In 2021, in partnership with BBC Radio, the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex conducted the most extensive study on kindness, dubbed “The Kindness Test.” About 60,000 people aged 19-44 from 144 countries participated in this study.
The researchers wanted to know the most common acts of being kind, the relationship between being kind and people’s personalities, how being kind is viewed in the workplace, and what stops some people from behaving kindly.
The results of this study were released a year later in 2022, and this article explores what we can learn from this most extensive kindness study.
8 lessons about kindness
1. Small kind acts matter
Almost 75 percent of the respondents said they experienced acts of kindness from family and friends “nearly all the time.” Some even said someone had been kind to them within an hour of the interview.
These acts weren’t grand gestures, but simple acts like helping someone pick up something they had dropped, picking up groceries for a friend, holding a door open for someone, or even showing concern for the less fortunate.
2. If in doubt, ask
The study showed that some people avoid helping others because they may not be sure if the other person needs their help. They assume offering to help may be misconstrued as an invasion of privacy, and they may face rejection or embarrassment.
Helping a person who’s asked for help was the most common act of being kind. But you can take it a step further; ask someone if they need your help before they even ask for it. You’ll face some rejections here and there, but that shouldn’t stop you.
3. Charity begins at home
This may not be surprising, but most respondents said they experienced more kindness at home. Parents, friends, and relatives were kinder to them than strangers. Kind acts at home were followed by places such as hospitals, green spaces, workplaces, and shops.
However, this was rare on online platforms, in the street, or on public transport.
4. Emulate older people, women, and religious people
Women reported that they gave and received kindness more frequently than men. Also, researchers found out that religious people and older people dedicated more resources and time to helping people.
Of course, this may be a case of self-reporting bias because society expects this demographic to be kinder. Still, it’s an exciting find that challenges people to become kinder.
5. Being outgoing has its perks
This study showed that your personality may also determine how often you give or receive kindness. Extroverts were likelier to score higher in The Kindness Test than those less outgoing. Unsurprisingly, they received more acts of kindness.
Of course, if you are more open to new experiences, you get to meet more people and experience more help than introverts. This doesn’t necessarily mean that introverts are less kind.
6. Speak to strangers
This comes naturally to some people, especially the extroverts mentioned above. However, to some, speaking to a stranger is challenging. What if the other person doesn’t want to strike up a conversation? Will you be invading their personal space?
Banish these questions from your mind because the study showed that engaging strangers brought more kindness to your life, whether you’re an introvert or extrovert. It also made people notice more acts of being kind.
Not every person will appreciate your “intrusion,” but you may make someone’s day someday.
7. Kindness promotes your wellbeing
Kindness and altruism make the world a better place — we don’t even need a study to know this. You are not only helping someone, but also making yourself feel good.
It boosts feelings of confidence, optimism, happiness, and being in control. Batter, your helping act may influence others to carry it forward and help others.
8. Money doesn’t matter
Don’t say: “I’ll help when I get enough,” because this study showed that a person’s income didn’t matter regarding kindness. People appreciate small acts of being kind, so do whatever little you can to uplift those in need.
Overcoming the barriers to being kind
Most respondents said sometimes they shied away from helping someone because their good intentions may be misinterpreted. Others said they didn’t have enough time or resources to assist those in need, while others blamed social media as the major impediment to kindness.
These are valid reasons, no doubt. However, don’t underestimate the impact of being kind even to a stranger. Generosity goes beyond material things, so keep on helping because “kindness is contagious.”