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The Importance of Kindness

Dec. 4, 2017 Psychology Today

Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Affection, gentleness, warmth, concern and care are words that are associated with kindness. While kindness has a connotation of meaning someone is naive or weak, that is not the case. Being kind often requires courage and strength. Kindness is an interpersonal skill.

You’ve heard about survival of the fittest and Darwin. Survival of the fittest is usually associated with selfishness, meaning that to survive (a basic instinct) means to look out for yourself. But Darwin, who studied human evolution, actually didn’t see mankind as being biologically competitive and self-interested.  Darwin believed that we are a profoundly social and caring species. He argued that sympathy and caring for others is instinctual (DiSalvo, Scientific American, 2017)

Current research supports this idea. Science has now shown that devoting resources to others, rather than having more and more for yourself, brings about lasting well-being.  Kindness has been found by researchers to be the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Many colleges, including Harvard, are now emphasizing kindness on applications for admission.

There are different ways to practice kindness. One way to be kind is to open your eyes and be active when you see people in need.  Do you notice when people could use a helping hand? A sense of community is created when people are kind to those who need help.

Opening your eyes means noticing when others are suffering. A kind word, a smile, opening a door, or helping carry a heavy load  can all be acts of kindness. Celebrating someone you love, giving honest compliments, sending an email thanking someone, telling someone how s/he is special to you, helping an elderly neighbor with yard work or food, taking a photo of someone and sending it to the person, sharing homemade food, refusing to gossip, and donating old clothing and things you don’t need are all ideas about how to practice kindness.

Kindess is a willingness to full-heartedly celebrate someone else’s successes. Gottman’s work shows that your response to someone’s successes may determine more about your relationship than how you respond when times are difficult. Do you minimize the success, not pay attention to it, or bring up all the problems with the success? Kindness is to be openly happy for the other person.

Kindness is also about telling the truth in a gentle way when doing so is helpful to the other person. Receiving accurate feedback in a loving and caring way is an important part of a trusted relationship. The courage to give and receive truthful feedback is a key component to growth and flexible thinking.

Kindness includes being kind to yourself. Do you treat yourself kindly? Do you speak gently and kindly to yourself and take good care of yourself?

There are many ways to be kind and many opportunities to practice. Perhaps kindness is a value that could add more satisfaction to and strengthen your relationships.

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