At a time when calls to ‘be kind’ are on the increase, how can we all do our bit to make sure there’s a place for kinder content in our working lives?
A few days ago my daughters brought home their mid-year school reports. This is always exciting for them, mainly because they love the summary comments from their teachers.
“Read the end bit, Mummy!” my younger daughter cried.
I read the back sections out loud. One commented on how kind my seven-year-old is, while my older daughter was praised for being a ‘remarkably caring member of the school community’.
They were over the moon. Both girls love receiving these comments and I love that they love them. I’m also impressed by the fact that their teachers comment on the whole child when they could easily restrict their thoughts to school work. It makes for kinder content, but I’ll come back to that and how it can relate to the workplace later.
Somehow we’re raising kind people. I worry that we’re not giving them true preparation for the tough world that’s out there, but then I ask myself if I’d rather they were inconsiderate or selfish and the answer is no. So we do our best to encourage their natural instinct towards kindness.
Darwin believed that all humans had a predilection towards kindness. Modern thought now suggests that his theory of evolution was less about ‘survival of the fittest’ and more focused on survival of the kindest. He wrote in The Descent of Man that humankind’s social and maternal instincts are far stronger than any other impulse or motive.
Kindness was held in great esteem, but lost its status in the late 20th Century. German writer and thinker Goethe once described it as ‘the golden chain by which society is bound’. But over recent years, it seems that kindness is having a renaissance. Certainly, it’s become a popular topic of study.
For instance, Buchanan and Bardi (2010) asked participants to carry out kind acts each day for 10 days. An increase in life satisfaction was found, compared with the control group. In 2016, Galante conducted an online study, testing a four-week beginner course of Loving-Kindness Meditation and observed that participants experienced increased wellbeing and altruism.
But this can feel like a far cry from reality. We hear so much about internet trolling, especially since the death of TV presenter Caroline Flack. It can make you wonder sometimes whether kinder content is possible.
However, the research I’ve mentioned in this piece shows that demonstrating kindness can be socially transformative. But how can we practically achieve this in the microcosm of our workplaces? And what role does kinder content have to play?
In an attempt to define and measure kindness, Canter et al (2017) discovered the following elements are core components:
- Benign tolerance – everyday courteousness, acceptance and love of others
- Empathetic responsivity – a consideration of the feelings of other particular individuals
- Principled proaction – proactive, altruistic behaviour that’s rooted in how to behave honourably, and;
- Core kindness – an overarching tendency towards making active gestures that stem from warm feelings for other people.
Based on these findings, I’ve listed out four, simple ways to achieve kinder content:
Be considerate towards everyone in your communications
We all work for businesses and organisations with diverse workforces, so our kinder content should actively attempt to include or reflect everyone. The first step to achieving this is to understand who it is you are looking to communicate with.
Collecting accurate data about employees is a valuable method of ensuring your comms are working towards creating a compassionate culture. However, fear and misunderstanding about what personal data is being collected for and how it will be used are still commonplace. Those with invisible disabilities, for example, may worry about the impact on their career should that information be shared more widely.
Therefore, a first step towards kindness in content is to communicate why diversity and inclusion is important for your business, and the value for each member of staff in feeling confident enough to be themselves – their true self – in the workplace.
There’s real benefits to this, too: Deloitte research found that innovation, business performance and engagement all increased when employees were in inclusive workplaces.
Be empathetic to achieve kinder content
If your business is putting a new policy in place, embedding change or any initiative that will impact your people’s ways of working, acknowledge how they may feel about it. Structure your kinder content in a way that openly discusses the issues they face. Answer any potential questions, provide clarity where possible, and offer an open line of communication/feedback where they can express their concerns.
One way to ensure you’re not assuming people’s reactions is to get members of the affected workforce to input into your content. This will guarantee their perspectives are fully explored and you can plan your messaging accordingly. They can then act as a great sense check for any comms you produce, while you’ve shown their needs have been taken into consideration via your kinder content.
Proactively promote kindness in general
Use your channels to make an active, positive comment about a colleague’s achievement, or an act of kindness you’ve experienced. For example, if someone steps out of their working week to help you with a project, publicly thank them for their support or credit them if the project achieves its aims.
Another way to acknowledge a kindness is to pay it forward. If someone does something nice for you, tell people about it and then go on to do something good for someone else. You’re reinforcing the kindness and encouraging others to do the same.
Make kinder content your core
As ‘core kindness’ is an overarching tendency towards making active, kind gestures, then kindness should become a natural, driving aspect of your work culture.
The same then applies to your comms and content planning. The more you seek to actively encourage kinder content, the more it should embed as a comms ‘habit’ or natural tone that runs through all content. It can then naturally evolve into a rich seam of comms inspiration. For example, if you’re seeing regular ‘random acts of kindness’ or colleagues demonstrating that they are paying kindness forward, you have the makings of potential campaigns. Certainly it’s something to be proud of and showcase through recruitment and HR communications.
Kinder content is within your grasp. Just try the simple steps and see where they lead, but if you’d rather pop into 44 to discuss kinder content in more detail, we’d be happy to chat.