Learn to “Say” It Forward

The only good thing about having to visit a doctor’s office is the strong possibility of picking up a magazine to read that you don’t subscribe to or seldom have chance to read.

I came across an old Reader’s Digest magazine on one of these visits.

Inside I read an interesting article written by Lisa Bendall all about “The Science of Being Nice”.

The article looks at the benefits of “doing good” for other people. It’s taken from a social scientist perspective and the innate sense of altruism or self-interest.

Is there any real benefit to being nice? I’ll examine this from some of the scientific findings available.

Social Science’s View of Being Nice

Quoting Marylène Gagné, a social psychologist previously at Montreal’s Concordia University,

”There’s evidence that people are likely to reciprocate when someone helps them. They might not reciprocate with the person who helped them, but they pay it forward. People feel they owe something. The society becomes more cohesive, and everyone benefits.”

Lisa Bendall posits the idea that “good deeds connect us to others”.

She summarized the research used in the article by stating “we feel good when we do good”.

“It’s why we get this fuzzy, warm feeling when we hold the door for someone,” says Gagné. Performing acts of kindness produces a positive attitude and enhances wellbeing and self-esteem. “It motivates us to do these things again”

What really piqued my interest was when Gagné pointed out that verbal expression of thanks is also considered a good deed.

“Thanking people is a good deed. You might be the recipient of help, but just by saying thank you, you’re giving back.”

Whenever you can, learn to initiate random acts of kindness. Genuinely ponder the kindness shown to you and pay it forward to someone else.

Our Brains Have a Lot of “Nice” Parts To Them

Brain research within social science reveals a specific region of the brain becomes more active in unselfish people than in selfish ones.

Located at the posterior superior temporal cortex (pSTC) this part of the brain is concerned with understanding and processing the intentions and activities of other people.

This contrasts with the brain’s self-reward system, which comes into play when people are nice simply to make themselves feel good. Among more selfish people the pSTC activity was comparatively small.

Scott Huettel, from Duke University, who focused on studies of the pSTC activity of the brain, indicates research of unselfish study participants suggests they have an ability to watch or comprehend the emotions and activities of others.

It is not known if this is nature or nurture that creates this ability of the brain. But being nice simply makes you and others happier. So, please be nice to others.

And always say thank you to the people who do nice things for you.

Let’s “Say” it Forward.

Question: How have you seen being nice to others make a difference at work?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

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