As I started my Christmas shopping on the weekend, it continues to amaze me the diverse customer experience you can have from one store to the next. The first store I was completely ignored by two staff. The second, treated rudely. The third, engaged in friendly conversation.
The friendly store, which was a retail wine outlet (no real relevance, but they were handing out free samples), asked for a donation to a charity. Quickly after asking, the clerk commented: “You don’t have to, we know you are being asked for donations everywhere at this time of year.” Well I did donate, but only because I believe in the cause, and there was a sense of reciprocity for a good customer experience.
Was my donation an act-of-kindness? Well, possibly. I personally evaluated the charity and consciously decided based on my knowledge of how they contribute to society that my small donation was worthwhile giving. That being said, I would be lying if I didn’t admit I felt a little social pressure while these two kind people were watching me. I wanted, subconsciously or consciously, to please them. Show them that I too was kind. Based on my own verdict, I partially demonstrated an act-of-kindness because I had thoughtfully evaluated the charity prior to contributing.
The Toronto Star ran several stories on the weekend highlighting acts-of-kindness. One of the articles focused on testing kindness by contriving an experiment applying the pay-it-forward concept. Their experiment in behavior was observed at various coffee chains. If a person bought a coffee for someone unknown, next in line behind, would that person in turn repay the act-of-kindness by buying for the next person in line? The observation was how long the “pay-it-forward chain” would continue if the receiver became aware of its objective. The maximum number of people that continued the chain was twelve. You can read more about the experiment at: http://www.thestar.com/life/2013/11/2 /pay_it_forward_put_to_the_test_at_coffee_shops.html
So what does this tell us about kindness and paying-it-forward? Absolutely nothing!
The entire exercise was manipulated, and actually demonstrated a social pressure to continue what was just done. Who wants to be the person to stop the ‘kind’ gesture? Well there was always someone who stopped the gesture, for reasons of discomfort by just accepting the act-of-kindness, or simply unsure what they were ‘suppose to do.’
The concept of offering a kind gesture to a person should be genuine, not contrived. It should be initiated from your own desire, not from feeling pressure. Pay-it-forward, should be about paying a kindness forward but not necessarily by repeating the same action. Although the Toronto Star article mentions they were unable to track how people were being kind to others afterward, this is where the real success would be found.
I think it is wonderful that we are having conversations that encourage people to positively impact others’ lives. And I think if we can show one act-of-kindness to another human being each day, or at least each week, we will have a fulfilled life.
Kindness, however, is more than just an action, it is an attitude; we should embrace it as part of our human spirit. It can be as simple as showing respect – by offering someone a seat on the bus; or opening the door for someone, or picking–up something someone dropped, or letting another car cut in front of you (OMG Really!). These are values you live by, and they generally come naturally to you.You decide whether you want to live a life of kindness. Not everyone who receives an act-of-kindness will continue to demonstrate it to another, but many will. Isn’t it worth the risk?
A friendly reminder, if you receive an act-of-kindness, remember to say thank you. Demonstrating appreciation is often the fuel needed to continue such generosity of spirit.
As a sales professional, I do have a little advice for retail stores. When hiring: seek individuals that are genuinely kind, it will have a huge impact on your sales, if not today… tomorrow.
#ConsciousContributions™ in Action:
Consciously be kind to someone in a way you haven’t before. Talk to someone on an elevator; let someone go first, help someone who looks troubled. Then see how you feel. Kindness can be fairly selfish – you’ll likely find you feel pretty good afterward – not that there is anything wrong with that.
If kindness comes hard to you, and for some it does, fake it until you make it. Conduct acts-of-kindness until it becomes second nature and it is no longer an ‘act’ but an ‘attitude.’
Please leave a comment, as we are interested in YOUR perspective!
Suzanne F Stevens Cultivates conscious contributions™ and influential communications. She International Speaker, Trainer, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Host & Co-producer. She is a recipient of the The International Women Alliance World of Difference Award in 2013. To find out more visit www.suzannefstevens.com