can come up with.

PS. If you know someone who is guilty of one of the above flaws then please share this article on your Facebook or Twitter using the buttons on the left. You never know, they might just see this and change their ways...

Further reading - 5 Life lessons you wish you had found out sooner