A different kind of kindness
Updated: Jul 6
How would you define kindness? Someone who helps the sick or the one who feeds the stray dog? Someone who helps you in difficult times and holds your hand when you are down?
All of us perceive kindness differently. Recently I was talking to a kid about kindness and she asked me something that made me reconsider what I understood of kindness. We were speaking about how we should do some kind act daily and she asked me what if there is no opportunity for a kind act? What if no one was in trouble and did not need help? How can I be kind then?
Seriously, what then? In our pursuit of doing a kind act we forget the importance of a kind word, a gentle touch and a loving smile. It is possible to be kind to someone without them being in a problem situation.
We often underestimate the value of our words especially compliments. We as a society tend to disregard the value of compliments. We tend to believe that compliments may spoil a person or make success go to “their head”. We hold back on these kind words not realizing that they could be our kind act for the day.
I remember having this debate with someone who absolutely did not believe in giving compliments. He argued that the rose flowers without anyone complimenting it and the trees grow without kind words, so why do humans need compliments? Well science has proved him wrong hasn’t it? Haven’t biologists and researchers proved that the plants and flowers too respond more to kind words and complimenting them improves their blooming?
Psychology has forever emphasised the importance of positive strokes or positive reinforcement. It has been proved time and again that positive feedback is more likely to increase the desired behaviour. Yet we ignore these simple gestures of kindness.
How often do we compliment someone and not just the girl/boy we wanted to impress? Often we tend to believe that not criticizing something is equivalent to complimenting it. Most people believe that eating the food served to us without complaining is complimenting the cook.
The need for appreciation is an inherent need in all living beings. Plants, animals and humans all respond to appreciation. A sudden decline in positive reinforcement is often known to cause low mood and disinterest. A simple compliment can lift our mood is a known and experienced fact. Why then do we deny this basic need of others around us?
Imagine yourself coming back home tired after a long day and you are greeted by your child’s bright smile or your dog’s wagging tail. I can almost see you smiling as you read this. As children we give the most genuine compliments and animals show unrestrained appreciation and we as adults lose the simple act of kindness.
I have often heard people talk about how it is not in their nature to appreciate and how their approval and appreciation is silent and in their actions. Yes most of us understand silent acceptance as a form of appreciation. All of us have come to accept lack of criticism as appreciation. Many would argue about how self appreciation is enough and you don’t need others to compliment you.
But let me ask you something, we can survive on fruits and water. We will live a long and healthy life just on that diet but would you want to live that way? Just because something is sufficient for survival does not mean it is enough for happiness.
Yes I agree that the need for appreciation should not become our sole source of motivation. It is unhealthy when it becomes all powering and all consuming. But having no need for appreciation is also unhealthy. Don’t our sages too seek appreciation from the Supreme Being?
Remember how a simple star or a smiling face from your teacher made your day as a kid. Remember how a simple cheer from the crowd pushes an athlete to perform better? Remember how a good feedback boosts the employee.
You could be a painter or a teacher or a priest, a compliment will definitely make you happy. Then why not extend the same to others. We don’t hold back an opportunity to criticize then why do we hold back the appreciation.
Giving a compliment works both ways. It makes both the sender and the receiver happy. Try a simple experiment today….compliment your maid, appreciate the cab driver who got you home, thank the person on the road who allowed you to overtake and appreciate the one who cooked your food and tell me you don’t feel on top of the world.
We can’t all be great philanthropists but our little acts of kindness can definitely make the world a better place.