Are You Brave Enough For Radical Kindness?

Be attentive to and aggressive with kindness and see what happens.

Posted Mar 05, 2013

We all would likely agree that the world could use more kindness…and a lot more of it! Wouldn’t you like others to treat you with more kindness? But as the popular saying goes, “what goes around comes around.“ If we want to live in a kinder (and gentler) community and world then we all need to do our part to make it happen.

Social reciprocity theory basically states that we treat others as we are treated. If people are nice to us, we are nice in return. If folks are rude, cruel, or unkind to us, we are tempted to act in the same way in return. Pretty simple and obvious but it is remarkable how we tend to forget and fail to act on such a simple yet very helpful behavioral principle. If we want to live in a better world and be treated with kindness, compassion, respect, and so forth we must act in kind (pun not intended). How can we expect to be treated with kindness, graciousness, compassion, and respect if we fail to behave in this manner ourselves?

Radical kindness is a serious, purposeful, and may I even suggest, aggressive and high impact effort to treat everyone (and I do mean everyone!) with kindness. It involves going out of your way to be gracious, offer a kind word or deed, and so forth to both those who you know and to those you don’t know. Do you think you could do this?  Are you brave enough to try it?

What makes this strategy especially radical is that you aim to treat people with kindness even when they treat you poorly, rudely, or disrespectfully. Kindness can be a powerful intervention and can act as a foil to escalating tensions between people and groups. Few things can dissolve tensions between parties as well as a kind word or deed (and perhaps some humor too). It is disarming especially when unexpected. 


Additionally, radical kindness doesn’t need to turn you into a wimp or doormat by any means. You certainly don’t need to be taken advantage of by behaving kindly towards others. In fact, it can offer you a strategic advantage in many ways. Conflicts can get avoided, your reputation can be enhanced, and you may get more of what you want if you engage in this style of interacting with others.  Plus, it will likely improve your well being and lower stress according to research. 

Try radical kindness in your life and see what happens. I bet that you’ll find that you will feel better about yourself and others in addition to making the world a bit better to boot! Be aggressive with kindness. Social reciprocity theory would suggest that people will behave kindly to you in return.  And even if they don't, so what?  You'll likely feel better anyway. 

So, what do you think?


 

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