to others' needs and empathic with others' feelings. Actually, if we
ourselves have experienced the same stressful situations as a troubled
person is experiencing, we are more likely to show concern for them
(Dovidio & Morris, 1975). Altruistic people are more honest, have
greater self-efficacy and self-control, and feel more responsible and
integrated (Ruston, 1980). The research just cited tells us some of the
interpersonal characteristics that are associated with being
considerate; perhaps self-help projects developing some of these
related traits would help you gradually increase your altruism.
Parents, who discourage aggression and are sharing, caring,
and empathic themselves, showing the child how and why to help
others, are more likely to produce altruistic children (Kohn, 1988).
Such parents often give the child practice caring for a sibling or a dog
and encourage the child to see him/herself as sensitive to others'
needs. At an early age, girls and boys are curious, gentle, and helpful
with a baby. Helping comes natural to most humans if they have had
good interpersonal relationships. Etzione (1993) says the evidence is
clear that youngsters close to their parents are less likely to become
delinquent. Divorce often disrupts the relationship with one parent.
Other relationships are also less meaningful: children have babysitters
rather than nannies. Larger schools afford less bonding with teachers
and perhaps with peers. There are fewer and fewer master
craftsmen/women for young people to relate to at work. The world is
becoming less personally caring.
More recent research (Tangney, 1988; Betancourt, Hardin & Manzi,
1988) suggests helping is related to: guilt feelings ("I feel badly about
what I did") but not shame ("I am an awful person"), believing the
helpee is not to blame for his/her problems, focusing on the helpee's
feelings (rather than remaining "objective"), and having other
emotions, both positive (sympathy, grief, pity, or sadness) and
negative (upset, worried, or angry about the circumstances). Perhaps
as a society we are less personally involved in relationships than we
used to be. Emotions and values are closely connected.
What factors in the environment help us become a giving
person? Naturally, caring more frequently occurs where the helpee is
liked and where helping similar persons has been modeled by others
and is rewarded, e.g. when a person really needs help and shows their
appreciation. However, bystanders will often deny or overlook the
needs of others, such as a person who is sick, drunk, or being
attacked. We assume others will step in and help. But others don't.
This occurs even when the hurting person is right in front of us, so is it
any wonder that we don't think much about the poor in the slums
along the freeway as we speed by or that we quickly forget about the
sick or uneducated child we see on TV who is 10,000 miles away?
(McGovern, Ditzian, & Taylor, 1975; Weiss, Boyer, Lombardo, & Stich,
1973; Mussen & Eisenberg-Berg, 1977)
Research has also documented the obvious, namely, that a warm,
friendly community or environment encourages more helping