Kindness has always been one of my core values and a primary reason why I decided to tackle workplace bullying and incivility in healthcare. I just couldn’t sit back and ignore the badness I was seeing. And we’ve seen a lot of badness lately. From the global pandemic to the most recent death of George Floyd, cruelty can happen any time, anywhere; even in our own backyards. And that’s why I’m asking all of us to start a kindness revolution as a way to tip the balance.
CHOOSE to see the goodness
In one of my favorite movies, Where the Heart Is, Natalie Portman’s character, Novelle, tries to comfort her friend after her and her children were attacked. Her friend asks Novelle, “What do I say to my children [about the cruelty in the world]…”
“You tell them that our lives can change with every breath we take… and tell ’em to hold on like hell to what they’ve got: each other, and a mother who would die for them and almost did… You tell them we’ve all got meanness in us, but we’ve got goodness too. And the only thing worth living for is the good. And that’s why we’ve got to make sure we pass it on.”
What Natalie Portman’s character says is exactly what I’m saying to you. We each have a choice to make when tragedy finds us – spend our time and energy focused on what’s wrong in this world or focus on the goodness – Choose kindness.
Benefits of Kindness
Researcher, David R. Hamilton, Ph.D. shares his work on the benefits of kindness and the impact made. Think about the impact these 4 benefits could have on your coworkers and the people in your community.
- Kindness makes us happier – Elevated levels of endorphins, dopamine create a “helper’s high”. A study of more than 3,000 people found that 95% of people feel good when they help someone, 53% of people feel happier and more optimistic, and those feelings last hours or even days for 81% of people.
- Kindness slows aging – Kindness/generosity has been linked to the release of oxytocin, which reduces levels of free radicals and inflammation in the cardiovascular system and thus slows aging at its source. It’s also good for the heart!
- Kindness makes for better relationships -We are wired for kindness. Some even say there is such a thing as kindness genes within the human genome. We flourish when we are relational. We are connected through kindness. Current relationships strengthen and new relationships develop when we are kind to one another.
- Kindness is contagious – Being kind inspires others to be kind, creating a ripple effect. My favorite example of this combines my love for coffee and paying it forward. It brings me great joy to get my favorite drink through the drive thru and pay for the next person in line… so many follow suit; which is so cool!
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.”
Start a Kindness Revolution at Work
We spend just as much time at work as we do at home. Starting a kindness revolution at work, therefore, is a great way to spread kindness to others. Here are a few simple strategies:
#1: Show gratitude
Everyone has a job to do but it’s so nice when someone thanks you for “doing your job”. Thank the nursing assistant for bathing your patient. Thank the physical therapist for walking your patient or for getting him or her out of bed. Be sincere with your appreciation and be sure to be specific with your gratitude.
#2: Offer to help
When you have a couple of extra minutes, offer to help your co-workers do their jobs. Let the physical therapist know if he or she needs an extra hand to get a patient out of bed, he or she can come to you – even if it’s not your patient. Ask your boss if there is anything you can do to support him or her. Tell another nurse that you’ll watch his or her patients while he or she takes a break. Imagine how a nursing assistant would feel if you offered to help him or her bath a patient – especially if that patient wasn’t yours!
#3: Celebrate each other’s successes
Everyone likes to be recognized in some way for the good things they do. Find opportunities to celebrate everything good about your co-workers: birthdays, degrees, awards, promotions – everything. Why not celebrate the fact that you managed to get through a difficult night? Celebrating can be giving a simple card, ordering out for pizza, bringing in a fruit salad, or just publicly recognizing someone’s accomplishments.
#4: Build relationships with each other
Every conversation you have with another co-worker is either building the relationship or tearing it down. Here are a few scripts you can use to build relationships with others:
To a new grad: “I’m going to do everything I can to help you succeed.”
To a student nurse: “I’m so glad you’re here. I will do everything I can to help you learn.”
To a nursing assistant: “Let’s work together today to care for our patients. I can’t do it without you.”
To a therapist: “Please let me know what I can do to support your work today.”
To your boss: “Having a good relationship with you is important to me. Please feel comfortable letting me know if there is anything I could do better.”
If you consistently show kindness, help and celebrate your co-workers, they will show kindness, help and celebrate you. It just takes one person to start a kindness revolution.
It’s time to spread kindness
It’s time to focus on kindness. How can you make a difference in someone else’s life through kindness?
- Be kind in words and actions each day regardless of how you perceive others treating you.
- Be aware of and own your negative emotions, then be kind anyway.
- Take one day and write down all the times you were kind. Also note when you could have been more kind or positive.
- The next time you are having a bad day, decide to be kind to the next person you encounter.
Remember, each act of kindness might seem small, but it’s actually changing the way we see ourselves, the way we see others, and the way we all see the world.
I’m inviting you to start a kindness revolution in your organization and community. Because like Ralph Waldo Emerson said, it’s never too soon.