Why Kindness Matters with Claudia Hammond


00:00:00    Alyssa

You're listening to Voices of Your Village, and I got to hang out with Claudia Hammond to talk about why kindness matters and how do we teach it. One of the things I've been really into is this difference between being nice and being kind and what is kindness? How does it play out, not just in early childhood, but then down the road? What effects does it have on our mental health and the longevity of our mental health? I was so enriched by her research that it was really exciting to get to chat with her. She has a book out called The Keys to Kindness, and we got to chat about like, what does it look like to be kind to toddlers and to support tiny humans in building skillsets for kindness? What are these benefits? And how do we become kinder to ourselves, to one another, et cetera? The data are pretty clear that kindness does really matter and so looking at how do we cultivate it and spread it is pretty key. I'm so jazzed to get to share this interview with you. Alright folks, let's dive in. 


00:01:16    Alyssa

Hey there, I'm Alyssa Blask Campbell. I'm a mom with a master's degree in early childhood education and co -creator of the Collaborative Emotion Processing method. I'm here to walk alongside you through the messy, vulnerable parts of being humans raising other humans with deep thoughts and actionable tips. Let's dive in together. 


00:01:40    Alyssa

Hello everyone and welcome back to Voices of Your Village. Today I get to hang out with Claudia Hammond. She's an award -winning broadcaster, author, and psychology lecturer. In her work, she shares the ways that psychological and medical research can help us in our everyday lives, whether through radio, TV podcasts, public events, or books. Claudia is the presenter of several podcasts and radio shows including  All in the Mind on BBC Radio 4, which covers psychology, neuroscience, and mental health, and the weekly global health show, Health Check on BBC World Service. She's a visiting professor of the public understanding of psychology at the University of Sussex. Claudia gives talks on psychology around the world and often shares public events on psychology, medicine, and science. She writes a regular column on medical myths for BBC Future, and she's the author of five books. Her latest, The Keys to Kindness, includes the world's largest study of its type on kindness. I'm super jazzed to dive into kindness with you. The book was awarded the Special Achievement Award for Book that Changes Humanity in the People's Book Awards 2023. Claudia, what an incredible accolade there. And thank you for writing about kindness. 


00:02:57    Claudia

Well, I mean, that does sound like such a huge thing, doesn't it? The idea of kind of changing humanity. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but it was very kind of them to give me that prize. I was very pleased. 


00:03:07    Alyssa

Yeah, I mean, that is huge. It's interesting as I was getting ready for this interview, I was chatting with my husband. We have like one kind of cornerstone family rule in my household. I'm a parent of a two and a half year old. And it's about kindness. It's that we, in our household, we live with kindness. And we have like a, our like phrase for our family is our values are only our values if we live them. And that it's for us, like kindness is the root. And sometimes it's kindness to ourselves, it's kindness to others, it's kindness to things. And so this, for me, just felt like such an easy alignment where I was like, yeah, let's chat about it and what does it look like to live with and to practice kindness? 


00:03:51    Claudia

Yeah, and I think kindness is a subject that so many people are interested in. It's been interesting, you know, talking to people about the book and they all sort of say, oh, but I'm interested in kindness. Oh, I think that's a really important thing. And so the good news, I think, is that so many people do want a kinder world. You know, nearly everyone wants a kinder world because who wouldn't? And so many people do value kindness and the benefits that really has. 


00:04:14    Alyssa

Yeah. What, I guess when we're looking at kindness, what does that mean for you? 


00:04:20    Claudia

Yeah. So, I  mean, it's interesting when you look at the, the official sort of academic definitions of, of kindness, um, because they vary and obviously it crosses over with compassion and it crosses over with empathy as well. And in order to, to be really kind to people, you do need to try to see things from their point of view, because otherwise you won't know what sorts of things you could do. I mean, the definition I kind of like best is that kindness is something you do with the intention of helping somebody else. And I say intention there because it can go wrong. You know, you can think you're being kind and it may not necessarily be taken in that way, but a lot of the time, you know, it will be. So the intention is there to be kind. And so for me, I think in everyday life, it means, you know, I'm not some amazing saint, but I think it just means trying to leave each place a little better than when you got there, rather than worse. Trying to think if somebody else is, you know, seems irritable or short with you, that you don't know what else is going on for them. And that it's not all about you. And that they're fed up with some other reason. It's not necessarily that they're cross with you. And so to try to take things a bit less personally. And I think one thing that I found is that there can be really small acts of kindness. You know, they haven't got to be, you could go and, you know, climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and be sponsored and raise lots of money. And that's great. And I don't want to put anyone off doing that. But also it can be really small things, just like, I don't know, if somebody at work has done something you're impressed with to who might be a colleague, just to email them and say, just to email and say, I thought that was really good. Or I loved your so -and -so that you did. And rather than just thinking it in your head, if you think something nice about somebody, why not, you know, why not say it to them? And as long as it's authentic, obviously if you go around massively praising everybody every day, they're not going to believe you. But as long as it's authentic, then I think things like that can really work. 


