It’s that time of year when many of us are preparing to switch off from work and spend time with our loved ones. In many cultures, it is a time to give and receive gifts.
But the greatest gift of all – and the one, which our loved ones are most likely to value – is kindness, or perhaps I should say a generosity of spirit.
This isn’t an obvious corporate trait to highlight given that businesses exist to make money. But I believe it’s an undervalued one in many workplaces and given the time of year, it feels like a good opportunity to explain why.
Firstly, it is important to understand exactly what kindness is. It’s often interpreted as thoughtfulness towards a person in need. But the dictionary definition is much broader: someone who is friendly, generous and considerate.
These are the qualities we train our THP staff in when we talk about the importance of values rather than simply the mechanics of doing a job. At THP, it is about empowering others and helping them to realize the power of positivity so that we can achieve common goals.
When people have this kind of mindset they also adopt a different approach to rectifying mistakes. Instead of seeking to scolding or apportion blame, it becomes more about understanding what went wrong and helping someone to do better next time.
In many ways kindness on an individual level is an acknowledgement that we all make mistakes and that we should strive to treat others, as we would like to be treated ourselves.
At a corporate level, kindness is about how we display our common humanity through our CSR program: how to support those who are struggling with hardship and reward the support systems around them. Our CSR team think very carefully about whom best to help.
Some of the examples this year include the long-term sponsorship of 50 children who were orphaned during the pandemic. These children have now become part of our wider THP family. In addition to receiving financial help, they have also been partnered with THP staff members who will mentor and guide them through to adulthood.
One of the initiatives I’m most proud of is a TV program I’ve been involved with for a number of years: Connecting with Love. This recognizes and honors people who have overcome extraordinarily difficult circumstances through hard work and determination. It also hails the many unsung heroes and heroines who devote themselves to helping others.
And it’s always good to remember how and why doing good benefits us all. For there is a science to why kindness works.
In 2011, Harvard University’s Jason Mitchell and Stanford’s Jamil Zaki highlighted the neurological benefits. Their research showed that when we are kind, our brains release the feel-good chemicals dopamine and serotonin. They also release the hormone oxytocin, which strengthens social bonds and attachments.
So the giver feels happy after showing kindness as well as the receiver, sometimes perhaps even more so. Mitchell and Zaki also concluded that we feel good when we help others, not so much because we think this will help us to avoid negative repercussions but because our brains are hard-wired for fairness and reciprocity.
Kindness pays. It creates a positive energy to the benefit of both the giver and receiver. So why not give it a go. I try to practise it myself every day, including being kind to myself!!