There’s something I’ve noticed during this past 18 months. The more we are isolated or removed from each other, the easier it is to withdraw and harden ourselves toward the hardships and challenges of others. I’ve noticed the longer I’m separated from others both professionally and personally, the easier it is for me to become apathetic in the face of someone else’s pain. Maybe we feel it’s not our place to get involved or maybe we think someone else will do something. Maybe we feel like we’re intruding or getting in the way. Yet the science is clear. It shows us that we are personally happier if we do something to help someone in need. Reaching out and asking if someone is OK is not interfering, it’s showing them you care. We are happier when we are kind. Help someone when the opportunity arises. It might look something like this: “I’ve noticed that you’re struggling.” Or, “…that you look sad. Is there anything I can do to help?” We can contribute to society more during this troubling time by becoming more compassionate.
Compassion and kindness are two elements that make up Kim Cameron’s definition of virtuousness. In his book, Positively Energizing Leadership (available through the State Library), Mr. Cameron offers empirical evidence to reinforce a threefold conclusion. First, all human beings are inclined toward and flourish in the presence of positive energy. This is the helioptropic effect. Second, positive relational energy is best created through virtuous actions, most specifically altruism, compassion, generosity, gratitude, integrity and kindness. And third, both organizations and individuals perform at a significantly higher level when virtuousness and positive relational energy are fostered.
On the other hand, research done in 2001 by Baumeister and his colleagues show that bad is stronger than good. Their review concluded that human beings react more strongly to negative phenomena than to positive phenomena. This bias toward the negative has its strongest effects on emotions and psychological reactions, whereas reactions to the positive has its strongest effects on behavior. Simply stated – negative energy makes us feel bad. Positive energy helps us take positive action. And this is why, even in the face of struggles and challenges and unprecedented strife in our world, the positivity project will continue to share messages to increase our positivity and happiness. We aren’t telling you to just smile all the time and be happy. We are offering tools and exercises (and encouragement to use them!). We have to consciously work on and take action to continue positive, life-giving work. Every act of kindness, reaching out to help someone in need and every time we give back to our agency or our community makes a difference.
If you would like to learn more about being a positively energizing leader and adding more positive energy to your team, contact positivity project member Lisa Hylton, firstname.lastname@example.org. And thank you!