This March, we’re celebrating and recognising acts of kindness with our #KindnessCounts campaign.
Here, Debrett’s Managing Director Renée Kuo explains why:
Is rudeness contagious? A recent study by the Journal of Applied Psychology would indicate it is. But it shouldn’t take rocket scientists to tell you that – you’re a witness each time you step foot out your front door.
Saying please. Saying thank you. Holding the door open for the person behind you. These are all simple niceties, likely engrained in us as children from our parents, teachers or older relations. You might consider them everyday habits, as involuntary as breathing.
Then, reality strikes. Fellow commuters jostle you without apology as they rush for the train doors. Pedestrians become sharp-elbowed bumper cars with gazes fixed on their phones. Pairs of eyeballs stare through you as the lift door closes without you in it. You neglect to thank the person who stopped to let you pass in front of him.
Too often this is not deliberate rudeness, but simple thoughtlessness. And while we at Debrett’s might be known for our expertise in etiquette, we can admit we’re far from perfectly polite every waking hour of the day. But day after day, this same thoughtlessness – especially during the unforgiving winter months – starts to take its toll. We can either throw in the towel and join the indifference, or we can encourage each other – and you – to show everyday kindness.
We can either join the indifference, or we can encourage each other to show everyday kindness
Have you heard of the ‘broken window theory?’ It’s credited to a Stanford University psychology professor in the 1960s who noted that allowing small crimes in a neighbourhood, such as breaking windows or littering, led to larger, more serious crimes. In other words, crime is contagious and, left unchecked, it worsens.
The same can be said for rudeness. Not saying please or thank you may seem trivial, but inconsiderate actions add up. Being on the receiving end ‘wears people down…and depletes the resources they have for controlling their own behaviour’, according to the aforementioned study. The result makes you impatient at home, bristly at work, and infects those around you to do the same.
Being on the receiving end of rudeness ‘wears people down…and depletes the resources they have for controlling their own behaviour’
We’re happy to report, however, that kindness is also contagious. There’s even a scientific name for it: ‘moral elevation.’ Researchers from the US and the UK reported that witnessing a kind act makes us want to do something altruistic ourselves – to pay it forward.
We know we can’t convince the entire population to show everyday kindness, but we hope if you’re on the receiving end of rudeness, you’ll stop the contagion, and if you’re the beneficiary of a kind act, you’ll pay it forward. If you’re truly inspired, initiate the warm and fuzzies by displaying a random act of kindness. It may just go viral.
Renée Kuo, Debrett’s Managing Director
We’ll be running a series of interviews and features on the theme of kindness throughout the month of March. If you’ve been on the receiving end of a kind act – however big or small – why not share it with us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #KindnessCounts, or by commenting below.