Habit 6: Kindness
What do the following scenarios have in common?
A client is rude but you stay calm.
A friend is feeling low and you send a message to encourage them.
Someone you know is annoying but you want to do the right thing so you choose to spend time with them.
These are situations of kindness.
I want to choose kindness.
I want be my best even when It’s hard.
But sometimes it takes a decision to be kind. I definitely experience this when I’m tired or carrying a heavy workload.
Kindness as a character virtue comes up a lot in positive psychology and happiness literature. Therefore this week I am discussing kindness as a habit in our toolkit for building our best and happiest lives.
The integrity of living kindly
It’s easier to choose to be kind when it’s a value we hold and a belief we cling to.
Our values are linked to virtues of character. I believe in kindness, so if i’m behaving unkindly I feel off with a nagging feeling of dissatisfaction hanging around in my thoughts and feelings. It’s harder to enjoy my day.
Kindness vs generosity
Kindness is a little different to a generous act because we choose kindness as a value so we can act kindly even when we don’t feel like it. Hence, kindness is a principle important to our life happiness.
Researchers here found living to our values is strongly correlated with happiness . We can be kind even to people we don’t like because we value kindness and want to live congruently with our values for greater happiness.
Kori Miller describes here a definition of kindness taken from Otake et al (2006) as three things:
- Being motivated to be kind and act kindly toward others
- Taking notice of kindness in other people.
- Being kind in some way, every day.
Being kind as a habit shows you are successful
Kindness is a character strength and character strengths are innate capabilities we have and enhance through awareness and practice. For example, when a person offends us, we are displaying strength and virtue when we don’t retaliate. This doesn’t mean we accept abuse or fail to stand up for ourselves, but we respond assertively and with kindness. When we live with integrity, we succeed in our dreams, goals and actions.
When kindness isn’t kindness, but fear
If we are nice to people because we fear disapproval or rejection, this is different to choosing kindness as a habit. I don’t mean this in an insulting way because i’ve done this myself to avoid conflict or in hope the person might like me. The difference lies in why we behave a certain way. For me this meant becoming aware of the difference so I can choose to accept myself and be kind because I believe in living that way.
How kindness grows your joy
Last week I talked about the habit of generosity, which is an action we take to give more than others expect. In contrast, when we hold a value of kindness, there are underlying assumptions or beliefs we hold. Here a few i’ve brainstormed so far:
Some beliefs underlying the choice to be kind
- Other people matter.
- My life is more than just looking after myself
- Kindness makes the world better.
- when I am kind, I am behaving at my best
- I feel happier when I’m kind
- I can choose to be a kind person with my thoughts, time, actions, words and possessions.
- When I choose to be kind, this brings out the best in the people I love.
- I can be kind to people I don’t like because this is who I am.
The benefits of living kindly as a habit to building a happy and successful life?
- Kindness is part of being human. The VIA institute on character notes humanity as a character virtue. Humanity includes kindness, love and emotional intelligence where being kind is part of a strong and effective person. For women in professions of medicine and allied health, we chose a role with kindness and humanity at the centre of who we are and what we do. We may have off days because we’re not perfect but chances are we strive to be kind and courteous people as a habit.
- When we behave kindly to colleagues, patients and family, we are living congruently with our values. Most of us i’m sure hold values of doing good to others and behaving kindly. This doesn’t mean living as a doormat to abuse and being mistreated. When we are kind to ourselves and others, this involves confronting hurt.
- We are happier, people like us more and we have improved wellbeing .
Action habits for kindness
- Noticing kind things other people do. When you do this, your mind is focusing away from negative events and tuning in the good in other people.
- Thanking people for their kindness. This encourages the other person so see themselves as kind and you are contributing to happiness in others.
- Showing empathy to your patients and clients. For me, I’ve noticed when I become less task focused and more people focused I am more empathic because I listen better. When I see the client in front of me and hear what they say, I relax and empathize with them more. This is a shift away from task success to people success in my work.
To keep it simple this week, write two names in your journal. Then something you are grateful for in that person. How can you express your gratitude to these two people this week?
 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0051380Lee MA, Kawachi I (2019) The keys to happiness: Associations between personal values regarding core life domains and happiness in South Korea. PLOS ONE 14(1): e0209821. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0209821
 Layous K, Nelson SK, Oberle E, Schonert-Reichl KA, Lyubomirsky S (2012) Kindness Counts: Prompting Prosocial Behavior in Preadolescents Boosts Peer Acceptance and Well-Being. PLOS ONE 7(12): e51380.