We’re familiar with the proverb “It’s better to give than to receive” and the adage “Happiness comes from helping others”.
Scientific research has proved these sayings to be truth. Giving to others is essential for personal growth and continuous happiness. In fact, people who help others are measurably happier than people who spend time in pleasure-seeking activities!
Well before science studied its effects, the Bible has been teaching us that “the world is built on lovingkindness” (Psalms 89:3). And the Jewish Mishna tractate Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers 2:1) teaches that lovingkindness, chesed, is one of three pillars that upholds the world.
The best giving is giving with no expectation of reward, because you spare yourself worrying about getting repaid for your kindness. True, you might experience fortuitous effects from giving (read on!) – but really, just give of yourself because you care, and don’t concern yourself with reciprocity.
Giving for your health
Research shows that prosocial behavior 1 creates a “helper’s high”, which are intense physical feelings that improve a giver’s physical and emotional health. Physiological changes include increased levels of oxytocin, and lower levels of stress hormones – sometimes even contributing towards healing disease or alleviating pain.
Numerous scientific studies on the benefits of volunteering support the above by concluding that altruistic giving contributes to self-esteem and all-around satisfaction.
Giving for your business
This isn’t only true for kindness in casual settings. According to Wharton professor Adam Grant, it turns out that givers add more value to organizations than selfish “takers” or quid pro quo “matchers” do.
With the demise of mom-and-pop stores, interactions with customers is often digital, via social networks, for example. Treat your customers with old-time manners, authenticity and generosity. You – and your customers – will be so much happier and satisfied.
Giving doesn’t need to take much of your time or be costly. As a business or product owner, make a habit of expressing appreciation to your customers and users by thanking them for their loyalty.
Happily, proactive customer support was declared one of the biggest customer service trends in 2016 by Forrester. This translates into anticipating customer issues and addressing them before they happen. Give. Don’t wait to be asked.
Which takes us right to….
When coaxed or shamed into giving, such as when your kid’s school asks for parent volunteers, giving becomes reactive (we don’t want to be shamed) rather than proactive (because we feel particularly generous or passionate about something). This sort of giving doesn’t lead to warm fuzzy feelings. It might actually lead to resentment.
Giving begets giving
When we see people giving, it in turn makes us want to give. Thomas Jefferson named the specific emotion we feel when we see others doing virtuous acts “elevation”.
Giving is an emotional contagion,2 so not only do you feel better when giving of yourself, but your giving causes a cascade effect of giving. One person’s giving influences another’s behavior for the better! (It’s hard to argue with science!)
Give the best you’ve got
In this article, the Harvard Business Review lists how you can make the most of giving:
7 Habits of Highly Productive Giving
- Prioritize the help requests that come your way — say yes when it matters most and no when you need to.
- Give in ways that play to your interests and strengths to preserve your energy and provide greater value.
- Distribute the giving load more evenly — refer requests to others when you don’t have the time or skills, and be careful not to reinforce gender biases about who helps and how.
- Secure your oxygen mask first — you’ll help others more effectively if you don’t neglect your own needs.
- Amplify your impact by looking for ways to help multiple people with a single act of generosity.
- Chunk your giving into dedicated days or blocks of time rather than sprinkling it throughout the week. You’ll be more effective — and more focused.
- Learn to spot takers, and steer clear of them. They’re a drain on your energy, not to mention a performance hazard.
Let’s aim higher.