We’re stressed and in a hurry, living in a competitive world in uncertain times, so it’s not surprising that simple, day-to-day kindness can fall by the wayside.
But being kind is genuinely good for you. It improves happiness, health, life satisfaction and connection. It’s also contagious, as we pay it back and pass it on.
This is particularly true when it comes to your significant other. Kindness – along with emotional stability – is the most important predictor of satisfaction in a long-term relationship.
Forget wild sex, excitement and grand gestures; it’s the listening ear, the small compliments and the cup of tea in the morning that glue couples together.
One important example here is how we respond to our partner’s requests for connection known as “bids”. (“Hey, look at that!” “Guess what happened today?”). If you’re lost in an episode of Call the Midwife when your partner interrupts with a question, do you ignore him, act annoyed or respond generously with a smattering of kindness?
Washington university’s world-renowned “love lab”, responsible for decades of research on marriage, found that 87% of couples who responded kindly to one another’s “bids” were still together in the six-year follow-up, compared with 33% of couples who didn’t!
So start to practice kindness in your day-to-day life – it could make all the difference to your marriage. Here’s how…
1. Remember that kindness is innate
Humans are wired to co-operate in order to survive – but at the same time, we’re naturally competitive and liable to see things from one perspective only (our own!). However, it’s possible to build up your “kindness muscle” – and the more you practise, the more natural it becomes.
2. Practise perspective-taking
Research shows that forcing yourself to see the world from others’ point of view can boost empathy and strengthen kindness. So that means considering how your partner might feel after a long day, or your neighbour now that her nest has emptied.
3. Meet rudeness with kindness
Even if that means inventing excuses for the person being rude. (“Maybe they’re anxious/had bad news today.”) Make your kind response transform the space. (“Are you having a really bad day and did I just add to it without meaning to?”)
4. Throw judgement aside
In every interaction, empathise and start with the view that everyone brings something valuable to the table. It’s common to have our answers ready before the other person has even finished talking. Make an effort to silence that side of you.
Words: Anna Moore