00:06:18    Alyssa

Yeah, and I think that's something that I know for myself personally, like I will think so many things about humans that are kind throughout the day and don't necessarily take that next step to say it, to text, to reach out. And I know when I receive it on the receiving end, I'm like, wow, that's so kind. Like it feels so good. And it was just a quick text or a voice note or whatever. And it feels really impactful for me and for my day. And it's something that I would like to like prioritize more of like, Alyssa, what do you think that thought? Like take a second, shoot a text. That it can be really simple and that it's still very impactful. 


00:07:00    Claudia

It really is. And as you say, if you think about the times you've received that yourself that somebody will say or, you know, sometimes I don't know somebody, I remember somebody saying to me the other week, I'd been recording a radio show that had an audience. And they said, they, one of the guests emailed afterwards and said, Oh, just having you beside me made me feel so much more relaxed. It was so nice. And I just thought, Oh, that's so nice. But she bothered to say that, you know, that's lovely that I was making, making her feel relaxed, but she actually bothered to say it, which is just so nice. And so I have been trying really hard to to deliberately do that, to deliberately kind of give credit where credit's due. And I think and I think it's a thing you can particularly do in the workplace, and particularly to make sure that everybody is credited for something that they took a part in. And that, you know, sometimes people will have seen the thing in meetings where somebody else they suggest something, and then nobody takes any notice. And then somebody else suggests it, sometimes a man, and everyone takes much more notice. And you can really champion your colleagues by by by by saying, Oh, yeah, That's a great idea, similar to what So -and -so was saying, that would really fit in. So you haven't got to accuse them of stealing someone's idea, but you can just make sure everyone gets their credit. Or it can be,  kindness can be including everyone, noticing when someone's left out and noticing someone hasn't had a chance to say anything or that somebody is standing a bit on their own and may or may not want to be on their own, but you can find out. And also I think the thing I've tried to change a lot is I, while I was writing the book, I kept a diary of moments of kindness that I noticed, which might've been things where I was kind or thought about being kind or things people did for me or things I noticed other people do for other people. And I go, in London, I go on the trains and tube a lot and I noticed so many moments of kindness on the tubes and the trains of people carrying pushchairs for people or spending ages showing lost tourists the way and just being generally really nice. I just saw it all the time. And once you start looking out for it, you see more and more of it. And in our big piece of research we did, we did find that people who observe more kindness have higher levels of wellbeing on average. And so it is really worth trying to deliberately notice it. And one of my sort of top tips is to become a kindness twitcher, if you like, like a birdwatcher to deliberately look out for kindness everywhere and you see it. And one of the things I noticed was that I was almost, um, what I refer to as a hesitant helper, that I would notice situations where I thought, um, oh, I could offer to help here and then not be quite sure whether I'd misunderstood the situation, not be quite sure what was going on until it was too late. And then I failed to help at the right moment, all for fear of being a bit embarrassed. Like I was running, I do a lot of running and I was running one day, um, in just around the houses where, near where I live. And, um, and I saw a couple who were trying to get a big mattress, like a double king size mattress out of a van and into their flat. And they looked like they were struggling with it a bit. It was a man and a woman and they look like they were struggling. And I was, you know, had nothing, nothing wasn't carrying anything. And I had trainers on. So I thought I could I could offer help. And then I thought, would they think I thought that they couldn't manage it by themselves? And might they not like that. And then I was quite far away. And as I got nearer, they'd gone inside, and there was a high fence, but they were behind the fence, and they were trying to lift it up an outside staircase, so really hard job. And then I thought, oh, I should offer help now, but I'd have had to go into their garden in order to be able to do that. And would that seem intrusive, sort of stepping into their place in order to do it, by which time I'd kind of overthought the whole thing and ran away. So but what I deliberately have decided to do is not to do that anymore is to offer, offer the help. And if somebody doesn't want it, obviously, you don't want to force help on people, but to offer because the worst that happens is really that I've got the wrong end of the stick, and I'm then a bit embarrassed, you know, try and hand, if you try and pick something up that someone's dropped, and you hand it to the wrong person, that might be a bit embarrassing, but it's not the end of the world. And they're strangers, and I'm not going to see them again. And it's so nice when somebody else does help you in that way. So that's one of the things I've been really trying to do is to to overcome the embarrassment factor, if you like. 


