Safe, Supportive Communities: The Importance of Prosocial Character Traits
Updated: Feb 28, 2021
There are many benefits to living in a community where you feel safe and supported. And the content of our character is an important component for creating and maintaining such a place. Our ‘character’ is comprised of our values, attitudes, and behaviors that guide how we interact with others. These character traits help us to act in ways that are prosocial (actions that benefit others).
Prosocial character traits have been linked to positive outcomes, including good interpersonal skills, more social connections, better physical health, better psychological functioning, academic/educational achievements, occupational/career advancements, and resilient responses to life stressors. Personal relationships, homes, schools, and work settings are all safer and more positive when guided by prosocial character attributes.
Let’s take a look at a few of these influential character traits, which we can teach our children and model in our everyday lives.
Being compassionate, respectful, and helpful towards others is a valuable character quality. When kindness is expressed towards the unique and diverse people we encounter, communities are safer. Kindness can also be directed towards our self (i.e., good self-care, including sleep, exercise, nutrition, leisure activities) and our natural environment (i.e., reusing, recycling, and utilizing alternative energy). Feeling supported by others and having clean air, clean water, and other necessities, helps communities thrive.
We all experience a wide range of emotions, including happiness, sadness, anger, and fear. All these emotions are normal and adaptive when we regulate to avoid extreme, maladaptive responses. Teaching our children self-control strategies can help them lead fulfilling lives and avert many negative outcomes. These strategies include deep breathing exercises, self-timeouts, positive self-talk, thought substitution, help-seeking behaviors (asking others for support), and learning how to respond assertively, as opposed to aggressively or passively.
Being truthful is another character quality to teach and model for our children. Nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes. It is a strength when we are honest, take responsibility, and learn from our mistakes. ‘Honesty’ is an attribute that seems to be deteriorating in recent years, as social media and news outlets dramatically expand. We as community members must be informed consumers regarding the information we take in and always consider the content and source of the material. We must ask important questions (i.e., What do you mean? and How do you know?) to ensure we are receiving accurate information. If we want safe prosocial communities; honest, fact-based journalism is vital.
Being humble is another valuable character trait; that is, the ability to take pride in who you are and what you do, but without acting arrogant or superior to others. Humility is an especially important attribute for our community leaders. Humble leaders are open to considering others’ ideas and perspectives. They use their influence to empower and better the lives of others, rather than to benefit themselves.
When we nurture and model prosocial character qualities in our roles as, parents, teachers, human service providers, supervisors, government officials, news media executives, journalists, and social media users, our community reaps the benefits.
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