I am personally delighted to see more empathy, promises of kindness, and trends to #bekind in the world right now. It is a shame that extreme events e.g. high-profile celebrity suicides have driven this, but it’s a timely call to arms to all of us to think how we behave towards others.
Unfortunately, this new movement has created its own meta-faction, the ‘be kind brigade’ a sadly ironic slur towards those who virtuously talk about being so, then a week later argue with people online and thoughtlessly ignore social distancing rules to protecting each other.
We need, as a more-than-ever interconnected human race, to practice what we preach. For those who are cynical, and/or those who have their own challenges to deal with just know this; according to Australian Institute of Family Counselling (AIFC), people who practice kindness have “lower stress than the average person” and “kindness improves mood, depression and anxiety and stimulates the production of serotonin which heals wounds, calms and increases happiness.”
We all have a hunch about what kindness is and we all probably think that we’re kind, but I wanted to hold myself to a higher account and check out what it really means. First stop, the Oxford Dictionary where kindness is defined as: the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate.
I would argue right now, being aware of your own levels of kindness is more important than ever and it feels rather timely, this thematic week of awareness. In this new/temporary/future world of COVID-19, I feel I have seen more kindness than ever overall.
To understand how to be kinder, let’s break down the three areas of kindness per the definition, to enable us to address.
The act of being friendly and pleasant to each other, friend or not. We all deserve this don’t we? Do the oh-so-British thank you ‘nod’ to the person who stands at least two-metres aside on the path to let you pass. Saying ‘after you’ to the fellow shopper who wants to grab the yoghurts from the chiller in the supermarket to show you are aware of their needs and personal space. COVID aside, don’t honk horns and don’t bite at everything you don’t agree with.
Jack Dorsey, Founder & CEO of Twitter, donated $1bn of his net worth for coronavirus relief. As incredibly benevolent as this is, it can be humbling for us mere mortals. Honestly speaking, with business as it is the last couple of months, I’d struggle to donate £1. But that is just it, have a think about what ‘currency’ you have to offer. I have had more time on my hands and a means of transport. I have knowledge and skills in what I do for a living (marketing) that I can share that. In relative terms, I feel very lucky. As a result, I have aimed to be as generous with my time as possible by picking up the shopping for the old couple who live near my parents, and offering to help some small businesses with website and marketing ideas pro bono. I like to think this is generosity, however small. You don’t have to be a tech entrepreneur/philanthropist in Silicon Valley to be generous. Just make me a cup of tea – milk, no sugar please.
It’s as if this was meant to be right now, and the tenet of kindness most needed right now. Consideration is by definition performing acts that are not to the detriment of others. When I hear about gatherings at city parks being planned by ‘anti-lockdown’ groups, I think, putting it lightly, this feels inconsiderate. To put others at risk whilst prioritising the relieving of your own frustrations. The face masks for example. It is meant to be less for you, more for others (stop spreading particles when talking etc. I’m no epidemiologist to speak of its efficacy, but the principle remains.
Conclusion: All of the Above Please
Right now, THE ABOVE feels all the more pertinent. I would add in the extra layer of thoughtfulness, that duly underpins all of this, be thoughtful to others and their mental health. Think about being friendly, generous and considerate. We can all practice kindness right now. It doesn’t have to be Gandhi-esque, it might just be a FaceTime to an old mate, or a Whatsapp of a stupid meme of an in joke.
Whatever you do, just be kind.
Simon Akers is the founder of Archmon, a growth marketing consultancy, a mental health advocate and friend of Trigger Publishing and Shaw Mind.