00:11:13    Alyssa

Yeah, the mental game is so real, like the amount of mental energy spent on like, do I offer to help as you're just running and just seeing them approaching? And how much could be relinquished if you just if we could just decide like, yeah, when I get closer, I'm going to offer to help, right? But instead, the mental energy that is spent on like,  should I, should I not? I one thing that comes up for me in in this topic, I think, especially as a woman who has been really conditioned to be nice, be polite, to give of myself before giving to myself. And so when we're looking at kindness here, I want to kind of dive into like, what does it look like there? The difference between like nice and polite and kind and giving and where, how do we fit in that like self -care part of like, I am going to advocate for myself and I can do it in a kind way. For instance, in our household, like that's one of the kindness rules is you are allowed to feel frustrated. You're allowed to feel mad. You're allowed to feel disappointed. And we express it kindly. And here's what that can look like. It can look like walking away and taking space. It can look like yelling instead of hitting, right, with my two year old. Like we break down like what is kindness look like in action, but that you still get to self -advocate and feel. And that's, I think the part that for me, at least growing up was missing was that kindness didn't include that, the me part. 


00:12:54    Claudia

Yeah, and I think that can be really difficult because kindness doesn't have to mean that everyone else could just walk all over you and that you're gonna just to be there to just do everything for everyone else all the time and that they can just take you for granted. And I think particularly at work, people sometimes worry about that. And as you say, for women in particular, I think that's difficult because we might have been conditioned to be very nice and be the nice girl and not want to not be nice. But I think that there is a difference between the niceness that comes of other people's expectations of you and how you should always be polite and nice, and the kindness, which is really authentically trying to do something or say something that benefits somebody else.  And so it's true that if you don't want to be the person, probably, unless it's your big thing, who's always left to, I don't know, make the tea all the time for everyone at work, because that's not fair. And you don't want to just have people sort of make assumptions that you're always gonna do it just because you have. And so I think there are ways of getting the thing you want to do and still being successful while still doing that kindly. And in fact, the research on kindness and success is really interesting. So in the States, they looked at 50 ,000 leaders in businesses, in organizations, and they got people to do 360 -degree feedback. So where you say what you think of your boss. And they found that it was so unlikely that a boss who was nasty was also successful. A boss who wasn't considered nice or friendly or kind wasn't successful, that there was only a one in 2 ,000 chance of that happening. So actually, most of the time, the people who are who behave well, and behave well to their staff are also being more effective and nicer. So it's not the case that you have to be horrible to be successful. And so people can be very successful and still look after themselves as well. And I you know, I talk a lot in the book about kindness to yourself, and how important that is, and how some people find it really, really hard to be compassionate towards themselves. And there is, you measure people's fear of self -compassion. There's a scale where people will agree with statements saying, for example, that, well, if I'm too kind to myself, I'll just become lazy. Or if I'm too kind to myself, then everything will just fall apart and I'll never make any effort at anything at all. And it's just not the case. And in fact, there are very good outcomes if people can show themselves self -compassion, which can be to say, yes, I'm feeling terrible today. I won't always feel like this, and it's a bit rotten, but that everybody has days like this, and it's not me, it's not my fault. And to think what you would say to a friend in that situation, you know, we'll say much worse things to ourselves than we would ever say to a friend, you know, if a friend have made some sort of mistake and was worried that they'd, you know, been mean to their kids and shouldn't have done or something like that. We wouldn't say, yeah, I think you're a terrible parent. It's very unlikely we'd do that. We would say, yeah, we've all have bad days. Don't worry, I've been there. It won't always be like that. And I'm sure it'll be okay. We would say all those things to reassure them, but we don't say that to ourselves. We kind of beat ourselves up much more. 


