Being kind and performing a kind behaviour has considerable benefits for our physical and mental health. Many studies show that people who are kind to others experience positive emotions, are more satisfied with their lives, and report lower frequency of physical complaints.
Kindness is basically defined as “doing favours and good deed for others, helping them or taking care of them”. This definition implies that being kind is not something tied to people’s reactions to our behaviour or our expectations from others when we act kindly. Our inner experiences, such as feeling good because of being a person who made a small but remarkable positive contribution to someone else’s life, is what really matters.
Have you ever experienced a situation in which you felt like there is something to miss if you are not kind? Or, have you ever felt like you will be rewarded if you are kind, and punished if you don’t? After all, you may think that by being unkind you risk something to be taken from you such as social reputation, money, chance to be accepted by a social group, a promotion in the workplace, or even time.
For instance, you decide to help one of your co-workers without any requests. You simply tidy their desk, and even spend good time doing that. However, after some time, you realize that even though your co-worker has recognized your help, doesn’t show any appreciation verbally. How would you feel in that situation? Would you feel like all those positive emotions you felt after your kind behaviour left you suddenly? Would you be angry about the ‘unthoughtful’ behaviour? What about your intention to be kind to this person in the future? Is it gone or at least are you questioning it? Well, if your answer to at least one of these questions is ‘Yes’, you may need to stop and think. Is it possible that you were disappointed or angry because you were expecting something in return for your kind behaviour? If so, you’re not alone. Many people will behave kindly with the intention that they will be somehow rewarded by the other party, which is not bad in itself. According to psychological theories, this is actually one of the explanations for our prosocial behaviours.
However, research also shows that focusing on your own inner experiences rather than others’ reactions in return while performing any kind behaviour increases the chances for experiencing more positive emotions. Try to remember that, regardless of whether the other person reacted to your kind behaviour or not, it is still true that you did a good deed for; helped and took care of her. Of course, we love to be appreciated and recognized, but kindness should feel good even though we don’t get anything in return.
One last thing to be noted is that kindness spreads quickly and easily; it is highly contagious. So do not hesitate to be involved in random acts of kindness at your workplace. It is possible to create a workplace culture where kindness becomes a basic norm.