In our quest to discover the best research on the art and science of kindness, Stay Kind’s Jane Hutcheon spoke with social researcher and author Hugh Mackay for a virtual Stay Kind Conversation.
In May, Hugh published The Kindness Revolution. The book is a personal and heartfelt plea for the elevation of kindness in Australia. He says he’s never written a book so quickly after the disastrous bushfires and then the COVID pandemic.
Here are four take-aways from the conversation:
Stay kind but not to feel good about yourself
“I heard a man in a meeting a few years ago saying, ‘Whenever I feel a bit depressed, I go out and try and find someone who needs help’. Well, he’s kind of exploiting someone’s need to help his mood. If we didn’t feel better about ourselves when we behave kindly towards someone else, would that mean, well, we wouldn’t bother doing it?”
Stay kind means listening
“Listening is, I think, the noblest, the most potent act of kindness we can perform. We are by nature social beings, we belong to a social species. And for that reason, the deepest social desire that humans have is the desire to be taken seriously, to be listened to, to be understood, to be appreciated.”
Hugh asks himself these questions each night
“I just ask myself that simple question, ‘Was I kind enough?’ Because I know when we get to the end of the road, when death is imminent, none of us will ever say, ‘Was I busy enough? Did I make enough money? Did I kick enough goals?’
But we are very likely to say, as so many people have reported from being with people who are dying, “Was I kind enough? Was I a loving enough partner or parent? Was I a good neighbour? Was I a loyal friend?” I think it’s a wonderful checkpoint. And to train our kids to do it. When the kids come home from school and, “How was your day?” I mean, some parents say, “What did you learn today?” A much better question is, “Who were you kind to today? What was the kindest thing you did today?”
Hugh’s CARE plan
Connect – always connect with people we encounter. It could be the moment that person is feeling undervalued or unacknowledged.
Accept – ‘accept’ just reminds us that we’re not going to change people.
Respect – we need to show respect towards everyone we encounter, even if we disapprove of them.
Engage – become part of the community that you live in.