00:16:06    Alyssa

Yeah. Yeah. And I think we do this with kids as well. Just, just literally yesterday, this is so apropos. We had like a hard morning with my toddler and he, frankly, not a lot of kindness coming from the toddler yesterday. And then after nap, we were laying in my bed and, and just like we were reading books and connecting. And I said, Hey, buddy, I noticed this morning, you were having a hard time being kind, and I want to help figure out what's going on. And to be able to come at it with that compassion, like he softened, I wasn't like, Hey, remember the rules in our house are kindness, and you need to speak to me with kindness and whatever, but I know he knows those. And I know, I believe that humans want to be kind and want to feel connected with one another. And so if it's not happening, curiosity is the gateway to why, of like, I wonder what's going on and what's coming up for you. And he didn't answer, he wasn't like, oh, here's what's happening, mom. But I was then able to just open this door and said, I'm noticing this, and I'm curious with you, and I'm here to help figure out what's going on. And it softened him and shifted our afternoon. It didn't mean that every interaction was full of kindness, but definitely a lot more of them. And he was able to, there were a couple of moments where he had like a big reaction that was not kind in how he reacted. And I could step in and say, whoa, I noticed it's happening again. I want to help you. I recognize you're feeling frustrated and I want to help you so that we can do so kindly together. And he was able to like, then be receptive to it. But I think for so many of us, like we can look around, you said like, when you're looking for kindness, you find it more and it improves your wellbeing, which makes sense to me in terms of looking at gratitude practice and things like that too. But I think it's really easy for us to look around and be like, there's so much around us that isn't kind. It's very easy to find that and then to assign the why, like our assumptions behind it. I think it's way harder to approach it with curiosity. 


00:18:23    Claudia

Yeah, I think that's definitely true. And I think it's inevitable. You know, we know from loads of psychological research that negative things are more salient. We notice and remember the negative things more than we notice and remember the positive things, which is why you have to sort of deliberately look for the kindness, if you like, because that won't come to the fore as much. If you show people a photograph of a whole crowd of faces and there's one happy face and there's one angry face, people can find the angry face much faster. So we are just hardwired to do that because we need to spot the bear running after you. You need to spot in the way that you don't need to spot the cat in the street in the same way. So we don't notice those positive things in the same way. And we are more likely then to notice, to attribute some negative motivations to something that somebody says and to think, And we do tend to personalize things and to think it's about us when it isn't. And I was thinking about your toddler. And I love some of the studies about toddlers and kindness because they're just amazing. Because as you were saying, people want to be, people mostly, nearly all want to be kind. And so even toddlers, and it may not seem like that when they're standing in the middle of the street, having a tantrum and screaming and won't do what you want, but you've just, you know, tripped over their scooter and been hurt. And they take no notice of this. I remember this happening to a friend of mine. And and it seemed like the two year old didn't care at all. And yet in studies, two year olds and three year olds are so much kinder than you might expect if they're given the opportunity to be. I mean, there's some studies I really like done by a comparative psychologist called called Michael Tomasello, who's in Germany. And he gets people to do, gets people, toddlers, to do things like he'll have an adult who's carrying a pile of magazines, who's trying to open a cupboard door, and they can't open the door because their arms are full with the magazines. And even 18 -month -year -olds will go and open the door for them on occasion. So on 91 % of trials, they'll go and open the door to try and help them, even though there's nothing in it for them. And then to make it a bit harder, he gives them something they really like to play with first. So they'd have to leave the thing they're playing with, get up, go across the room and open the door. And then to make it even harder they have to, they're playing with something and then they've got to climb over a load of plastic obstacles as well, so they've got to drop the toys, climb over the obstacles and get to the door and help. And still the vast majority do help, even when they're only 18 months old and two years old and it goes up and more help the older they get. And you can see on some of the videos of it, after they've helped they're so pleased, their sort of chests are puffed out with pride because they were able to do a useful thing and they will do it for adults or for other children indiscriminately, which is interesting. I mean, he calls them indiscriminate altruists because you might expect if they're only doing it because there might be something in it for them, then it makes sense to be nicer to adults because they're the ones who've got stuff to give you and they've got food and nice things. The other kids haven't got that, but they will do it just as much to the kids at that really young age. As they get a bit older, they do learn to be nicer to adults to get stuff. But they don't do it at that age. And so they're sort of open to being kind to anyone. And it's almost like it's, it's there for the taking, if we can encourage it, because they are, from an evolutionary perspective, humans have succeeded by cooperating. And so there is a push to cooperate and to do things together. Because that that is what makes us survive. And that's what's really key and they will do it. Not at every moment, obviously, but again, it's good to watch out to watch to see when's the time when they are being kind, you know, when are they being helpful? 


