WIIFM of Kindness

Jan 01, 2021


If you think of me as a nice person, then you’ve got to hear my origin story. You also need to know what you get back when you are kind to others.

What I am about to tell you may shock you! If you think of me as a nice person, then you could consider this my origin story. The first week of kindergarten, I let my classmates talk me into tipping Billy’s desk over-- with him in it! Oh, it pains me to share this and though my little mind knew Billy was different, it did not understand why. I realize now, he suffered from an alcoholic father, single mom struggling to do her best, a learning disability, and poverty. Just as his desk hit the floor, our teacher returned to the classroom and I immediately got up and tearfully claimed responsibility.

It was also in that moment that I committed to being nice-- at least outwardly. Secretly, I would continue disparage people for their differences or things I didn’t understand. Of course, you don’t really need to understand everything to be nice to someone or about someone. You need just a little empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Studies prove being kind or compassionate to others is actually more rewarding for the giver than the receiver. Let’s dive into the WIIFM (or What’s In It For Me?) of kindness.

Stephen Trzeciak and Anthony Mazzarelli compiled their research into a book called Compassionomics: The Revolutionary Scientific Evidence that Caring Makes a Difference suggesting that “compassion can help reverse the cost crisis in health care” and “can be an antidote for burnout among health care providers.” In an interview with Freakonomics’ Stephen Dubner, Trzeciak claims that when patients feel deeply cared for, they are more likely to take their medicine-- potentially preventing between “$100B and $280B of avoidable downstream healthcare costs.” Most notably, this compassion takes only 40 seconds to convey.

The Latin root of compassion is compati, which means to suffer with. According to Compassion International, compassion is more than empathy or simply relating to a person’s pain as if it were your own, it adds an active component. In addition to saving money and lives, here are three more areas of WIIFM: 

  1. Physical: Acting on empathy increases levels of activity, lowers blood pressure, and reduces stress of our employees.1 Volunteering has been proven to lower cholesterol and BMI (body mass index).2 Individuals who provide practical help to others extend their own longevity, ultimately reducing corporate healthcare expenditures.3
  2. Mental: Giving activates the reward center of the brain by releasing dopamine and endorphins. It increases happiness, joy, and contentment along with overall satisfaction with life and one might assume work.1 Volunteers have more self-esteem, greater sense of purpose, and less depression-- which may lead to fewer costly mental health days and turnover.2
  3. Mutual: Being generous to or caring for others increases our community engagement, expands feelings of social connection, improves the longevity of local organizations, boosts employee morale, and promotes cooperation.1, 3 Showing compassion rallies teams, supports families, and reduces burnout in our community.

Though I am not proud of how I treated Billy or the fact that I succumbed to peer pressure, I am proud of the fact that I owned my poor behavior. Would you join me in being kind, compassionate, and generous to those who may be different? You don’t need to know why an individual or group of individuals is different or similar, you just need to relate to how they may feel. There is no need for complex calculations or ROI ratios. In this moment, I am committing to being kind, even when the individual or individuals are not present. Will you succumb to positive peer pressure and join me?

Sources: Freakonomics Podcast: How Do You Cure a Compassion Crisis? (Ep. 444); On Point Podcast: The Mutual Benefits Of Kindness; 1 Money Crashers: Top 10 Benefits of Charitable Giving and Donations; 2 Rush University Medical Center: The Health Benefits of Giving; 3 University of California, Berkeley: 5 Ways Giving Is Good for You.

by Michelle Sugerman • Leading Synergies, LLC • © All Rights Reserved

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