She waited patiently at the train station for her train to arrive, she had a meeting to get to in Manchester. As usual it was going to be four minutes late. Four minutes turned into six and then, without warning the train, simply did not arrive. The app on her phone told her it had been and gone, yet all the people were still waiting on the platform. What had happened to the train? Back to this story later…
The London marathon made big news in April. Record numbers took part and one man ran carrying a tumble dryer on his back. He set the world record for completing a marathon while carrying a kitchen appliance. The story of the event was, of course, the act of kindness shown by Swansea Harrier, Matthew Rees towards fellow runner, David Wyeth of the Chorlton Runners club. On the approach to the finish line, Matthew saw David, who was close to collapse, and, rather than worry about his own time, stopped to help the stricken athlete over the line. The scene had echoes of last September when one Brownlee brother sacrificed professional achievement to help the other.
In interviews after, Matthew was keen to point out that he was simply doing what anyone would have done, and that others had been doing the same for strangers throughout the event.
We assume that kindness is a given, that it’s human nature. But is it? Our reaction to the aforementioned marathon story gives a clue that for many, maybe it is not. Sometimes, when the opportunity to be kind to other arises, we don’t spot the opportunity, get too embarrassed to act or are worried that the other person might not appreciate a kind gesture.
Being kind to others is positively good for us, being brave enough to ‘go for it’ gives us a great sense of satisfaction. We don’t need the thanks, or the recognition. Indeed, for many, that is the embarrassing part, they are just acting in a way that they would want to be treated. Dr Martin Seligman, leading positive psychologist, refers to kindness in his book, Flourish, as one of the key elements that supports our ability to engage with others and flourish as a well-rounded individuals (p.24, Flourish, 2011).
Patty O’Grady, another positive psychologist, states “kindness changes the brain by the experience of kindness. Children and adolescents do not learn kindness by only thinking about it and talking about it. Kindness is best learned by feeling it, so that they can reproduce it.”
In being kind to others, we learn how to be grateful and to empathise.
Laughology is not just about having a good laugh, or being happy. We look at all the elements that contribute to happy people, happy organisations and happy schools. These elements, or happiness matrix, show how we can break down ‘happiness’ into themes to be explored through our programmes.
One of our themes looks at the mechanism of ‘support’ within an organisation or school environment. How do we support and help each other to develop and thrive, not only as a people but as organisations? This is where our work around how to show kindness to others comes in. In learning how to act on kindness, we can empathise more effectively. We can then develop a greater sense of appreciation for the things around us and see our relationships and happiness develop. This, in turn, feeds our confidence, self-esteem, drive and motivation. We then develop sustainable sets of behaviours that allow us to become better humans, working in supportive, appreciative environments.
Top tips for practising kindness
- Develop your confidence - when you see an opportunity, go for it! Offer your seat on a train, help someone with their bags onto a bus, let someone in front of you in traffic. Whatever your act of kindness, be spontaneous.
- Notice the feelings you have once you have shown kindness. It’s not about the thank you in return necessarily, but the sense of humanity and thoughtfulness of the act. Notice your feelings of accomplishment, fulfilment and satisfaction.
- Become mindful about being kind. Set yourself a challenge. See if you can do three acts of kindness each day.
- Kindness doesn’t need to be a bold act. Simple compliments to people are kind acts. Notice how your relationships can become stronger though the simplicity of the action.
- Be kind to yourself. Give yourself a bit of a break. Paying attention to the needs of others is great and fulfilling, but don’t leave yourself out. Practising self-care will also help you to feel the same sense of accomplishment and will nourish your inner-confidence and self-esteem. Take time to do something you enjoy.
Back to the woman on the train platform. She waited and waited but the train did not come, she went to the ticket booth to find out what had happened and was told that there would be no train. It was stuck at the previous station. The older lady next to her began to fret. “I’ve got to get to Manchester, I have a connecting train to York that I cannot miss, my mother is in a home and is expecting me to visit today”, she worried. The woman who had waited had a car in the station car park. Without hesitation, she said to the older lady: “I’m going to Manchester, do you want a lift?” The offer was gladly accepted.
I was late for my meeting in Manchester that day but it was worth it to help Liz (whose name I learned when she got in my car). She caught her connecting train on time. It was no big deal. I met up with my client who was glad that I was a little late as her legs were tired. She had run the London marathon at the weekend. She began to tell me a very interesting story about a man called David, who runs in her running club, the Chorlton Harriers.