Kindness: the Currency of Happiness & Success
Did you know that kindness is good for your physical health, your emotional well-being, and makes you more attractive to others?
Kindness is one of the invisible currencies of happiness, health, and success in all areas of life.
In business, there is plenty of scope for being kind too – to act with kindness and generosity towards yourself and others. As a human being it’s impossible to ignore your approach to kindness and the part this plays in your business success.
It’s natural to be kind
Put simply, the act of being kind releases a range of natural feel-good hormones in your body, including oxytocin and endorphins. So practicing kindness, compassion, and appreciation can make you happier, boost your immune system, reverse the signs of aging, relieve pain, and even help you live longer. Choosing to think and feel kindness about someone you find challenging, ahead of interacting or responding to them, is one of my favourite strategies for changing how I feel in the moment (e.g. releasing stress or anxiety), and is an excellent strategy for defusing potentially difficult situations.
Kindness is one of the core values I write about in my book Heartatude, the 9 Principles of Heart-Centered Success. This article is an extract from my book with additional tips on how to be kind in business.
Human beings are genetically wired to be kind. Kindness comes from our ability as a species to relate to one another, feel empathy and compassion towards one another, and the desire we naturally have to eliminate suffering and help each other. Being kind and generous on an unconditional basis is a natural and effective way to connect with others.
‘The best part of life is not just surviving, but thriving with passion and compassion and humour and style and generosity and kindness.’ Maya Angelou, Author & Poet
True acts of kindness are made without any attachment or expectation to an outcome; they are what you feel compelled to do as a loving and caring human being. Studies show that being kind towards others is a highly effective way to change how you feel and even reduce feelings of depression because it requires focusing on someone other than yourself.
No act of kindness is too small
And often the acts of kindness that are most appreciated are the small yet important things which you may never know the outcome of.
I remember being at an event and, during an interval, I went to the toilet. As I was walking towards a cubicle that was being vacated, the woman who came out offered me a tissue from her handbag as there was no toilet paper. And, on hearing this exchange, the woman in the next cubicle passed through a roll of toilet paper. If you’ve ever gone into a public toilet only to realise too late that there’s a lack of toilet paper, you’ll know how much you’d appreciate such gestures!
In business, I’m often very pleasantly surprised by the ever-flowing, spontaneous acts of kindness and generosity of those I’ve connected with. Often what may have seemed like a small thing to them has transformed my business in terms of scope, impact, and financial rewards. I’ve been personally introduced to many people who have given me business, or helped me out; through discussion, they’ve enabled me to work towards greater goals; they’ve been generous with their time and, in many instances, they have become great friends. Without a doubt, my business would not have succeeded without the generosity of others. And I always aim to be that way with people, too.
How do you engage with kindness?
Have you noticed that some people ooze kindness, while others just don’t seem to think of others?
Like many of our behaviours, the way we express kindness is greatly influenced by what we experienced when we were growing up. What did you learn from your parents and those around you about being kind? I have friends who learned from their parents to put kindness as a human quality above most other ‘measures of success’ in life; that being kind and loving was the most important thing in life. Whereas others were taught to place greater importance on academic, career, or sporting achievements. There is no right or wrong, but what we learned about kindness when we were young undoubtedly shapes who we become, what we naturally feel inclined to do, and how we engage in life.
Most of us have learned that kindness is a desirable human behaviour. Yet some people receive conflicting messages between what they were ‘told’ and the behaviours they experienced or observed. I’m sure you’ll have met some people who come across as being kind but then their actions conflict with their words. They may perceive themselves as being kind but go around hurting or abusing others. If you’re honest with yourself, has there ever been a time when you have been unkind to someone?
You are more likely to engage in spontaneous acts of kindness when you’re fully present in the moment and not distracted by other more pressing things on your mind. Think about it: when you’re running around with lots on your mind, do you ever get to your destination with very little awareness about the people you passed along your way? If this is the case, is there any scope that you’ll have missed an opportunity to be kind to someone? To stop and help an elderly person across the street; to notice and pick up a glove a young child has dropped; to listen and respond with kindness to what’s being said or not said?
As well as being present in the moment to respond to day-to-day events which give you the opportunity to be kind, consciously setting the intention to be kind to someone each day or in a particular situation can also change how you feel and make a difference to others. You could even find that, as a result, others around you change, more opportunities present themselves, and you experience unexpected benefits.
‘When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.’ The 14th Dalai Lama
You may have heard of the book or film, Pay It Forward. It’s an inspiring story about a 12-year-old boy who is challenged by a social studies teacher to ‘think of an idea for world change and put it into action’. His idea is to do something good for three people and to ask them to ‘pay it forward’ so that collectively they create a human wave of kindness. On the back of the film, The Pay It Forward movement was born. The idea is that you do a good deed for someone else, without expecting anything in return other than that they ‘pay it forward’ to someone else. To proactively come up with an idea in advance and do it. Or when you’re faced with an opportunity, to do this in the course of a day. There is no such thing as too small an act of kindness.
Is kindness being used against you?
It’s also worth being aware of how acts of kindness trigger certain behaviours – in yourself and others. In his book, Influence; The Psychology Of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini talks about the principle of ‘reciprocity’ that relates to how we human beings have a tendency to feel the need to reciprocate or respond favourably to requests made by people we perceive as having done something for us.
For example, a few years ago I decided to learn how to play golf. My golf instructor had very kindly lent me a club I could use to practice my swing at home and at the driving range until I decided whether I wanted to invest in a set of clubs. After a few weeks of really enjoying my lessons (and apparently making surprisingly good progress), I thought it was time to buy my own clubs. I did some research on eBay and decided I’d ask my instructor for his advice. Knowing all about the principle of ‘reciprocity’ (and how this is a major influencing factor for me when making buying decisions), I went to my next lesson with the intention of only asking for advice and with the specific intention that I’d say ‘no’ to any clubs he may have.
