Your thoughts please: What are the most important personal qualities?

Obviously technical skills are important in life. But it’s other qualities that make you a good person, a good human being.

Someone, in other words, who leads a good life.

Does the question seem random? In fact, it’s intrinsically connected with the pursuit of humane and skillful wisdom. I’ll follow up on this question in the future.

So what do you think? If you’re unsure, you might try reflecting on individuals you admire, and what you find admirable about them. Or, considering your own values, and what’s most important to you.

What are some personal qualities that make one a good person?

Or at the least, qualities which directly contribute to making someone a good person?


(Philosophic Advisor Cleveland’s website and blog can be found here.)

84 thoughts on “Your thoughts please: What are the most important personal qualities?

  1. Patterns

    Not words and not the occasional action, but patterns of PROACTIVE behaviour make for a “good” person
    Some of these patters are
    1. Surrounded by good people – who measure their worth by doing esteemable things – like take pride in their jobs, volunteer, are passionate about their hobbies, open minded, environmentally conscious and responsible etc.
    (You are not “good” by contrast….. like u’re not thin because u hang out with the morbidly obese. You are only as good as ur worst family member or friend u associate with) ….. being good is brutal business 😊

    2. Have good habits that you do like on an autopilot mode and not when u think u are being watched ….. patterns my friend 😊

    3. Readers of books

    4. A person who has a clear idea of her / his contribution to the world and who derives her/his sense of worth in the pursuit of that

    5. Helps without looking for thanks or a reward

    6. A good person doesn’t know she/he is good ….. they’re too busy DOING good. “Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined” – Toni Morrison 😊

    1. I like that you put “sense of humor” first — that’s intriguing and different!

      It looks like you’re seeing “learner and educator” as sort of one quality. Is that the same for “humility and goodwill”? I mean, do you mean to connect those two into, in a way, a single quality?

      1. Hi,
        I see similarities in the learner-educator, however, as individual characteristics it’s important to be a learner of ideas, topics and cultures and capable of educating individuals during life and events. The same holds true for humility and goodwill. Separating the two and applying the idea of being humble while aiding others without receiving for those efforts is a wonderful characteristic! I hope this helps…

      1. A huge portion of my work revolves around understanding ourselves and others through perspectives of truth. It’s the understanding that our own unique experiences create what we believe, so each person is going to see things differently. It’s not about absolutes. When we learn to be curious about our whys, we start to ask more questions and make less assumptions about others. We better our communication and stay open. Here’s a piece I wrote all about it:

      1. Hm… Honesty on its own could be damaging. Honesty and kindness together, then.

        Of course, that can be taken too far as well. Sometimes, people avoid being honest because they don’t want to hurt people, yet being honest may be the very thing to bring healing between those parties. Tricky stuff, this honesty.

        Fine. I’ll add a third:

        Honesty, with kindness and wisdom.

      2. Kindness as a quality to guide honesty, or at least limit it — seems like a good combination.

        Great example of how kindness could go to far in limiting honesty!

        That observation reminds me of how some theorists approach qualities like kindness: they suggest that when kindness goes too far, it stops truly being kindness, and becomes something else.

  2. One of my favorite historical figures is Oskar Schindler. Forgive my bluntness, but what I like about him is before he did anything heroic, he was a failed businessman, a dreamer of sorts, and a womanizing alcoholic.

    empathy without or before ideology, I think is key to being a good person.

    I feel bad for murderers. I know they did a heinous thing but now they are being judged by the whole world and they are alone.

    My last two traits are the ones whose opposites have hurt me the most; honesty and loyalty.

    1. “Empathy without or before ideology.” I like that! And I agree, I’ve thought something similar for a long time.

      What would you say are the opposites to honesty and loyalty? I know it’s obvious at one level, but I’m curious which words might best name the opposites, in your mind.

      1. I would say disloyalty and dishonesty. I think loyalty is pretty straightforward but honesty is a complicated one. People lie to themselves so much and sometimes don’t know what the truth is. It takes a sincere conscious effort to be honest.

  3. This is something I’ve been thinking about and working on of late. Ethics, grace, kindness. Humour. A life of virtue (stoicism) so wise, courageous, temperate, and just.

    1. Thanks Em, I enjoy the inclusion of Stoicism’s four primary virtues! But of course you mentioned some others first. It’s interesting you include “ethics” as a quality. What would this be? Trying to do the best/right thing?

      1. Exactly. I spent a lot of my life with an active eating disorder and when you are struggling with something like that, you engage in some pretty unethical behaviour. So now, I strive for the opposite.

  4. To me, it starts with the initial thought of, “what do you do if you find a wallet on the ground and no one is around when you find it?” That first initial thought defines what kind of person you are and where your moral compass is pointing.

