What is kindness, anyway?

We asked our community. This is what they had to say.

It’s a word we use often in many forms. We say, ‘so and so is a kind person’, or define someone’s actions as ‘not very kind’. We teach others to speak kindly, and want our children to experience kindness.

Here at kindness.org, we believe that kindness is infinite, using the power of imagination. It’s something anyone can choose, and can be chosen anywhere and at any time. So, then, what IS kindness?

We wanted to get answers from a community of kind. So in February 2017 we asked followers of kindness.org on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram what they considered kindness to be.

facebook.com/kindnessorg

As you can see in this small sample of responses above, people’s interpretations of kindness were brilliantly and refreshingly varied. Some people considered kindness as showing respect, being forgiving, or simply “doing the right thing.”

Others saw it as being “natural” and “simple”, and a sprinkling of respondents highlighted that kindness is contagious, inspiring people to pay it forward. This is music to our ears.

A handful of people on social media simply equated kindness with love.

And many of you pointed out the importance of improving the lives of people who you don’t know.

instagram.com/kindnessorg

This response compares with earlier work we did analyzing stories of kindness from our community, which showed 76% of kind acts involved strangers.

A shared view of kindness in action

As we looked at the definitions people offered, we found that many people shared a common view of kindness as described by the following actions:

Showing empathy (27% of respondents) People talked about empathy as listening to others with compassion, to better understand and share their feelings.

Smiling (20%) It appears that followers of kindness.org are big fans of smiling — something which is free, easy and effective.

instagram.com/kindnessorg

Making someone else smile was close to your hearts, too:

Helping (13%) We defined helping as doing things for others to assist them in solving a problem or achieving a goal. Some of you stressed the importance of helping those in need without expecting anything in return.

Giving (11%) Giving is seen as an important part of kindness.

Thank you so much to our community for their generous responses!

We’d like to give the final word to Terry-Lee Heuer, who expressed on Facebook a sentiment that gets right to the heart of the work we are trying to do: “I believe if we are kind our lives will change for the better.”