How Being Kind to the Unkind Sends Ripples of Positivity Around the World

If you really want to make a positive difference, try taking it upon yourself to treat others with compassion and generosity


(hikrcn /

Toss a pebble in a pond, and you may only observe one tiny ripple. After a moment, watch as those small ripples become larger and larger. As it turns out, acts of kindness can work a lot like that, too.

A team of psychologists found that even small acts of kindness can cause a lasting positive effect on others. During the study, researchers recruited workers from the Coca-Cola factory in Madrid, Spain and asked them to write down their moods and any acts of kindness they had completed that day.

But the scientists had a trick up their sleeve! They split the participants into different control groups. In one of the groups, some of the people received secret instructions to go above and beyond to do nice things for the others like sending out thank you notes or getting everyone refreshments.

"The acts of kindness don't go unnoticed,” as noted in the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest. “One month after the study ended, the receivers were also enjoying significantly higher levels of happiness than controls.”

The Ripple Effect of Kindness

Researchers in the United States have come to similar conclusions. They set up a game in which selfish acts made more sense than cooperation. On a happy note, the results demonstrated that acts of kindness "tripled over the course of the experiment by other subjects who are directly or indirectly influenced to contribute more,” explains political scientist, James Fowler, of the University of California, San Diego, and medical sociologist, Nicholas Christakis, of Harvard University,

In other words, kindness is contagious! Just one act of kindness has a ripple effect that can influence dozens of other people.

One Person Can Create Big Waves of Kindness

Perhaps the Dalai Lama represents one of the best role models of a person that makes big waves of kindness influencing millions of people all over the world. As the 14th Dalai Lama, he leads the Tibetan Buddhists as the Bodhisattva of Compassion. (In Buddhism, a Bodhisattva represents someone who has attained enlightenment but remains on earth as a guide to help the suffering.)

Despite the Chinese persecution of Tibetans and the exile of millions from their homeland, the Dalai Lama continues to preach about kindness and stands out as a positive role model for compassion. As he puts it, “Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion.”

Each of us can benefit from remembering those words. When someone treats us unkindly, it can cause a knee jerk reaction to behave in kind. But if you really want to make a positive difference, try taking it upon yourself to treat others with compassion and generosity because even a small ripple can become a big wave toward a better world.

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