00:22:09    Alyssa

Yeah, and I think there's a big conversation in early childhood around this in terms of like praise versus acknowledgement. And I love being able to acknowledge kind acts. I think like, especially if we're seeing that down the road with age, they're going to do more things to try and get their needs met from adults or certain adults than if they know they're going to get attention and connection from you when they're doing something kind versus when they go hit their sibling. Like, sure, let's tap into that. And I think we can, it can get murky with extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation there, but the difference between like, wow, good job. And you're like really big with it versus like, Hey, I noticed that you did this. Thanks so much. Like that was really kind of you. In the same way that if I do the dishes and my husband's like, Hey, thanks for doing the dishes. It feels good. I'm like, yeah, you're welcome. Thank you for noticing. Like I did that. And being able to provide that for kids, you mentioned the like diary that you kept when you were doing this research, what are some other ways that we can kind of start to practice this, notice it, be more aware of it? 


00:23:29    Claudia

Yeah, so one is, is the yeah, is the deliberately looking out for it. And, and noticing that one of the things because of this noticing negative things, the news, for example, can really get people down, you know, we know that when people have just say, watch the news on TV that they feel on average, their well being goes down, and they feel a bit worse afterwards. And people will have had the experience, particularly during the pandemic of doom scrolling, where you, you know, your people were looking up COVID figures again, and again, and again, even though they weren't changing more than once a day, but in the hope of sort of finding out something more, which was often not a good thing to find not good, you find out something else negative. And it's really depressing. And and in a way, the answer to that is not to ignore the news completely, because we need to know what's going on. And people need to know what's going on to change the world for good, etc. but to not let it get you down by accepting, of course, that you know that at this moment, this is going to be the negative things. And sometimes people have said, oh, well, they should make news bulletins. You know, you should have loads of positive stories. And every so often, somebody tries a positive news bulletin. They don't, they never do as well. And one of the reasons is that it's not, you know, you don't need to know that. So if, you know, if a hundred people were murdered in London last night, and we need to know that news, it's not news that nobody was murdered in London last night. You can't say that on my news bulletin. Oh, good news, nobody was murdered! Because you'd be saying that many days. So in a way it's a question of when you're looking out for good news, accepting that at some points like when you're watching the news, it's going to be negative but that these are the negative things that have needed to be highlighted and chosen and not to scroll for it all day. To decide a couple of times a day this is where I'm going to get my news and this is a reliable place to get it and this is the times I'm going to get it and not just going to look it up randomly. I mean, some people have, you know, alerts on their phones or their watches even, which will have the news bulletins all the time coming up. And that does mean you're kind of asking to see some bad news all day. You could find out later. And so you could be interrupting a really nice moment where you look at your watch and then see something else terrible has happened. You know, maybe you don't, maybe you don't want to do that. Another thing people can do is to take an awe walk. So this is awe, not as in rowing, but A -W -E, awe. And this, so this means go, when you go for a walk, you can do it just on a walk you're going on anyway, or you can be walking to the shop, to look around for things that strike awe in you. So it might be that you find a leaf that's just got its veins left, and isn't that beautiful? Or it might be, isn't that a lovely tree? Or it could be something built by humans. It could be, wow, how clever to have built that building. I just don't know know where you start building a bridge like that. Isn't that amazing that somebody did that? And to look out for these things. And in a study where they did this, they found that after they did it for six weeks, and they had to go for two walks a week. And they found at the end of it, the people's levels of having good feelings about others, their sort of altruism towards others was actually higher at the end of this time. And that also to check people did it, they got people to take selfies of where they were on their walk, just to prove that they'd done it. And they found something weren't expecting at all, which was that in the group who had to look for awe, compared with the group who just went for a walk, they started to make themselves smaller in the selfies and the world bigger. Almost as if going for these walks and looking for something that struck awe in them, which was often nature but didn't have to be, was sort of putting things into perspective and they'd realize what a kind of small part of this they are and that in the park there are, you know,  beetles and bees and birds and trees, and they don't care about what's the argument you've just had with somebody or what's going on. That these cycles of life are all just continuing regardless of what you do. And that it can help sort of put things into perspective for people and make things seem a bit less negative. So that's another one. Another one is reading novels, actually. So there's really good evidence that people who read novels more, and it happens afterwards, so it's not that it came first. People who read novels more have higher levels of empathy, and higher levels of empathy enable us to be kinder because you can understand how somebody else is feeling. And of course, there is nothing like a book for getting right inside somebody's head. You know, it happens to an extent with say, films or TV dramas or documentaries as well, if it's a person talking about what's happened to them. But there is something about being right inside someone's head in their words, who could be someone very different from you, which really gives you an insight into completely different kinds of lives. And it's fun to do, but makes our empathy levels higher, which makes kindness easier as well. So there's a kind of win -win on that one. 


