What is kindness? It is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. Words such as gentleness, affection, concern, warmth and care are words that are associated with kindness. Kindness might have a connotation of meaning someone is naive or weak, but that is not the case. Being kind often requires courage and strength. Kindness is an interpersonal skill and one that we feel is fundamental for a child at Yateley Manor.
Darwin is often credited for the term “Survival of the fittest”. It is usually associated with selfishness and determination to survive at any cost, meaning that to survive (a basic instinct) means to look out for yourself. However Darwin, who studied human evolution, actually did not see mankind as being biologically competitive and self-interested. Darwin believed that we are a profoundly social and caring species; instinctually sympathetic.
Science has now shown that devoting resources to others, rather than having more and more for yourself, brings about lasting well-being. Kindness has even been found to be the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage.
One way to be kind is to open your eyes and be active when you see someone in need. Do you notice when people could use a helping hand? A sense of community is created when people support those who need help. I was very touched last night, after a staff meeting, when a colleague emailed to offer her support for an initiative we had discussed moments before. When people notice and step up, without being prompted, it has a huge impact on our lives.
Opening your eyes means noticing when others are suffering. A kind word, a smile or opening a door can all be acts of kindness. These are all behaviours that we make explicit with the children at school. Praising children for showing kindness naturally encourages others to follow suit and it is possible to engender a culture of kindness in this way, but it requires consistency across the whole staff.
Kindness is a willingness to full-heartedly celebrate someone else's successes. Kindness is to be openly happy for the other person, putting aside any feelings of envy. It is important that the praise is felt to be genuine.
Kindness is also about telling the truth in a gentle way, when doing so is helpful to the other person. Receiving accurate feedback in a caring manner is an important part of a trusted relationship. The courage to give and receive truthful feedback is a key component of growth and flexible thinking.
Following the tragic death of Caroline Flack, the TV personality who presented Love Island, there was a surge of support for her on social media which led to people using the #kindness tag. The importance of kindness sometimes rears its head in bad times and we are encouraged to reflect and amend our behaviour. Yet kindness should be a personal quality that is always exhibited, instinctively, without the need for reminders. This requires an understanding and appreciation of others but also ourselves.
There are many ways to be kind and many opportunities to practise. Kindness is a value that could add more satisfaction to our lives but will certainly add it to those of others.