A few weeks ago, I was having coffee with a friend when a man walked up to us. He was carrying a suitcase and asking people for spare change. He asked us if we could help him out. I had some cash on me so I gave it to him.
He was extremely grateful, even elated, and I was happy to help. My friend said that I probably made his day. I felt good about the interaction.
But I didn’t post about it online or share it on SeeKindness.
I work for SeeKindness. I know that reading others’ acts of kindness is a good thing, that it can even inspire more kindness. But I still felt uncomfortable. I felt scared of what others would think or say. I’ve seen enough disparaging comments on Twitter and Facebook to know that many people believe that the only way to do a true act of kindness is to do it anonymously and silently. I’ve read many comments stating that kindness is only good if you don’t write about it. Plus, sometimes people share their acts of kindness as a PR stunt or to gain public praise. Would someone say that type of thing to me?
I thought it would feel weird to post, “I gave money to a person struggling with homelessness today. He was happy and that made me feel good too.”
But the more I read those sentences to myself, the less weird I felt. I knew it was a kind thing to do. I was grateful I could help someone. Asking people for money is uncomfortable and awkward. I was happy to make his day a little easier.
Sharing our own acts of kindness can be challenging. It can feel weird, like writing about our accomplishments or trying to talk ourselves up in an interview. We have been taught to remain humble, to not come off as bragging (or worse, humblebragging).
However, the potential good of writing about our acts of kindness outweighs the possible bad.
For instance, kindness generates more kindness. We are more motivated to be kind or generous when we know others are being kind too. One study performed by Robert Cialdini and colleagues found that when hotel guests saw a notice saying the majority of guests choose to reuse their towels instead of receiving fresh ones each day, they were more likely to reuse their towels as well.
Posting our acts of kindness on the SeeKindness map is like sharing a notice saying we are kind here. When we see that others are doing acts of kindness near us or afar, it can motivate us to pay it forward.
Secondly, we are all influenced by negativity bias. Have you ever received a bunch of compliments on a project (or an outfit) and one critique? Research shows that criticism lasts longer than praise, no matter how many positive comments we receive. Furthermore, several studies have found we are more drawn to bad news, even if we prefer good news, and that we are more aware of negative words than positive ones.
We developed this trait so we could constantly scan for threats and be ready to protect ourselves at a moment’s notice. Since we no longer live among woolly mammoths or have to fear being chased by lions, we can start to train ourselves to focus on the positive.
Kindness can help us do just that.
Reading acts of kindness can make us more aware of the positive in the world and keep us hopeful during hard times.
Thirdly, even though we may perform an act of kindness for someone else, we still end up benefiting. One could argue that all acts of kindness are inherently selfish since the “giver” also benefits from doing an act of kindness. Giving, receiving, or even observing an act of kindness makes people feel good.
Kindness releases oxytocin, a significant contributor to the helper’s high. The helper’s high is “based on the theory that giving produces endorphins in the brain that provide a mild version of a morphine high.” As you may know from personal experience, it feels good to help people out!
We like feeling useful and knowing we made someone smile.
Posting our own acts of kindness on SeeKindness is a great way to share the benefits with more people. Reading others’ acts of kindness can put us in a good mood. Moreover, sharing how you have helped other people isn’t bragging.
If you have done something kind for someone, please share it on our map. Your act of kindness can resonate with and inspire someone across the street or across the globe. Share the good. Spread the joy. Choose kindness.