Everyone has periods when times are particularly tough. The loss of something or someone dear can make each day almost impossible to handle. Understanding that the people around us may also be experiencing sadness, grief, and loss can increase patience, generosity, and kindness.
When you see someone upset in public, do you stare or do you say something? Have you ever asked a stranger if everything was okay? Most of us may feel sadness or empathy for a crying stranger, but we likely wouldn’t speak up.
Perhaps this is a sign of the times, but we as a society seem reticent to interfere with situations outside of our own personal realm--if you don’t know the person, you probably won’t say anything. A research study found that only 1 in 39 patients were supported by “good Samaritans”, or bystanders, before medical personnel arrived.1 But what if we tossed this thinking and instead embraced generosity and kindness?
Neuroscience studies have examined the link between generosity and happiness using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI. It is still unknown how exactly happiness is driven by generosity in the neural network, but striatal activation is likely.2 The striatum is part of the basal ganglia and is activated in social situations by rewards.3
WE ARE ONLY AS GOOD AS OUR WHOLE
When we increase generosity, we increase the standards of living and happiness for those around us. While many of us like the idea of helping others, we usually only do so when it suits our reputation or improves our own situation.
The limbic brain is charged with our survival--that fight or flight instinct that served our ancestors well. But in today’s society, this instinct tends to stifle collaboration and limits our desire to show kindness and generosity. Do we really want a society where ailing strangers lie on the ground with no one to help?
Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.
Princess Diana of Wales
FOUR WAYS TO BE A MORE GENEROUS LEADER
In this world of megacorporations, billions of dollars are controlled by only a few individuals. Employees deserve a “piece of the pie” so to speak, and not just the cast off crumbs. Leaders who usher in the Imagination Age must move away from the totalitarian we still see and instead, value generosity and support collaboration.
To be a more generous leader, consider these tips:
- Write a note to say thank you. Did someone stay late, helping you meet your deadline? While a verbal “thank you” is always appreciated, put in a little more effort and write a thank you note on real paper! This gesture shows that you care enough to take the time to truly say thanks.
- Celebrate the small successes. When a big project makes the halfway point, or you land a new contract, take a moment to celebrate with those around you. You’ll foster a sense of collaboration and give a jolt of positivity to the office environment.
- Stop pointing fingers. Everyone messes up, but instead of trying to pin the blame on someone, try to be patient and forgiving. Encourage your colleagues and employees to follow your example.
- Be kind. If you see someone crying, ask in a comforting way if you can help. Sometimes people don’t want help, and that’s alright. But sometimes, someone might need a shoulder to cry on. If you know someone in your organisation is experiencing a loss, be compassionate and kind.
WE HAVE THE POWER TO FORM THE SOCIETY
WE WANT TO LIVE IN
It doesn’t take much to create a sense of despair when you watch the news. Climate change, famine, political strife, and corporate greed are all problems our world is facing. But we have the power to make a difference, and we can start now.
Leadership that works with the brain can redefine what human survival and thriving really mean so we as humankind can take care of each other, and Earth, with generosity.
It’s never too late to incorporate generosity into your life. Giving more will increase your happiness, and you can lead by example in your organisation and your personal life. We can make this world a safer place for all, where strangers don’t have to cry on the streets, if we open our minds to generosity.
1. York Cornwell E, Currit A. Racial and Social Disparities in Bystander Support During Medical Emergencies on US Streets. American Journal of Public Health. 2016;106(6):1049-1051. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2016.303127.
2. Park S Q, Kahnt T, Dogan A, Strang S, Fehr E, Tobler P. A Neural Link Between Generosity and Happiness. Nature Communications, 2017; 8:15964. doi:10.1038/ncomms15964.
3. Báez-Mendoza R, Schultz W. The role of the striatum in social behavior. Frontiers in Neuroscience. 2013;7:233. doi:10.3389/fnins.2013.00233.