The Importance of Being Kind
In the midst of emotions, of trying to be cool, of societal conventions, of life in general working its strange illusions — we can get very lost and forget the simple act of being kind.
Kurt Vonnegut in God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater uttered a line that defined an important habit to have in life.
“There’s only one rule that I know of…God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
And why is that? Well, let’s dive into the importance of being kind with a little science, a little examination on the way people work, and a little inspiration.
1. We are attracted to those who are kind.
Researcher Kristin Layous and her colleagues conducted a study examining popularity in kids. Studying over 400 students, they gave each of them the task to perform three acts of kindness or to visit three new places in the span of a few weeks. The results returned saying that all the kids participating in this study reported to be happier than they were before. But the kids who chose to perform acts of kindness, were twice as well-liked by their peers than others.
These kind kids that are well-liked were then studied to shown to be less likely to bully and more likely to do nice things for others. They’ve developed pro-social behaviors and became more well-liked unintentionally through kindness. Kindness brings people closer to you. And it makes them like you.
Forget cologne or perfume, spray some kindness onto yourself.
2. People will never forget how you made them feel.
“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Mary Angelou
Ever had an encounter with someone that was just awful? Either you were rude to them because you were just not feeling it that day or they were to you? You may only faintly remember what words were being exchanged, what actions sparked that awful encounter, but what you do remember fully well was that you felt irritated. Or mad. Or upset. You remembered how that person made you feel, as opposed to what he or she did.
And that’s why it’s crucial that in any given moment, at any place, and with anyone — that you are kind. That person you were rude to may be your next boss, who knows? It’s not worth the everlasting impression of you being unkind. Even to those who express negativity towards you. Because anyone who tries to bring you down, is beneath you already.
You get what you give, so choose to be kind in an unkind world.
3. Happiness is a product of kindness.
Michael Norton, Professor at Harvard Business School (with a Ph.D. from Princeton…gees), conducted a social experiment where he gave people an envelope with money. Some had $5 in it, and some had $20. There were two different directions being given. Some people were told to spend the money on themselves, while others were told to spend it on somebody else. Here are his findings:
1. People who spent money on other people got happier.
2. People who spent money on themselves had no effect on their mood.
3. The amount of money didn’t matter.
You think $20 would be better than $5, but what really mattered is that they spent it on somebody else rather than on themselves. Norton went on to conducting the same experiment in Canada, Uganda, Belgium, and more. And everywhere he looked, it became very apparent that giving money away makes you happier than keeping it for yourself.
It became very apparent that everywhere, kindness is a better and happier option.
4. Kindness is a cure.
Our longings and our worries have really to some degree been overblown. We stress over the smallest things and drown ourselves in unnecessary anxieties. But take this advice from Lauren E. Miller, a woman who’s experienced 16 chemos, 12 surgeries, 1 year of herceptin infusions, 6 weeks of daily radiation and a divorce all under 2 years. She said that with the practice of kindness, “you end up feeling safe and connected to that which is good and true in the world and the result is inner calm, clarity of thinking and a heart full of love.”
Can you imagine all the kinds of stress that Lauren had gone through? But what she chose instead was to give back to the world when the world was seemingly taking away from her.
I admit that creating a habit of being kind is a difficult thing to do because there are so many internal and external factors working against us all the time. But everything begins with a little practice. Being kind doesn’t always mean giving away something, or sacrificing tons. Being kind can be achieved through understanding and forgiveness, or the willingness to listen. No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
Kindness is a cure. Just be sure to select it as your form of treatment.