00:28:13    Alyssa

That's so interesting. And that makes sense to me for two reasons. One, you get to create the picture in your mind. And so your mind, I feel like, is probably activating different parts of the brain in order to do that, in order to bring those words to life, versus somebody delivering a picture to you. I also wonder how many folks are like watching TV or movies while also like scrolling their phone, right? Like doing this other thing where they're not really fully attentive to watching the thing versus reading. It's really hard to read and scroll your phone at the same time. So just that like you can really be immersed in that. The awe part jumped out at me. In Brené Brown's latest book, Atlas of the Heart, she highlighted this in the book as well of how impactful looking for awe is. And so this was something that coming into this pregnancy, I, you know, life is nutty and busy. My last pregnancy was during COVID. And so all I did was thinking about like being pregnant and how cool it was that my body was doing this and blah, blah, blah. And then this one, I'm chasing a toddler and running a business and launching a book and whatever, and found myself really just forgetting days that I was pregnant. And it's just such a different experience from my last one. And really have made a conscious effort the last couple months to once a day, just acknowledge to myself, this is so rad that my body just knows what it's doing here and can do this on its own and whatever. And like taking a moment to feel in awe of that process and like appreciate it. And I have felt like a shift for myself in the connection to this pregnancy as I've started to do that, which has been just an interesting little awe connection. 


00:30:06    Claudia

Yeah, and that really makes sense because it is, you know, you're growing a person, you're making an actual person. How amazing is that? And yet, as you say, there's so much to be doing sort of day to day and everything else going on, that it's easy to forget that you are making an actual person, which is just, wow. 


00:30:22    Alyssa

Bonkers, yeah, and it's bonkers. And when you stop to think about it, it's like, wow, that is really wild. And that I don't have to really do anything right now to do that, right? Like it's just, I just have to keep existing and stay healthy and strong and whatever. And it's just gonna kind of happen. 


00:30:37    Claudia



00:30:38    Alyssa

When I can like pause and acknowledge that, it's for me, the like creating routines and practices around that pause, around pausing to acknowledge, around, you know, one of the things that we ask my little guy every day is, what's one thing that someone did that was kind for you? And what's one thing that you did that was kind for someone else today at school? And sometimes he has the same answer every single day for a week, and he's not, like, tuning into it. And that's fine. We don't, like, push it. We're not like, you said that one yesterday, right? We're like, great, you know, just like, let it happen. He's two and a half. But just to get into this practice. So there's some practices where I feel like we have like built it in. But the taking pause for me, at least like my takeaway right now is like, when I think of those things, when I'm on the run, and I see the mattress, or I think of the thing at work that someone did, that I then take the next step to reach out to say, Hey, would you like a hand moving that mattress in, whatever it is, but like the action part beyond the thought, I think it requires a practice to be able to commit to. 


