Is Kindness Trending?


At Powells last year, I was responsible for keeping the Business section shelved and orderly.  One book caught my eye:  Kindness Revolution by Edward Horrell.  I loved this book.  At some point, I’ll write a post just about that book.  For now, I’ll summarize it very, very briefly by saying that it is a book about cultivating a culture of kindness in the workplace from the TOP down.

At the library where I work right now, I’m responsible for collection development in the business and self help areas.  I’ve recently noticed a flurry of titles about kindness and compassion that were not spiritual in nature.  There are plenty of books that stem from a religious or spiritual base that discuss kindness and compassion; but, fewer outside the Dewey 200s.

Here’s a few that I’ve noticed in the last 6 months.

  • Art of Being Kind by Stefan Einhorn
  • Do One Nice Thing by Debbie Tenzer
  • Age of Empathy by F. B. Waal
  • Cost of Bad Behavior by Christine Pearson and Christine Porath
  • Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy by Dev Patnaik
  • Capitalizing on Kindness: Why 21st Century Professionals Need to be Nice by Kristin Tillquist
  • On Kindness by Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor
  • Compassionate Samurai by Brian Klemmer
  • Love Leadership by John Hope Bryant

I have not read any of these books though, On Kindness will be added to my Fall reading list.  In Booklist, the reviewer June Sawyers writes,

Phillips and Taylor argue that in today’s fast-paced, anything-to-get-ahead culture, kindness “has become our forbidden pleasure.” Kindly behavior is perceived as both dangerous and suspicious, nothing less than empty sentiment and simplistic moralizing.

I have often felt that even using the word, kind, plants a seed of suspicion in people which I have always found odd.  It’s almost as if the topic of kindness and compassion has become off limits, distasteful or inappropriate.  I’m anxious to read this exploration of kindness, that includes a historical perspective on attitudes towards kindness.

All of these books have me thinking: is kindness trending up?  What is the sudden uptick in interest, especially in the business sector?  Has the recession brought with it a distaste for greed? Is it more that in a recession business leaders are willing to try anything, even being a little nicer?  In an earlier post, I reference an article in the NYT that talks about how desperate restaurant owners in NYC have decided to try and be decent to retain customers.

Or maybe it’s our president.  He does seem more compassionate than some of our last few presidents.  During the campaign, his “calmness” was frequently discussed in the media.  The recent fiasco over the arrest of Henry Louis Gates had an interesting conclusion…well…at least the media hype died down after the three men met and had a conversation.  What slipped by many media outlets or was deemed unimportant by them (perhaps more interested in what brand beer they were drinking), was the fact that Gates and the police officer had already spoken on the phone a couple of times before they met in person, both men showing some level of maturity and willingness to listen (one would hope).

Maybe the recession is moving us towards some values our culture hasn’t really highlighted in awhile: frugality, humbleness, a desire to hunker down and be more self sufficient.  I’ve seen quite a few books, interviews, news pieces pop up about preserving, canning, etc.  Let’s hunker down with loved ones and let the storm pass.

I’m not sure why the idea of kindness seems to be a topic of discussion lately; but, I’m all for it.  We need more kindness in the world.   Aldous Huxley has been credited with saying that after years of searching for happiness he discovered the best answer was “to be a little kinder.”

Perhaps we can all make that discovery too.

2 thoughts on “Is Kindness Trending?

  1. Thanks Ellie! Still no postal key and no ability to buzz people in (he input my phone number incorrectly); but, all my stuff is here waiting to be unpacked, the weather is beautiful and I’ve been on the beach twice in the last two days! Life in my world is Beautiful.

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