Kindness counts in your business

It's World Kindness Day - Rupert Cornford looks at the science behind kindness and why it matters that we are kind to ourselves and others

I've worked with many people over the years - some clever, some ruthless, some just really awkward - but the overriding ability of people to be kind has been clear.

In fact, kindness is now being talked about as a principle of good leadership.

But it's often easier to be kind to others than it is to ourselves. We are good at pushing and criticising ourselves, and for underemphasising our achievements.

While our ability to strive and achieve is very positive, there is more to the story.

If kindness is a quality to be cultivated in business - and it is - then it starts with us as individuals.

To tolerate mistakes and slip-ups, to change your mind, to make decisions that don't work out as you thought - and be kind in the face of these changes - is a flexible and adaptable way to approach the world.

Research supports the fact that acts of kindness promote pro-social behaviour.

Psychologist Joseph Chancellor found that people receiving acts of kindness in the workplace reported increased autonomy, competence, relatedness to others and motivation.

Over time, they also felt increasingly connected to the organisation and performed better in their jobs.

This also inspired them to perform their own acts of kindness for others, paying it back or forward after their own experience.

These included:

- Helping someone beyond the normal duties of your job
- Bringing someone a drink without asking
- Writing or emailing a thank you note
- Spending time asking about someone's life
- Cheering someone up who is having a bad day

His research is also backed up by Gallup research on the impact of praise, which has a positive impact on keeping staff, productivity and engagement.

Importantly, there is also a lot of work focussed on how we treat ourselves.

Psychologists including Kristin Neff and Paul Gilbert have explored the impact of self-compassion on people in all walks of life.

They've found that acts of self-compassion can improve mood, reduce rumination and increase a person's sense of wellbeing.

Importantly, self-compassion can also increase an individual's ability to look kindly on themselves in the face of failure, embrace new situations and be willing to change, which directly link to the pattern of modern day business.

Self compassion works on many levels and includes practices that are focussed on being kinder to yourself.

- Interpersonal exercises - with others watching you as a compassionate observer - can help to frame how you perceive things in a different way
- Practising mindfulness and loving-kindness meditation enable a greater sense of presence and perspective
- And informal practices, such as putting your hand on your heart during times of suffering, and adopting compassionate phrases to tell yourself in everyday life, can punctuate the incessant chatter of your inner critic

Kindness and self compassion create space and the ability to move forward with a greater sense of perspective. To let go of mistakes and failures quickly - and forge a sense of connection with others - sounds like a recipe for all of us at work and home.

This isn't soft - it's strong, robust and compassionate - and science is telling us that it works.

Kindness and self compassion can support a goal driven society - especially one where the goalposts are being changed on a regular basis.

If we are going to be working in a more collaborative, connected and fragmented economy - the way we treat each other - and ourselves will play a big part in that story.