00:31:49    Claudia

Yeah, it does. It is and it is almost deciding in advance, I'm going to help the next time there's there's an opportunity to help. And then this can even happen with really big things. If you look at the work on heroism, then invariably heroes who've saved lives and done amazing things and often risk their own life to do so, they often say afterwards, I've interviewed lots of heroes over the years on radio shows, and they often say afterwards, they say, oh, I did what anybody would do in that circumstance, but they didn't because they did it and everybody else didn't do it. But they're very, very self -deprecating about it and modest about it invariably and think it is no fuss. And some of the research on heroism suggests that you could decide in advance that when the time comes, if the time comes, and one estimate, one study was that five times in your life, there might be an opportunity for this, that you are going to do it, that you're going to decide, well, when that opportunity comes, I am going to help, even if I'll be embarrassed, even if I've got the wrong end of the stick and I'll be embarrassed, nevermind, I'm going to help and I'm going to do it. And one of the big things we found in the big study that I collaborated on with psychologists at Sussex University, this is the biggest study that's been done on kindness, and 60 ,000 people from around the world took part. And one of the things we asked people was, what deterred them from being kinder more often? What was it that put them off? And we thought people might say they haven't got time or they haven't got the opportunity somehow. And the biggest thing people said was that they were worried that they might be misinterpreted. Two -thirds of people said that they thought they might be misinterpreted. So this sort of embarrassment about offering help really does seem to be a key thing. I mean, there was another one the other day, and this was one where I did do it because now I'm trying to do them, where again, I was running along and somebody, there's loads of electric bikes all around London now that just get, you can leave them anywhere. And so half of them are lying across the pavement and-- they're ones you can hire. And a guy was trying to drive into a garage, but there was somebody had left a bike across the pavement. And I went past and then slightly realized what he was doing and that he couldn't get in because of it. And so I thought, well, I could go back and move the bike, but I look slightly stupid for not having noticed before and that I've got to turn around and go back. And then I thought, would he rather I moved the bike or not? Surely he'd rather I moved the bike because then he hasn't had to park and do it. And so I just turned around and went back. And of course he was really, really pleased and waved out the window and chatted, thank you, that was really kind. And he didn't think, oh, what an idiot. She didn't notice and then had to come back. So now I even turn around and walk back and just think, I'll get over it. I don't mind if they think I'm stupid, it's okay. I can deal with it. 


00:34:25    Alyssa

And it's so true, right? Like the narrative in our head is so often different from the one in somebody else's. I was leaving the grocery store and there is a mom who had three kids. Everyone was melting down in some fashion and she's got her groceries and she's just trying to get to the car. And in my head, at first I looked and I was like, oh gosh, I know that feeling of just like kids are melting and I'm trying to get to the car and just really empathy for her in that moment first of like, that sucks to be in that. And then my second was like, I want to help. I wanted to help her in some way and was nervous about what her perception of that would be. Am I not doing enough? Can I not handle this? Blah, blah, blah. And I ultimately was like, if it were me, I would want someone to help. And so I popped over and I was just like, hey, do you want me to take one of the kids or do you want me to take the groceries and go to the car? What's most helpful? And she was like, oh, I've got it. I've got it. And I was like, it's fine if you've got it. It's also fine if you don't like I've been there. 


00:35:30    Claudia

I like that. 


00:35:32    Alyssa

And she was like, can you take the cart of groceries? And I was like, yep, got the cart. And so then I just like walked with her to the car and popped groceries in her trunk and put the cart away and just checked in. It was like, is there anything else before I head out? And she was like, No, thank you so much. And it was so small. But I was nervous at first about like, is she gonna feel insulted that I think she can't handle this or whatever. And the reality is like, like, even if we can handle it, I think we don't always have to, right? Like, could those, that couple get the mattress up into the house? Probably they'll figure it out. But also having an extra set of hands wouldn't suck, would probably make this go better, you know? And I think sometimes for me, like that part comes up. Not as much the embarrassment side of misinterpretation, but will they think that I'm judging them or that I can't do it, et cetera. and really letting myself know that it's also okay. Like so many of us have been conditioned not to ask for help and that we're supposed to like be able to do it all on our own. And I think part of rewriting that is offering help. 


00:36:35    Claudia

Yeah, I think it completely is. And I think that there's this, you know, idea that we have to be able to do everything ourselves. And also we know that from the research that receiving a kind act makes people feel good and makes them feel good about humanity. So they feel good, not just, you know, the woman will not just feel good about, oh, thank goodness, I've now finally got the stuff to the car. But she'll think, oh, isn't that nice? Complete stranger helped me. And that would also make her feel good. And of course, it makes you feel good. And so there's lots of research about how being kind makes the giver feel good too. And I don't think that we should be shy of that in a way, as long as the help we offer is authentic. I don't think, sometimes people will sort of say, well, does it count as a kind act? I mean, there's a whole episode of Friends based on Phoebe trying to do a kind act. And does it count as a selfless act if she gets something out of it? But, and in a way, I don't think we should get too hung up on the fact that we might benefit as well, as long as it's still offered authentically, not just to, because you think, oh, well, I'll feel good if I do that. But I think it's okay if they will be helped and you'll feel good. Because again, this is, there's a reason the reward systems in our brains are activated and make us feel good when we do something kind for people. And there's a reason we're pushed towards that. Again, it's for humans to be able to cooperate. So, you know, why not enjoy that? Why not enjoy that? There is this warm glow that you get. Why not enjoy that? And then again, that is something where you can give, say, kids the experience of enjoying that. I read a really nice thing on Instagram this morning of a parent who was saying that they, often in the supermarket, their kids could say, can I have that? Can I have that? Can I have that? They were very little, sort of two and four. Can we have one of these? Can we have one of these? And how she finds that really difficult while she's shopping, um, because it's a bit annoying. And she said


00:38:21    Alyssa

Quite annoying. Kids do a lot of annoying things.


