Kindness. Are we wired for it?
In the last week I have spent time connecting and re-connecting with people; family, friends, people I love, and complete strangers.
I realized firsthand, that although I spend a lot of time interacting with people online or on the phone, I have really missed interacting with people in-person.
Nothing matches physically being present with someone. You experience the total person, their body language, eye contact, their touch, their smile, their laugh, you identify, you connect with them.
A few takeaways during the past week:
- People want to be happy.
- People do not want to suffer.
And regardless of how the media spins it on a daily basis, people want these things for everyone else.
People do care.
I am convinced we are wired for kindness, empathy, and compassion.
It’s there. Always. You just don’t see it, until something happens, and it’s noticed.
We saw it after the Sandy Hook tragedy, we saw it after Hurricane Sandy, we saw it after 9/11.
In the book “Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships”, Daniel Goleman points out:
The argument has long been made that we humans are by nature compassionate and empathic despite the occasional streak of meanness, but torrents of bad news throughout history have contradicted that claim, and little sound science has backed it. But try this thought experiment. Imagine the number of opportunities people around the world today might have to commit an antisocial act, from rape or murder to simple rudeness and dishonesty. Make that number the bottom of a fraction. Now for the top value you put the number of such antisocial acts that will actually occur today.
That ratio of potential to enacted meanness holds at close to zero any day of the year. And if for the top value you put the number of benevolent acts performed in a given day, the ratio of kindness to cruelty will always be positive. (The news, however, comes to us as though that ratio was reversed.)
Harvard’s Jerome Kagan proposes this mental exercise to make a simple point about human nature:
The sum total of goodness vastly outweighs that of meanness.
“Although humans inherit a biological bias that permits them to feel anger, jealousy, selfishness and envy, and to be rude, aggressive or violent,” Kagan notes, “they inherit an even stronger biological bias for kindness, compassion, cooperation, love and nurture – especially toward those in need.”
This inbuilt ethical sense, he adds, “is a biological feature of our species.”
People matter. People care. People are kind.
The good in the world vastly outweighs the bad.
Just pay attention. That is the key.
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