Kindness is catching

I was in the car on my way to the hospital for a routine appointment the other day, listening to a piece on BBC R4 about how waiters and people in service jobs are experiencing less courtesy and more aggression as we go through this stage of the pandemic. People shout more and tip less, while servers in pubs and bars now have to ‘discipline’ their customers as well as serve them. 

‘Road rage has become restaurant rage,’ said one contributor, while another noted that the pandemic has turned us all into each others’ policemen, often pointing the finger at other people for acting irresponsibly or not taking the pandemic seriously enough.

I didn’t hear the rest of the piece because I arrived at the hospital for my blood test. I took my little paper ticket from the machine and as I sat watching the numbers slowly tick up towards mine, I remembered the sullen phlebotomist. The last three times I’ve been there I’ve had the same clearly unhappy guy take my blood. He never says a word except to ask my name and date of birth (fair enough, it’s not his job) and he always leaves me with a nasty bruise on my arm, so the whole experience is literally and metaphorically painful.

I don’t know his story. Last time I was there I almost enquired if he was OK. But I didn’t. 

So I was having an internal word with myself about being convivial and not judging, when my number came up. I walked in, sleeve rolled up, blood test requirements at the ready, positive attitude in place – and he wasn’t there. 

The woman taking my blood instead asked my name and date of birth, noticed it was nearly my birthday and, while doing the same one-minute job as her colleague, had a nice little chat about the Indian restaurant my wife and I were heading to that evening to celebrate.

When I got home I listened to the rest of the radio piece about how people are treating each other during the pandemic. It focused on how a positive attitude to other people, especially in trying times like these, is something you can only address in yourself. 

My ears pricked up because this is a major theme in our book, ‘The Talking Revolution’. Taking personal responsibility for the health of all our relationships, even the briefest of interactions, is something we can all do right now, without having to ‘police’ anyone or ask anyone’s permission. 

And it’s extraordinary how powerful the effect of that can be – far more so than complaining or blaming. It’s what I’d just experienced at the hands of that chatty phlebotomist, which definitely lightened my mood and made me want to pass it on. 

As the broadcaster said at the end of the radio piece, ‘Kindness is catching’.

By |2020-09-10T10:09:25+01:00September 10th, 2020|Uncategorised|0 Comments

When it comes to building trust, practise on the small stuff

Lack of trust has been cited yet again as a major impediment to the Brexit negotiations, as Boris Johnson has announced what looks to many like a retreat from the ratified EU Withdrawal Agreement and signalled a willingness, if necessary, to break international law. The French MEP Phillipe Lamberts said on BBC R4’s World at One; ’If you want to strike an agreement with anyone, I don’t think it’s a good idea to hint that you might not abide by past agreements with the same partner.’ 

Everyone knows trust can take years to build and seconds to destroy, and the push and pull of any major negotiation can stretch trust to its limits, but it got me to thinking about the negotiators themselves, as individuals. They do, after all, sit across the negotiating table one minute, and across the dinner table with family and friends the next, and trust – or its absence – plays just as big a role in both settings.

So how, and when, do you start to build trust? Clearly it’s no good waiting for the crisis to happen. That’s way too late. You have to start right now, by practising on the small stuff – the countless routine, apparently unimportant, interactions we all have that make up the bulk of our daily lives, like punctuality, keeping small promises and everyday acts of understanding and consideration. Here are four ways of doing that from The Talking Revolution.

  • Competence – demonstrate that you can do something to a certain level. For example, if you consistently complete work on time and to the required standard – or higher – you’ll be trusted with more of it and/or more responsibility. 
  • Predictability – keep your promises and act reliably. If you arrange to meet someone outside the station at midday on Tuesday, you meet them outside the station at midday on Tuesday. Simple. 
  • Integrity – demonstrate that you share particular values with the other person. They really value honesty and frank speaking, say. You do too. So they trust you to give your honest and frank opinion, even if they might not be thrilled at what they hear. 
  • Benevolence – indicate that you care about the other person. Which means you consider their welfare, feelings and needs when you make decisions that might affect them. And they trust that you’ll look out for them and their interests. 

Taking the opportunity to practise on the small, everyday stuff means that, if and when the big stuff comes up, that foundation of trust will already be in place and could actually prevent a crisis from developing at all. But if a crisis does develop, they’ll certainly make the challenges it brings much easier to handle.

By |2020-09-08T17:28:10+01:00September 8th, 2020|Uncategorised|0 Comments
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