00:38:23    Claudia

Yeah. And so she, she, um, had the idea, which I thought was really clever of saying they could each choose one tin of something, one can of something to, um, go to the food bank, the box for the food bank in the supermarket. And so they could each choose one and carry their can and put it in the box that you buy it. And they put it in the box at the end. And she said, they've spent ages to, they leave her alone to do her shopping while they spend ages choosing which can they're going to get, what they think the people might like. And then she says at the cash desk, they're then telling other people about it and saying, this is for the food bank. This is for other people. We're getting this one for other people. I chose this, I chose that. She said they're talking to everyone about it. And then they put it in the thing. And then afterwards, she says she can see-- what she was doing it because it, you know, stops them being annoying, and it distracts them nicely. But I was thinking also, it is they're really enjoying doing it because they're getting that warm glow of kindness. It's not even for them and they're enjoying it. So because they are, they're getting to experience that, that flow of doing something for somebody else and how that feels good. And so you know, why not do that early? 


00:39:27    Alyssa

I love that. And they're getting a little dopamine along the way. Yeah, that's, that's incredible. I love that suggestion. And I think every parent listening can relate, because I don't know a single one of us that goes into the grocery store, and it's like, well, this is so chill and more enjoyable when my kids here. Not the reality. Thank you so much for this. I, like I said, like, it just felt like such a natural yes to talk about kindness. I think it's one of those things that, as we were saying at the beginning, we all want. We all want to live in a kinder world. We all, I think, want to receive more kindness and also give more kindness. And we want to be kinder humans. And it's in the, like practicality of how and what does this look like that I think we can get tripped up in. So thank you. Thank you for writing the Keys to Kindness and for this research. Where can people find your book, learn more about you, all that jazz? 


00:40:26    Claudia

So yeah, the book Keys to Kindness is, you know, around the place available from the usual places. And my website is called claudiahammond.com and that has got information all about the research on there and on Instagram and Twitter as well. So X, as we should now call it. So yeah, it is roundabout. And there's lots on the BBC as well. I did a whole BBC series about kindness. So there's lots on the results of the research there. And I think one of the big findings is that we ask people what the last act of kindness they did or people did for them. And they were really small things. It can be really small. There were lots and lots of cups of teas that were made for people, but also really lovely things. Like I remember one saying, they nearly missed their train and they got on at the back and their seat that they booked was like eight carriages in front and the guard carried their suitcase through eight carriages to help them find their seat, which was just so kind you know there's these lovely kind things. Someone else was saying that they went for a long walk in the countryside and bumped into a couple of other people and got chatting with them and they were a bit tired out, this bloke, and when he got to the pub which was where his walk was ending like all the best walks do, the couple had phoned ahead and bought a pint of beer for him. And they had left that for him because they'd had a nice chat with him. And that's just so kind. And we had 120 ,000 moments of these kindness like this. And sometimes, I've got them on a spreadsheet, sometimes I just scroll through them for fun because they really remind you how, despite all the bad things going on, there really honestly is so much kindness in the world. People are doing amazing things for each other all the time. 


00:42:01    Alyssa

It's like Love Actually, that love really is all around us. 


00:42:04    Claudia

It really is. 


00:42:05    Alyssa

Kindness really is all around us. I love it. I love it. Thank you, Claudia, for doing this work and sharing it with us. 


00:42:11    Claudia

Thanks for having me. It was really good fun. 


00:42:14    Alyssa

Thanks for tuning in to Voices of Your Village. Check out the transcript at voicesofyourvillage.com. Did you know that we have a special community over on Instagram hanging out every day with more free content? Come join us at @seed.and.sew, S -E -W. Take a screenshot of you tuning in, share it on the gram and tag @seed.and.sew to let me know your key takeaway. If you're digging this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. We love collaborating with you to raise emotionally intelligent humans.


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