Decades ago, cough, I went on a summer camp with loads of other people. At the end of the week, we were each given a sheet of paper, told to write our name on the top and then pass it to the person on our right. Everyone had to write something nice about everyone else when their sheet arrived. When we got our own sheets back, we could read all the nice things the other people had said about you after hanging around you for a week. It felt rewarding and was a simple but effective demonstration that being nice makes you feel nice. (So does blowing zillions of zombies to bits in a computer game, but let’s ignore that for now.)
With the many social networking sites now, it’s easy to send someone a nice message. Most of us occasionally do. My first question is: since we all know we like to receive kind words and compliments, and we know that everyone else does too, why don’t we do it more?
Someone realised that you could make an app for that and out came Kindr. I understand some of the problems in doing that. Do you have a fixed set to pick from? Do you let people write their own? Should it be anonymous or true ID? How do you prevent bullying? How do you make it pay for itself? Should it be standalone or link into other social media as a plugin? Well, the Kindr people actually got on with it and did it. Maybe it is still early days but I only found Kindr when I did a search for its functionality on Google. It hasn’t yet become the next Facebook, but it was a good idea and I hope it succeeds and grows and gets noticed more and a nice warm waves of niceness floods over society now and then. We need more kindness and love.
On the other hand, maybe it just wasn’t needed. It was already easy to be nice in many ways via existing media. I think the answer lies in basic human nature. We like hearing nice things about us much the same way as we like eating chocolate or ice cream. At first it is wonderful, but it soon makes us sick if we keep doing it. If so, then it is like appetite. Once satisfied, more is less. It is great to receive an occasional pleasant comment. After a while the extra reward levels off and eventually it can even become embarrassing or irritating. Like being kissed – once is great, two is quite sufficient, three is getting continental, please stop. Stroke a cat and it purrs. Keep stroking it and your hand will be full of holes. It isn’t healthy for the recipient to be praised too much either. Look at the ego disaster areas that feature so often on reality TV that have been told they’re wonderful 24/7 and believe it in spite of being as plain as the Serengeti.
I think most people intuitively know just how much is right. We compliment each other when something really deserves it, and then it feels good to both the receiver and the giver. If we do it all the time, it doesn’t. A few people go too far, a few don’t go far enough. I suspect most people could cope with a little more before it is too much but I don’t think we are too far off overall.
Maybe, like wealth, it isn’t the total volume that’s a problem, the real problem is distribution. That’s my point in this blog. Some people get a lot of praise all the time, some rarely get a kind word from anyone. It doesn’t cost anything or take long to say something nice, so we each have it in our power to fix that.
So next time you see someone who doesn’t look like life has treated them very well recently, make sure to give them a generous dose of appreciation. If they smile, you’ll feel better too.