      1. It’s depends on what your initial thought is.

        If you have to think about whether or not to return the wallet or if you have the be nosey and check to see how much money is inside, that automatically shows where your moral standards are, which is not trustworthy.

        Anyone who immediately comes across the wallet with an initial intention to get it back to the owner ASAP without a care to how much money is inside has a moral compass that points towards true north.

        I rely on these things alone because money is a very high source of power and you will always see people’s true nature when it comes to the way they are around other people’s money.

  5. The ability to think and to converse without showing bias and opening your mind to fluidity of ideas.

  6. in my opinion – a positive attitude. a person full of qualities but thinking negatively would only make the good part fade for seeing everything through the dark lenses, while somebody with less(er) qualities but a positive attitude would always be someone i’d like to have around, brighten up my days and inspire me to be positive as well.

      1. well, a positive attitude may not beat a negative one, or may not ‘cancel’ a negative fact, but it may definitely help in an unfortunate situation. i think of ‘positive’ as in seeing the good part of anything that we experience… what do you think?

      2. That makes a lot of sense. And I appreciate the explanation of how you’re thinking of “positive.”

        I suppose I was wondering vaguely about when we try to force ourselves to feel good (a different sense of “positive”) all the time. I mean, in a way where you don’t really acknowledge and experience the unpleasant feelings that occur in life. It seems like that can be damaging, and it’s what some people seem to mean by “positivity.” But I can see you are thinking of something more nuanced.

      3. thanks for so clearly pointing out the many nuances that can derive from, well, just one word! i couldn’t have said it better – indeed, it’s not about forcing ourselves to feel good, it’s about trying to adjust our perspective until something good comes out of it.

  7. Understanding …

    from here all the traits we see as positive many of them mentioned above, I think will develop (at least in most of us).

      1. yes, for example, the other day I forgot my cup of coffee at home. And my coworker cared enough to let me borrow an extra mug they had and their coffee maker. caring, in taking the time to not be self-centered and genuinely be interested in how people are doing

      2. totally, like in terms of self-care, in making sure you take care of yourself when you feel overwhelmed/stressed. I think caring about yourself means you care about what brings you contentment, of having self love, a healthy self esteem/confidence, and self compassion too.

  8. ‘Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison. Well, then it isn’t one to you, since nothing is really good or bad in itself—it’s all what a person thinks about it. And to me, Denmark is a prison.’ Likely, such sorts of concepts (Will Shake.) tasted sour to someone like Tolstoy, much more, necessarily for him, toward affect and judgment. But. Any expression, even any notion of self, is discretely emergent and uses its own language, its own represented time. Plural ones (in living systems, complex,) result, likely, in consciousness, something of a singular, necessary again, or unavoidable topological confluence of information – in which you might get judgment, ‘what makes a person bad or good’. Hence, aside from delineating, a bit arbitrarily, what might be useful or harmful (to society, to a group, to a person, to the world, etc.,) : the lack of indifference, or at least relative lack. And per force co-emergent: the developed motivation that extends at least beyond a singular or biologically limited self or me.

      1. …ah, no, actually at all. But that sort of judgment remains relatively absent from his works in a direct way. One could speculate his surprise at the reception of a character like Falstaff, whose character in Henry should provoke a sort of disgust. He is not at all display what, referring to the question, makes a good person. Still, many in the audience, most likely most determinately Elizabeth, never the less did like the character. I’m using literary works as a metaphoric, of course (what makes a work ‘good’, which implies definition of the word. Larger systemic expression reflected within, with you can say longer time or timeless aspects, and belonging to what those expressions convey.)

  9. I think the most important quality to have is integrity. To take full responsibility for yourself, your actions, and your life.

      1. I just mean taking ownership. Instead of blaming external circumstances for things in your life you don’t like, focus on what you can do to change it. People love to shirk their personal responsibilities and act helpless when it comes to certain problems.

  10. This is a great question and even though it’s an overused word, I believe authenticity is by far the most important quality. If a person is authentic, so many other positive traits branch out from that.

    I don’t like when I feel someone is giving me a controlled or altered version of who they are or when I feel like someone is trying to psychologically outsmart me with feigned innocence etc.

    All human beings are deeply flawed, in my opinion. No person is without negative traits or moments but authenticity allows us to accept ourselves and others as we/they are. Authenticity is difficult for many of us but when we practice it, others appreciate it. Best wishes.

  11. Lots of excellent feedback here. I would be curious, if we boiled all of this down, ranked it by comments as “votes,” what would it tell us. I was going to say humanity, empathy then sacrifice.

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