In these times of stress and isolation, we can help everyone out by being kinder to each other. James Lewis, Head of Change Management at MI-GSO | PCUBED, talks with Jeff Crofts, Principal Consultant at MP UK, about how we can all support each other.
Note: This episode was originally recorded during and in support of Mental Health Awareness Week.
James Lewis: Hello, everybody. And I hope you’re all well and safe wherever you are in the world, and whether or not you’re part of the MI-GSO | PCUBED community. This is the latest in our Coming Out Stronger podcasts. These podcasts will be brought to you, as most of you will be aware by now, to help you when you’re on site, helping our clients with their project, program, portfolio, and change management requirements.
This week is a little bit different because it’s such an important time to be discussing mental health, with us all working from home, huge changes to our working practices, and I think we need to be very mindful of our own mental health and also those of our colleagues and all try and support each other.
So, I am absolutely delighted to have with me today Jeff Crofts, who’s a principal consultant within MI-GSO | PCUBED. And Jeff is going to be talking today about something which we kind of know about, but do we always actually think hard enough about it? And that is kindness. So Jeff, welcome, and thank you for joining us today.
Jeff Crofts: Thank you.
James Lewis: And my first question to you would be – what is kindness?
Jeff Crofts: Thank you, James. So, let’s start with a dictionary definition. Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. You may also have heard of the term “a kindness”, which is used sometimes to define a kind act.
So it’s a human quality, which is associated with friendship, with giving, and with being mindful of others. Importantly though, just thinking kindly is not enough; to display kindness requires action.
James Lewis: Okay. That’s excellent. That’s an interesting definition, Jeff. So, my next question in relation to kindness is why it is important to mental health, and why is it particularly important now?
Jeff Crofts: So, in some ways, kindness seems perhaps quite an old-fashioned term, perhaps harking back nostalgically for kinder times. But I think it would also be true to say that we live in a world, which is often not kind. You don’t have to look too far in the media and social media and sadly in politics and find behaviour, which is not friendly, not generous, and not considerate of others.
You also don’t have to look too hard to find the tragic consequences when people who are struggling with their mental health are unable to deal with a lack of kindness from others. So, there is a very serious and important side to this, too. Kindness is important. First of all, because being unkind can do incredible damage to others, but there are also some important benefits from kindness, not only for others, but also for ourselves.
Think of how you felt when someone suddenly and unexpectedly does something kind for you. It gives the recipient’s mental health and self-esteem a huge boost. But the giver of kindness also feels good, too. Now, this may seem a little strange, but there are sound physiological and psychological reasons behind this.
James Lewis: So tell me Jeff, these psychological and physiological reasons why the giver of kindness feels good – tell me a little bit more about how kindness benefits to the giver as well as the receiver.
Jeff Crofts: So, studies have shown that when we help others, it can promote physiological changes in the brain, linked with positive mental health.
Firstly, helping others encourages us to be more connected, which helps to build our own support networks, and it reduces any feelings of isolation.
It also encourages us to be more active and to feel a sense of purpose. And this in turn can improve our own self-esteem.
Helping others, especially those less fortunate, can also help us to put things into perspective and make us feel more positive, more optimistic, and more satisfied.
James Lewis: That’s interesting. I mean, are there any rules for being kind, are there any particular principles we should follow in terms of displaying kindness. Or indeed, are there any pitfalls to avoid coming sometimes be looking to be kind, but inadvertently having a different effect?
Jeff Crofts: Definitely so. It may seem a little strange to say it, but kindness, in some ways, is an intrinsically risky endeavor for both parties.
It can risk us looking foolish or being taken advantage of, which is why we sometimes shy away. So, in that respect, to receive and to give kindness, is an act of courage.
Now, we can reduce that risk by looking back at our original definition of kindness and making sure that we consciously apply each of the three parts of the definition – and you can think of them as three tests when we act kindly.
So first of all, be friendly – kindness should not be given with anything other than noble intent and as a gesture of friendship. No hidden agendas, no motives.
Second, be generous. Kindness is not a transaction. And if you’re expecting anything in return from the recipient, you’re not being genuinely kind.
And finally be considerate. Use your emotional intelligence to understand the other person’s situation and think of something appropriate that would help them, but that won’t overwhelmed them or make them feel obligated or dependent.
James Lewis: Okay, thank you, Jeff. That’s extremely useful. But now if you’ve got people listening here and thinking, this has really struck a chord, and this does seem like a good time to actually recalibrate the way that I think about this, my behaviors, maybe how I can be kind to people with no thought of reward or no ulterior motive to it.
Have you got any tips as to how you can make a start in your quest to be kinder?
Jeff Crofts: Certainly. Start by being consciously kind. Listen to the podcasts, read the guidance and be curious, go to the Mental Health Foundation website and mental health.org.uk and learn more.
But remember that kindness is all about doing. So, use the ideas and the Kindness Bingo Cards that we’ve circulated. Think about the principles we’ve just discussed and give it a go. And of course, don’t forget, share your stories, and what you’ve learned on Workplace using the hashtag #KindnessMatters.
James Lewis: Jeff, that’s fantastic – thank you. And for anybody out there, who’s listening, who hasn’t received a Kindness Bingo Card, I think they’ve definitely gone out everywhere in the UK, then I’m sure if you emailed email@example.com, Jeff, you’d be happy to send one out.
Jeff Crofts: Certainly so.
James Lewis: Jeff, thank you so much for showing us your thoughts on this hugely important issue of just being kind to each other.
Even before lockdown and coronavirus happened, it was a really important aspect of how we ought to be framing our thoughts in terms of our interactions of our colleagues and our clients, and in fact, our families, everybody, our friends. Now, what better invitation do you need to actually think about being a little bit kinder to each other, use the bingo cards, start ticking them off. And Jeff Crofts, thank you so much for your time today. It’s been really insightful and interesting.
Jeff Crofts: Thanks, James.
James Lewis: And thanks to Charles Willman, our indefatigable editor and sound engineer. And for now, goodbye.
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