It’s important to find ways to boost your own kindness. But arguably the greatest good we can do in the world comes from finding ways to increase kindness in others.
The first is to create Reminders of Connectedness in a home, office, or classroom. These reminders can be something as simple as a quote evoking shared goals, words like “community,” or a picture conveying warmth or friendships.
“Reminding people to see the basic humanity that they share with those who might seem different from them can help overcome fear and distrust and promote cooperation.”
The second involves Putting a Human Face on Suffering: being able to identify distinct, specific victims of a problem – and learning about their personal stories – can make that problem more vivid, strike an emotional chord, and thus motivate people to help.
The third, Shared Identity, involves forging a sense of common humanity across group boundaries. Reminding people to see the basic humanity that they share with those who might seem different from them can help overcome fear and distrust and promote cooperation. Even small similarities, like appreciating sports, can foster a greater sense of kinship.
Finally, the practice for Encouraging Kindness in Kids offers four specific techniques to bring out children’s natural propensity for kindness and generosity. These techniques include avoiding external rewards for kind behavior, so that kids get to experience the feeling that kindness is its own reward, praising kids’ character instead of their behavior so they come to see kindness as an essential part of who they are, and modelling kindness in your own behavior, since actions tend to speak louder than words when it comes to nurturing generosity.
Becoming a kinder person – and nurturing kindness in others – isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes practice to turn your best intentions into concrete actions. I hope these kindness exercises provide an effective way to start building that habit today.