Here’s something we can all do to improve the lives of those around us, strengthen our relationships and leave us feeling proud to be human. And yes, I’ve turned it into an acronym.
Random acts of kindness (RAOK).
The concept isn’t new or groundbreaking and there’s already hundreds of viral videos of people doing good for others (see below). But over the last few weeks, I’ve found engaging in RAOK to be more profound than I thought possible.
So, what does a RAOK involve?
I mean, the acronym spells it out pretty clearly.
It involves doing something for someone else. Randomly. As an act of kindness. With no hidden intent or agenda.
Importantly, it doesn’t have to be life changing. In fact, I think the small acts are often more powerful. Congratulating a friend for something big like getting a promotion is undoubtedly a nice thing to do. But it’s almost expected isn’t it?
Instead, why not try small acts of kindness? Tell a colleague you like their sweater. Tell a friend you love their socks. Complement the call centre team for their manner on the phone. Shout someone lunch. Send a message to a friend who just launched a Youtube channel. Buy someone a coffee. Share this blog with a friend (I mean, what?). The options are endless.
In the last few weeks, I tried the above examples and experienced some amazing reactions. My colleague blushed. A friend thought I was joking. Another friend recommended Happy socks. A perfect stranger said I made them cry (in a good way).
It may appear like a totally random series of reactions, but there’s a common theme. The consistent response was that of surprise and gratitude (the friend eventually took my compliment after I explained I wasn’t joking).
You see, as people go through their day they don’t expect these small moments of recognition and kindness. And so, when you acknowledge their good work or compliment them for their socks, you can visibly see the body language of an individual change. They smile, stand up straight and come to life.
This is more surprising than it should be. Think about it. Your colleague made a conscious decision to wear that bright blue jumper. There’s a story behind it. A story that resonates with their view of the world. Perhaps it was a gift from a loved one, maybe it’s a new purchase they’re proud of or maybe that particular colour makes them happy. Whatever the reason, when you acknowledge and recognise it, you’re subconsciously saying to them “I see you. I see what you did there. And I think it was awesome.”
What’s the trick?
There’s no ‘trick’ to this, other than it MUST be genuine. It can’t be forced or fake. You must complete your RAOK without any thought of ‘what’s in it for me’?.
Interestingly, if you do this, what you’ll find is there’s an unintended benefit. By creating and witnessing this change of posture in an individual, chances are it’ll make your day just as much as it makes theirs.
2metre, pls, I’m already the randomest acter of kindness in the land
Okay okay, so you already subscribe to the RAOK idea and live it erry day. If that’s the case, then you might want to consider this ninja trick, which I learned from a friend of mine Ryan.
He calls it the multiplier effect, and it involves targeting someone who has the capacity to multiply your RAOK to as many people as possible.
Think about that local hipster barista of yours. He is responsible for bringing joy to hundreds of people every single morning in the form of roasted caffeinated liquid gold. What might happen if you made his day?
What indirect impact might you have on all of the customers that visit that coffee shop by changing the barista’s posture with a simple RAOK?!
Give it a try and find out.
14 thoughts on “D’you want to know something, like, totally random?”
Today ROAK was tweeting this post. Now I wish someone at work would have macadamias they would share!
Pwoah, salted macadamias if you don’t mind Rich! Lucky for your colleague mate
Love it. Just inspired me to offer my precious roasted, salted macadamias over the office partition.
How good Maroje! Thanks for the comment and sharing your daily RAOK plan for the week. Be sure to let me know how the truckies respond!
Pete thank you for a great piece. It is so easy to get lost in the noise and lock yourself from the “inside”. A RAOK is sometimes exactly what is needed for that gentle nudge of mindfulness, to open up just slightly. Even on busy Melbourne roads during morning rush hour traffic you can sometimes witness a TRAOK (Traffic RAOK) – someone slowing down to let their fellow human squeeze in; the gentle, shy, wave. I kid you not, just noticing that as a “witness” changes my posture for the better. I am just doing my plan for the week ahead, and guess what… there is a new daily practice on there – Thank you 🙂 Truckies will love me tomorrow morning hehe
Hadn’t considered the extra dimension with witnesses getting the oxy’ hit too, Paul! Thanks for pointing that out mate. Let’s make it the norm and create a RAOK every single day!
Love that example, Dave thanks for sharing mate :). Paul pointed out another side effect of your RAOK in his comment below. Chances are you made any witnesses feel pretty great too. Keep it up!
I like the link with the 1% difference piece Rich, thanks mate! In case it wasn’t obvious, this one was inspired by our chat on Friday night, minus the three-legged race component.
Love this, Pete. As you and I have discussed, this is the basis of my WHY, albeit loosely associated. What I’ve grown to appreciate most about RAOK or, indeed, just being a good human, is that it all ties back to our biology.
The wonderful hormone Oxytocin within our bodies is released in times of social bonding. What’s really cool is that the release of oxytocin is that it’s not limited to the giver and receiver relationship. It turns out that witnessing acts of kindness also releases oxytocin into our bodies! Thus making it more likely that those people will also do something nice for someone else.
Imagine a world where this was the norm!
Spot on! Just during the week gone I gave the sum of money to The Big Issue guy in the city, but didn’t take the magazine. Made me feel fuzzy for the remainder of the day. 😊
Spot on, 2 (if I can be that familiar). I started reading your post and thought “hmm, we’ve had to create a concept for actually being a decent, thoughtful human.” But I kept reading, and nodding, and smiling…this is all spot on, and completely in line with another profoundly wise idea spouted by the lofty author of this blog, about being amazed at what making a 1% difference every day can make. And let’s face it, the world could with a lot more kindness at the moment, couldn’t it?