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Giving a Kind Word, More Often | Moment's Notice


Last updated 7/6/2021 at 1:05pm

“Kind words are worth much but cost little.” – George Herbert

Studies show that nearly 90% of consumers seek out and are influenced by online reviews of businesses—as the old saying goes, words matter. Studies also show that customers who have a negative experience are ten times more likely to post a bad review than a happy customer. With that data applied to the typical 5-star online rating system, it can take 40 positive reviews to make up for one bad review (i.e., to accurately reflect the actual customer experience of a business).

Similarly, psychologists have found that our inner voice is primarily a critical one, with more than 80% of our internal thoughts being negative. We question our capabilities, our intentions, our appearance; we worry about how our actions affect our family members, our friends, our finances, our futures. We apply those concerns and fears to other people and how they view those things in us.

Scientists have proven that speaking or thinking of bad or traumatic experiences perpetuates negative emotions and hinders our ability to overcome them. Conversely, engaging with another person about good things or even with simple kindness can change their brain chemistry and generate more positive thoughts.

Human beings are far more sensitive than a Yelp review, but it is an apt analogy for how we function in our communities. Societies function when individuals who make up those societies are able to contribute and thrive. In other words, the mental and physical health of each member of our community directly impacts societal health. The more negative the internal and external dialogues, the more challenges to our ability to engage effectively.

There is such a simple solution, as well—actively endeavor to be kind.

Perhaps, we have become far too good at interacting superficially, integrating niceties into conversation and shying away from subjects considered too serious or with potential to spark conflict. I thoroughly enjoy and value respectful discussions about religion, politics, love, anger, and justice, and truly believe that these conversations can create common ground and feelings of community.

One-on-one, we all know the person who has that way of speaking that make people feel special, or cared for, or seen and heard. They look directly at you when they speak, hold your attention. They somehow make time, and the swirl of our lives, slow down. You believe that they want to know the real answer when they ask, “How are you?”

There is nothing better than laughing with someone you love or care about, or even just seeing a smile come across their face. Those moments of joy can outweigh so much of the pain or grief or hardship that we all experience.

If it takes 40 multi-star reviews to overcome a single one-star review for a business, how many kind words does it take to counter the internal critical dialogue of our loved ones, neighbors, or even a random person riding next to us on the bus?

A couple of decades ago, a singer named Joan Osborne wrote a song called “One of Us.” Like John Lennon and JD Salinger before her, an artist inserted new words into our internal dialogues:

What if God was one of us

Just a slob like one of us

Just a stranger on the bus

Trying to make His way home?

If we challenge ourselves to believe that others — whether we know them or not — are just like each of us, would we speak to them more often or differently? Maybe we would take time to say something nice and mean it.


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