A lot has been written over the last couple of years about people whose life philosophy is to bestow kindness upon strangers, for no other reason than the feel good factor it engenders. And there’s no getting away from the fact that it does; there’s no better feeling than knowing you’ve helped someone out, no matter how small your gesture may have been. More than this though, I think a lot of people are missing a trick which would see them more likely to do well both at work and in life.
For a long time society has been driven by all that drivel about nice guys finishing last. We seem to have a generation of young men and women who believe that trampling all over people and pushing themselves forward will ensure their success and shamefully, for a number of years, it has done just that. However, I think they have it upside down and, what’s more, as the recession bites I’m willing to bet I’ll be proved right.
Let me first explain what prompted my foray into the subject. Yesterday at work, staff were inexplicably rounded up and told we had to be photographed as a workforce. To add to the indignity some of us were pushed to the back, where we were expected to stand on chairs. I happened to be wearing my rather stylish, Mad Men style, fitted dress which, whilst very forgiving and spectacularly effective at lifting my spirits on a dreary, winter’s morning, is not conducive to climbing on chairs. I had less than a few seconds to ponder my dilemma before a lovely young man (clearly a credit to his upbringing) materialised next to me and offered his hand. The same young man discreetly helped me off the chair and disaster was averted.
You may be wondering what the relevance of any of this is and, if you hold your horses, I’m going to tell you. You see, my workplace is overrun with the kind of strutting young men who are fuelled by testosterone and believe that nice guys and probably all women finish last. Frankly, I have no time for them and, as we steer choppy waters, my only solace has been the secret, spiteful amusement that given that these young men have no experience and, in most cases no intelligence, they are going to come a cropper. Their fast tracked super careers will soon be little more than rubble at their horribly unstylishly clad feet.
However, not so my young man, who in his good deeded moment has ensured that I will now be keeping my watchful eye on him. The fact is, I have been through choppy waters enough times to know how to survive them and I’ll be making sure that this young man knows how to play the game which, let’s be honest here, regardless of your career choice is all it is. And this is my point, if you do a good deed, it’s like a ripple effect and will benefit you in ways possibly far beyond the moment itself.
It’s not even all about the workplace; it has ramifications in life as well. I know lots of fabulous single women and, a couple of months ago, I was asked by a male acquaintance to fix him up. The problem was I couldn’t get out of my mind the memory of when he ridiculed a needy but vulnerable colleague. Consequently, I chose not to help him. Fairly or not, he was defined for me by a moment of unkindness.
I don’t claim to be any more virtuous than anybody else but, as I navigate my way through life, I try not to hurt other people. Sometimes it can feel that being considerate of others puts you at a disadvantage when so many people are happy to snatch, grab and push their way to the front at any cost. When I really think about it though, in all the ways it’s really mattered, treating people kindly has served me well. Early in my career (when I still had one and actually cared about such things), every promotion I ever got was less about my ability and more to do with the fact that someone recommended me.
If we want to be cynical about good deeds, we need to remind ourselves that we don’t know what connections the recipient of our kindness may have. Instead of peddling the idea that it’s a dog eat dog world, where only the tough survive, maybe we should be imbuing our young people with the notion that a little kindness can go a long way. Something that often saddens me is when my friends who have children worry that their offspring are too gentle and kind to survive the outside world. They fret that
in giving them values whereby they are mindful of other people’s welfare, they have put their children at a disadvantage. The increasing number of parents who are opting to educate their children at home testifies that the world can seem like a cruel, harsh place.
Whether it’s because we want to live in a more humane world or we sneakily believe that good deeds can actually benefit us is not really important. What I think is important is that the ‘me me me’ culture has had its day. The chickens have come home to roost and we only have to look around us to see where ‘every man for himself’ and greed got us. It’s time for a new ideology and, I for one, vote for good deeds all round.