Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote, "What the world needs now is love, sweet love . . ."
And Tim McGraw sang, "Always be humble and kind . . ."
And now People magazine is asking everyone to--please--be kind. "Think about what we have in common, not about our differences," writes Editor-in-Chief Dan Wakeford in the November 18, 2019 edition, which People is calling The Kindness Issue. "Recognize that everyone is going through something--and that a little kindness goes a long way."
People was inspired by Chip and Joanna Gaines, the home improvement entrepreneurs, who took time out of their whirlwind schedule to design flyers designed to encourage acts of kindness. The idea, writes Chip, is this: "We believe in human kindness, knowing we are made better when we work together."
If you're a little cynical, you may be thinking, "All this kindness is . . . well, nice, but what does it have to do with work?"
How about this: Being kind has the power to make you more successful. Especially in today's elbows-out, cyber-bullying society, kindness gives you a competitive advantage over your uncivil colleagues.
Need proof? Here are three compelling reasons, backed by research:
1. Exhibiting warmth--being enthusiastic, friendly and kind--makes you more influential. As Amy J.C. Cuddy (and colleagues) write in The Harvard Business Review, "A growing body of research suggests that the way to influence--and to lead--is to begin with warmth. Warmth is the conduit of influence: It facilitates trust and the communication and absorption of ideas. Even a few small nonverbal signals--a nod, a smile, an open gesture--can show people that you're pleased to be in their company and attentive to their concerns."
For example, Cuddy cites Princeton social psychologist Alex Todorov, who has studied the "cognitive and neural mechanisms that drive our 'spontaneous trait inferences'--the snap judgments we make when briefly looking at faces. Their research shows that when making those judgments, people consistently pick up on warmth faster than on competence."
2. Generosity--being a sharing, giving person--not only increases your productivity, it also helps your colleagues work more effectively. In another HBR article, Adam Grant describes a meta-analysis led by Nathan Podsakoff, of the University of Arizona. Podsakoff "examined 38 studies of organizational behavior, representing more than 3,500 business units and many different industries, and found that the link between employee giving and desirable business outcomes was surprisingly robust. Higher rates of giving were predictive of higher unit profitability, productivity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction, along with lower costs and turnover rates. When employees act like givers, they facilitate efficient problem solving and coordination and build cohesive, supportive cultures that appeal to customers, suppliers, and top talent alike."
3. Kindness builds trust. Here's Amy Cuddy again, writing about a study by Mascha van't Wout, of Brown University, and Alan Sanfey, of the University of Arizona. The researchers asked subjects to determine how an endowment should be allocated. Players invested more money, with no guarantee of return, in partners whom they perceived to be more trustworthy on the basis of a glance at their faces.
Writes Cuddy: In an organization, "trust increases information sharing, openness, fluidity, and cooperation. If coworkers can be trusted to do the right thing and live up to their commitments, planning, coordination, and execution are much easier. Trust also facilitates the exchange and acceptance of ideas--it allows people to hear others' message--and boosts the quantity and quality of the ideas that are produced within an organization."
Want another reason to show a little kindness to your colleagues? People magazine quotes Daniel Fessler, an anthropology professor at UCLA: "The spread of positive behavior is contagious. And science shows that practicing kindness and compassion has direct emotional, psychological and medical effects."
So, smile. Be courteous. Extend a helping hand. In other words, be your wonderful kind self.