The concept of random acts of kindness is not new, but I don’t think that everyone believes that they have the capacity to be a giver. People often think that they don’t have enough money to be able to donate to charity or buy another a coffee.
Others believe they don’t have enough time to give in the service of others for no return. These are the people who are ignoring the simple gifts they can give that cost nothing, and they don’t understand the enormous results and rewards they can reap in return.
Nearly 20 years ago the movie Pay It Forward made popular a concept of performing acts of kindness toward people, whose only responsibility was to bestow a favour onto someone else in return.
So ‘paying it forward’ rather than the generally thought of ‘paying back’, as is what we often expect when we perform a favour for another.
Random acts of kindness and paying it forward are simply about giving. Full stop. No thought of anything in return. And everyone has something that they can give. It costs nothing.
The rewards for both the giver and the receiver are immeasurable. You don’t know what the receiver needs. Human beings are hard-wired for social connection. They need to be recognised and heard. You need to give just for the hell of it.
A smile, an acknowledgement, a nod of recognition. A kindly word, a thank you, a hug, a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on cost you nothing. A thank you note, flowers from your garden, a home-cooked meal cost very little.
Many hotels have adopted the Ritz-Carlton’s 10/5 Rule. The rule is that when staff are within 10 feet of a guest they are to make eye contact and smile. When they are within 5 feet they are to smile and say hello. Imagine how special you would feel staying in a hotel, that made you feel like a really special guest.
It’s simple, it costs nothing, but has become such a successful customer service standard that it has been adopted by other industries such as health care groups and banks.
The research has shown that not only does the 10/5 Rule result in great customer satisfaction, but it also results in employee retention and improvements to the company bottom line.
In Before Happiness, Shawn Achor writes about the work he did with the Ochsner Health System staff after Cyclone Katrina to improve performance in hospitals. Eleven thousand health care providers and administrators were trained in the 10/5 Rule. What they found was the behaviour became contagious.
There were no posters up to promote the rule, but patients, visitors and external contractors began to unconsciously follow the patterns exhibited by the staff.
Even more amazing is that Ochsner found greater improvements in patient health, a 2.1% increase in unique patient visits and the group reporting a $1.8b increase in revenue in 2011.
So, you might be asking, what does this all have to do with me and performing random acts of kindness?
Well, imagine if when you’re out walking or waiting in line to be served you just smile, make eye contact or speak to another person. Imagine you raise your attention from your phone and just say ‘Hi’ to other people in a lift with you. You don’t know what they are going through. You don’t know if all they may need that day to feel connected to the human race is a kind word from someone else.
Imagine the knock-on benefits of that person acknowledging someone else, just because you raised their spirits for the day.
We all have a level of happiness within that we can share with others. Even if you don’t feel so happy at the time, the exercise itself will improve your disposition and cause your level of happiness that day to increase.
Practiced more often, you can actually raise your own baseline of happiness by sharing your smile with someone else. You can be a warm ray of sunshine affecting not only those you meet, but with further reaching positive consequences than you can imagine.