559: Something Nice

What’s the nicest thing someone has ever done for you?

Full episode script

Kirsten McEwan a Research Associate at Cardiff University in 2014 wrote in The Conversation, quote:

It seems intuitive that many of us would fear and avoid emotions such as anger and anxiety. But some people fear positive emotions such as happiness and contentment, and of accepting the compassion, kindness and support of others. If you grow up in an environment characterized by threat, for example, allowing yourself to experience or trust these feelings means letting your guard down and being caught out. In this context, positive emotions become a risky business.


Setbacks, failures and other life stresses can also narrow our focus on the negatives in our lives and research has repeatedly shown that when individuals are in the midst of depression or anxiety, they focus on the threatening stimuli in their environment and fail to recognize, process and pay attention to the positive


There’s plenty of research on how useful and positive random acts of kindness can be for the person doing the kind act. There is decidedly less research about the act of receiving that kindness. What little bit I could find talks fairly extensively about how receiving kindness can be very difficult for some. There’s even a rather profane and violent sketch (that’s a little bit too accurate) from Amy Schumer about how difficult it is to accept praise or compliments – something that’s true across the gender spectrum, according to the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition.


That reticence is something that can have much deeper impacts, too. As Louise Hung wrote in XO Jane, quote

For most of my adult life, demonstrations of genuine kindness towards me have made me feel like my brain is short circuiting. I don’t know what to do, I immediately feel undeserving. I’m still that person who often fights back tears when someone is kind to me. I still struggle with accepting kindness from people in my daily life. Sometimes when I’m caught off guard a forgiving or understanding word from someone can reduce me to a bawling mess. But instead of shutting down and avoiding these situations, I try to embrace them. As I’ve learned […], there is no sense in protecting myself from kindness.

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.