Helping others without expecting anything in return could have more benefits than you think.
A recent study in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology suggests that women and men both find selflessness or altruism to be attractive traits in potential long-term romantic partners.
However, altruistic behavior didn’t really impact the participants’ choices in partners so much when it came to short flings.
“Helping behaviours may be attractive because they signal ‘good genes’ and/or because they are perceived as a signal of likely provision of non-genetic benefits (e.g. parental care),” the study concluded.
If you are interested in becoming more selfless and altruistic in your daily life (not necessarily just to attract a potential significant other) experts have some tips.
Stephanie Manes, a New York couples and individual therapist, said in an email that she has noticed her male and female clients put importance on the quality of selflessness in a potential mate.
“For many of my patients, particularly women, it implies a level of sensitivity which is really attractive,” Manes said.
It's mot only women that value these qualities. Manes said that a male patient of hers would talk about his girlfriend caring for her grandparents.
“For him, it meant that she really cared about family and would probably bring the same quality to children they might have in the future,” Manes said. “At a more subtle level, seeing someone giving to others suggests a mind-set of abundance -- they have enough resources (monetary or emotional) to be generous.”
“That sense of plenty gives many people a feeling of safety and optimism that is really appealing,” she added.
Manes has some tips for becoming more altruistic in your daily life.
1) “Selflessness really requires us to suspend our own agenda and let someone else take center stage. This is more than just a one-off, helping someone across the road kind of thing. We need to cultivate a whole mindset of empathy so that we actually see when the opportunity to help others is opening up.”
2) “One of the most basic (but at times hardest) ways to do this is by practicing intentional listening.