Kindness: What Its Pleasures and Powers Offer You

Kindness: What Its Pleasures and Powers Offer You

Questions to Encourage Your Creative Actions

The Greeks considered kindness a virtue. Aristotle defined it as helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything, nor for advantage to the helper. But is need necessary to elicit or define kindness?

Please continue to expand your choices.

Kindness today continues to attract interest as demonstrated by author and professor George Saunders’ 2013 commencement speech, Congratulations by the way. Saying something original about kindness is challenging, yet Saunders reminded us anew of its availability to most of us. Notice in the New York Times and most recently in an interview on the Charlie Rose show, helped put Saunders’ slim volume on the best seller list. What hunger could this interest in kindness reflect?

Empathy breeds kindness. In June 2014, the DC School System made page one of the Washington Post with And an itty-bitty child shall lead by Emma Brown. Babies are brought into the classroom to inspire students. Yet Canadians anticipated this nearly two decades ago, as Brown notes, and continue their Roots of Empathy project to address bullying.

Even better, that project promotes “emotional literacy” from which we all may benefit given the challenge of naming our feelings and expressing them clearly. Such awareness and openness contributes to authenticity and trust. How can you help your own kindness flourish with empathy and the chemistry of authentic expression of emotions?

The value of kindness in business. Adam Grant, who teaches at the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, assists others to a degree unmatched by most people. The youngest full professor there, his research identifies three groups of people: takers, matchers, and givers. No need to define the takers; they are immediately apparent in putting their interests first. Most of us are matchers, seeking fair balance in relationships.

In contrast, givers perform selfless acts without expectations of return. They cooperate, mentor, and give priority to others’ needs over their own. According to Grant, givers often do well in life; they develop relationships that work. The ripples from their kindness can move outward and then return, strengthening the dynamic of caring and generosity. However, givers can also linger at the bottom, maybe because of the quality of pools where they wade. Do you tend to be a taker, matcher, or giver? How can you vary your approaches to enhance particular situations?

Kindness contributes to health. Information from neuroscience provides another rationale for kindness. Helping others boosts a range of feel-good chemicals such as oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin. They all benefit bodily functions as well as mood. How will you stimulate those chemicals for yourself and others?

Additional choices to be kind to yourself and others. There are many everyday ways to be kind, to do something for yourself and others without expectations of return. They can be as simple as providing directions or brief guidance to anticipating what someone wants without being asked. How do you want to substitute forgiveness for judging and give yourself and others the benefit of the doubt?

Here are some other ways to express kindness:

• Acknowledge specifically an action, perspective, or capability that’s positive.
• Confirm need first before offering relevant assistance.
• Listen carefully to yourself and others to gather information about what would be useful.
• Comment on an effective, attractive aspect of a person’s self-presentation or dress.

Little of this requires great effort. Instead, just be alert for opportunities to take small steps that feel authentic to you and don’t distract you from your own important priorities.

Exercising kindness. Let go of undue expectations of yourself and others. Rather, use that energy and focus to create gentle joys to share. Such kindness to yourself and people you care about can ease relationships, add pleasure, and empower all involved.

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