I was delighted that he agreed it was time for me to get a full set of clubs, and he gave me some really useful tips about what to buy. Then I found myself with a bit of a dilemma: he’d had a client trade in her first set that week. He could offer them to me for £50 just now, and would happily buy them back from me when I was ready to trade up. So here was what was going through my mind: he’s lent me his club for the last six weeks, and now he’s offering me a deal that in the long-term isn’t going to cost me a penny. He’s been kind to me once and now is being kind again – how can I say no?
While one factor that led me to buy those clubs was the low financial cost, the main driver was that the thought of saying ‘no’ and holding onto the club he’d lent me now seemed selfish. And I didn’t want to be perceived as being selfish. My instructor’s act of kindness in lending me the club resulted in me going home that day with the clubs in the boot of my car, laughing to myself at what had just happened.
The reason I highlight this is that, by being human, you are being influenced all the time by others’ acts of kindness – so it is in your interest to know what is influencing you. Have you ever been compelled to take certain action because the other person had previously been kind or done you a favour?
Likewise, you are influencing the decisions of others by being kind, in terms of how they are likely to respond to you and any requests you make of them. While I’m an advocate of unconditional acts of love, kindness, and compassion, it is important to recognise when setting personal boundaries could be in the highest interests of you and others.
Your experience of kindness starts with you
If you want to experience more kindness in your life, the first step is to be more kind to yourself. I meet lots of very thoughtful, kind, and generous people, who are precious pearls in their community. But many forget to be kind to themselves as well and often end up feeling knackered, ill, and frustrated because they are not getting their personal needs met. Sometimes this goes on to result in feelings of resentment and depression. Giving to others at the expense of what you need yourself, is not sustainable, whereas being kind to yourself gives you greater capacity to be kind to others.
As Mahatma Gandhi once said, ‘Be the change that you wish to see in the world.’ In other words, whatever you want to feel or experience such as love, happiness, confidence, or success, you first need to feel and live them yourself. Then, notice how others respond to you and the opportunities that present themselves.
Commit to consciously being kind to yourself and others, with random acts of kindness over a day, week, or month. Being kind to yourself could include time for yourself, what you eat or drink, and what you expose yourself to. There are so many ways you can be kind to others.
You could make this more fun and impactful by involving others in your challenge. Remember to note what you do and how you’re feeling in a journal if you’re doing this over a period of time. A great resource for ideas is The Random Acts Of Kindness Foundation (www.therandomactsofkindnessfoundation.org). You don’t have to think about exactly how you will be kind – by simply setting this intention and being present in the moment as you go about your day, opportunities will arise.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to let go of negative emotions you feel in relation to a challenging person (such as stress, anxiety, hurt, upset, or anger), is to ‘send’ them kindness.
I recently worked with a business owner who was tempted to post angry comments on Facebook about a supplier who had let her down. But she decided to neutralise her frustration by imagining sending them ‘love, kindness, and compassion’ instead. Taking the time to do this put her in a better emotional place and she chose a more effective response – to write a private email. In doing so, she quickly felt better and saved a lot of time and energy. She also avoided potential reputational damage.
To ‘send kindness’:
- Think of someone or something you feel overwhelming love and compassion towards.
- Notice how when you do this, you start to feel love and compassion in your heart.
- As you continue to think of them, connect the feeling of kindness in your heart. Imagine this feeling in your heart having a colour – if it did, what colour would it be?
- Imagine filling your body with this colourful feeling of love, kindness, and compassion.
- Now imagine sending this feeling from your heart to the person or situation that is challenging you, in whatever way your unconscious mind wants to do this. Just trust what comes up.
- Continue to hold and send this feeling for a few minutes.
- Notice how you feel when you’re doing this.
- Once you’ve finished, notice how differently you feel towards the person or situation.
- Then ask yourself how you could respond effectively to the situation.
Sometimes it can also be helpful to first do some tapping to let go of the negative emotion.
Ways to be kind in business
The starting point is to ask yourself ‘how could I be more kind towards myself and others through my business?’ Here are some ideas to get you going…
- Find a good balance between being kind to yourself and others – working long hours serving others at the expense of your own health and well-being is not kindness in practice.
- Incorporate fundraising and supporting causes into your business – this is one of my favourite strategies that I write more about in my book Give-to-Profit: How to Grow Your Business by Supporting Charities and Social Causes.
- Show your customers and business contacts that you care, in ways that matter to them – for some this may be words, gifts, time, recognition or praise etc.
- Offer to help people – generally and particularly in your marketing and sales activities.
- Make introductions – ask people they’d like to be introduced to, review your contacts, and make those introductions.
- Proactively leave reviews on social media – on social media for services, products books, podcasts
- Write testimonials – send these to the relevant person and share publically too as appropriate
- Record a short video about how much you’ve enjoyed someone’s book, product, or services and send this to them.
- Write a blog that recognises the expertise of someone else – share this publically and tag them to let them know you’ve done this.
- Take the time to reach out and find out how people are – especially if you know they’ve had a challenging time or have been working towards a particular business goal, activity, launch, pitch or award etc.
Kindness really is a natural and powerful force for boosting your happiness, health, and prosperity in all areas of your life. Best of all is it’s free and in a plentiful supply…
Let’s spread that ripple of kindness!
- Ebook: 101 Ways To Attract Great Clients, With Heart, Integrity & Social Impact (click here)
- Ebook: 52 Ways to Raise Funds for Charities and Social Causes Through Your Business (click here)
- Ebook: How to Enjoy a Deeper Sense of Meaning in Your Life – coming soon.