Kindness – a superpower or a weakness?

– Posted in: Emotional Intelligence, Empathy, Teamwork

Today I left my wallet with about $200 in cash at the grocery store.  Later I got a call from the store manager that the cashier found it.   Two years ago I left a $50 gift from William-Sonoma on a bench at the train station in Toronto.  The next morning when I commuted back to work, I went to the bench and found the gift under the bench still in its box – about 16 hours later.

Is this an anomaly?

Why does it seem that there is more kindness in the “real world” than at work?  Sure people are civil and professional (most of the time) at work. They can be even friendly.  But there seems to be a lack of real kindness when we’re all competing for promotions, raises, bonuses and maybe even our job.  Kindness to not gossip; kindness to not throw people under the bus; kindness to keep our word seems somewhat “lacking”.

Can kindness co-exist with getting bottom-line results?

Do you have to sell out your values to make money, get ranked at the top, feel secure, stay in control or however you measure “success”?

Is kindness a weakness or a super-power when it comes to being a leader, a parent, a team member or someone competing with others?

Well it depends on the motivation behind what you call kindness.

When kindness comes from a place of peace it might:

  • Have no strings attached (no hidden price tags, expectations, etc.).
  • Feel good in your thoughts and in your body. A feeling of “shackles off”.
  • Add peace to the world. Including your world. Kindness to others at expense to your health, peace of mind, stress levels…is unkind to yourself.
  • Connect you to others, rather than separating you from others.

When kindness comes from a place of stress it might:

  • Not feel good in your thoughts and in your body.  It feels “shackles on”.
  • Be a cover-up for getting approval, feeling worthy or just being liked.
  • Lessen peace in the world.
  • Disconnect you from others.

So what does this have to do with money or results as defined by what you deem “success” to mean?

Unless you’re in a bubble, you need cooperation from others to succeed.  If you’re a parent you need your family to cooperate to do chores, do homework, etc. If you’re in any organization from the academic system to the corporate world, you need parents, teachers, team members, member of the community and leaders to work together to solve problems.

You can try telling. You can try selling.

You can try persuading. Commanding.  Ordering.  Shaming.

Scaring them into helping you with punishments.

However, people don’t remember what you say.

They remember how you made them feel.

If you don’t consider emotions as part of the cooperation process, you’ve completely missed the people side of doing business.

Kindness (the real deal – not the icky version) is a superpower when you can form a connection and enable people to feel good by first giving from a place of feeling good.

When people feel good, then you become an:

 “Oasis of Kindness”

A reprieve from the insanity, insensitivity, harshness,  and isolation that seems to be rampant in teams and organizations.  Kindness can turn a question like “How are you?” into a timeout to connect.

And the real bonus?

Kindness sets up resonance.   Which means it builds a good feeling to both parties.

Kindness is contagious to those downstream to the event as well. It can inspire a “pay it forward” attitude.

Kindness can be recalled even decades later. It really doesn’t have a shelf life. Try this 30 second exercise:

♥ Take 30 seconds right now to remember someone who was kind to you.  Picture the person.  Recall the situation.  Where were you? What were you feeling? What were you doing?  What act of kindness did you experience?

……….. 30 seconds ………..later………..

Did a smile come to your face? ♥  A smile came to my face as I recall the kind cashier who gave me my wallet back.

We have a deep human instinct to be kind. When we exercise that authentically, it brings us home to who we are.

Kindness inspires.

I’m not a brain scientist or psychologist so I don’t know what exactly is happening at a biological level but it does seem like feeling good is tied to research being done on oxytocin release and mirror neurons.

So it’s possible to inspire cooperation without using:

  • Intimidation
  • Bullying
  • Fear

And maybe you find that people do helpful things without being asked.

They get innovative ideas out of the blue and actually tell you about them instead of being disengaged and disconnected.

Or they exceed their promises. 

And your definition of success – bottom line, revenue, timeline, kids behaving – whatever that might look like, becomes much easier.

And you didn’t’ feel like you “sold out” your humanity to achieve your success.

Of course, kindness is not all you need. Creativity, innovation, solid design, flexible planning and hard work are also some of the key ingredients of success.

But layering in kindness won’t weaken your chance of success.

Adding kindness to the smart things you already do will strengthen your chance of success.

2 Comments… add one

Sandra Walker May 2, 2014, 12:38 am

HI Sunita
What a great article. It was so accurate. Being kind to others at work results in good relationships and true when parenting children. I recently was in the grocery store and overloaded the small carry basket with heavy items and one of the stock boys noticed me and then a minute later he was approaching me with a shopping cart. I thanked him and let him know how nice he was. It made my day and I am sure it made his getting positive feedback. I am looking forward to reading more of your blog. Thanks and take care.

Sunita Alves May 2, 2014, 6:54 pm

Sandra – what a great story! Helping someone and then taking the time to express gratitude are wonderful ways to foster kindness.

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