By Caitlin Bethell, Head of Psychology
As a child I was told to be kind. To be kind to my little sister, to be kind to my friends and family, and to be kind to people I didn’t know. It’s a value I have carried with me throughout my life, as have many of the people around me. We define kindness as the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. But it can be so much more than that and can mean different things to different people. Kindness can be shown through intentional, voluntary acts or gestures, to better your life and the lives of others through genuine acts.
I personally feel that kindness is often more than just an act or gesture – it is a movement. We teach children to be kind because we want to see good things happening in the world. One kind gesture can lead to another. Kindness is a fundamental part of the human condition which bridges the divides of race, religion, politics, gender and location.
I see kindness as having a huge role to play within inclusion, especially in the workplace and especially after the last two years where we have been going through a pandemic. We have realised that if we want to get the best out of people, they need to be treated with kindness as this helps them feel valued and that they belong. While we know that organisations with inclusive cultures perform better and are more successful than those that aren’t, there is also a lot of scientifically proven benefits that come with being kind.
The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation shares some of these:
- Witnessing acts of kindness produces oxytocin (the love hormone) which aids in lowering blood pressure and improving overall heart health. Oxytocin increases our self-esteem and optimism, which can help if we feel anxious or shy. (Natalie Angier, The New York Times)
- About half of participants in a study reported that they felt stronger and more energetic after helping others; others also reported feeling calmer, less depressed and increased feelings of self-worth. (Christine Carter, UC Berkeley, Greater Good Science Center)
- A 2010 Harvard Business School survey of happiness in 136 countries found that people who were altruistic – in this case financially generous – were happiest overall.
- People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organisations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying early, after sifting out all other contributing factors such as physical health or gender. This is a stronger effect than exercising four times a week or going to church. (Christine Carter, “Raising Happiness: In Pursuit of Joyful Kids and Happier Parents)
- Kindness stimulates the production of serotonin. This feel-good chemical can heal your wounds, calm you down and make you happy. (Tayla Steinberg, Psy.D for Psychology Today)
Kindness has also been found to reduce pain, stress, anxiety, depression and blood pressure – what more could you want?
When we think about this on an organisational level, kindness can boost productivity, it can help build trust and support in creating a positive work culture. So, if we want our employees to feel included, being kind to them can be beneficial to both them and ourselves. Here are some simple ways of showing kindness:
- Say thank you – this is a simple but effective way of showing kindness. If someone has done a good job thank them in a way that they would want to be thanked. It doesn’t need to be big but will show an employee they feel valued.
- Set time aside to get to know your colleagues – a few years ago I had a great HR Director who once a month would gather the team together for a cup of tea and a chat. He would personally make every person a cup of tea and bring cake or biscuits. Such a small act of kindness from him had a huge impact on the morale of the team and it’s something I’ll never forget.
- Pay it forward – like in the film, instead of owing someone a favour, do something kind for the next person. Whether it is buying someone a coffee, helping a colleague with a challenging task or listening to a friend when they have had a tricky day, put some time into helping a person in need.
Kindness is contagious. A simple act can change the course of someone’s day. All it takes is for you to do one kind thing
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