It’s not often I hear kindness being attributed to a person as a quality or virtue to be admired. We often describe or consider people as intelligent, inspirational, successful or talented, but do we hear someone being thought of as kind? Sadly kindness has become undervalued in society today, especially in business, and yet, science shows that we are hard wired to be kind.
David Hamilton, scientist, author and speaker says that we have a gene known as the oxytocin receptor gene and this gene is responsible for various degrees of kindness within a person. What this doesn’t mean however is that if you have the gene which predisposes you to not being kind, that you’re stuck like that forever. Choice plays a huge part overriding your genes, and you make choices every day. So in other words, you can learn to become kind.
A few years ago I read a book called Join Me about Danny Wallace, a young English guy who set up a ‘collective’ of people as an ode to his late Grandfather. Wallace’s grandfather who lived in Switzerland, sadly died before creating a commune of 100 people so Wallace decided to set up his own collective of 100 people, completing what his Grandfather had set out to do. The only difference was that Wallace didn’t tell people why they should join his collective – his only focus was to get 100 people. To his utter surprise and amazement, thousands of people around the world joined his collective, willingly, without knowing why they joined. In no time his members (and he was very specific that it wasn’t a cult) came up with the idea that the collective’s focus was to do a good deed or a random act of kindness every Friday. And that’s exactly what they all did.
While being kind makes us feel good as it induces oxytocin, the feel good hormone, kindness also creates ripples of kindness. Harvard University undertook a study that showed kindness having a ripple effect of just three degrees of separation. An act of kindness affects our friends, our friends’ friends and our friends’ friends’ friends. If you’ve ever seen the movie Pay It Forward you will know what I mean. A receiver of kindness is more likely to go and pass kindness on.
When a natural disaster occurs, it becomes obvious how inherent kindness is.
In my opinion kindness is one of those good old-fashioned qualities where in times where people had time for one another, we put others before ourselves. We helped others, not because we wanted something in return, but because we were community orientated and connected to one another. Yet just look at the kindness being shown around the world right now in the aftermath of the unprecedented natural disaster in the Philippines. Many countries have donated millions in aid, food, clothing, water and equipment along with people on the ground to attend to the sick and dying. When a natural disaster occurs, it becomes obvious how inherent kindness is. Everyone wants to help. Of course, a natural disaster isn’t the only occurrence of kindness – just look at the people in the UK who donated their time to sell poppies before Remembrance Day. It was hoped that £37,000 million would be raised in the UK alone for the Armed Forces and their families.
So given kindness is naturally inherent and can be nurtured within, I would love to see kindness (and other qualities such as compassion and empathy) be encouraged in our young and within business. I’d also love to see kindness be more valued, acknowledged and recognised within each other. As a Mindfulness at Work trainer, kindness and compassion is always encouraged within and it makes sense. How can we be truly kind to others if we can’t be kind to ourselves? How authentic are we truly being when we show kindness to others, yet give ourselves a hard time?
Kindness extended to others creates unity, rather than separation.
It doesn’t take much to be kind and I believe it is worth the time getting curious about how kind we are being to ourselves and others. Kindness extended to others creates unity, rather than separation. Kindness to ourselves creates openness, rather than barriers. Everyone is impacted positively by kindness – the giver and the receiver.
“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” Dalai Lama
Try being kind, to yourself and to others and see the impact this has. Imagine kindness in the workplace and how kindness could enhance relationships, productivity and innovation. Try to acknowledge kindness in others rather than just viewing them as successful or beautiful or even popular. You might think you have no influence on making the world, or your environment a better place, but actually you do. Value kindness in yourself and others and be responsible for creating that little ripple.