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Kindness is infectious and helps to create a better atmosphere at work. This was one of the conclusions of a study carried out at Coca Cola Iberia by Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California. Lyubomirsky spent four months examining the behaviour of employees working in the Madrid offices who had signed up for the project (in the main, women aged from 22 to 61 working in different departments). She came to the conclusion that the people who were kindest were less irritable, had more of an appetite, slept better, were less likely to be depressed and felt more committed to their job. All this aside, they also had better relationships with their co-workers. Pretty good, isn’t it? The big question is: Is kindness a basic element of human nature? Anthropology has given us the answer: apparently, it is part of our DNA.

In the course of excavations at the Atapuerca site in the north of Spain, archaeologists found the skull of a girl belonging to the species Homo heidelbergens. She was born 500,000 years ago with certain malformations. Apparently, while she was in her mother’s womb, the bones of the skull of Benjamima, as the girl has been dubbed by palaeontologists, didn’t fuse. This resulted in cerebral and physical paralysis. What’s surprising is that she managed to live until the age of 10 and didn’t perish much earlier in a world where sabre-toothed tigers and other ‘kitties’ were constantly on the prowl. Bearing in mind that half a million years ago anyone who lived to the age of 40 was considered very old, it can be said that this child lived more than a third of the normal lifespan of a healthy person The key to her survival must have been the kindness shown to her by her clan, who were obviously not as savage as one might have thought.

Contemporary research, such as that carried out by Lyubomirsky, is showing that as well as helping us to evolve as a species, kindness strengthens our commitment at work and promotes a better working environment. The kinder we are, the more pleasant the conditions we create, which has a positive effect on all those we work with. In view of this, it might be a good idea to include kindness (and optimism too, as we saw a while back), as a factor to take into account when hiring new people or even when considering who should get promoted.

Rather than just being a personal quality, kindness forms part of the way we lead our lives. It is based on our ability to give and to surrender ourselves, on our ability to take care of those around us. Kindness is not just about material things; it also has to do with our time and our feelings. It springs from a positive view of the world: I will be happier to the extent that I do not accumulate possessions, but share them. Despite the fact that out great, great great….grandfathers lived in harmony with this principle, there are still people who prefer to act very differently. Now, kindness is something that can be developed, but first of all you must want to do it. Even if someone is sceptical about the possibilities of becoming kinder, the fact that research shows that it makes us happier might make them try. Here are some simple suggestions for starting the process.

Take-aways

  1. Do you think you’re a kind person? Think about the last week: in what ways have you been kind to people at work?
  2. Get rid of stuff that you don’t use. Look through your wardrobe and cast an eye over your desk at work, and give away things that you might not have given away in the past.
  3. Think about the conversations you have had in the last few days: were you more interested in talking about yourself or in listening to the needs of the other person. Kindness also lies in a willingness to view others with kindness and generosity.

Round-up

Kindness at work is infectious, creates a more pleasant atmosphere and makes us feel better about ourselves.

 

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