I have often been asked if when I do something kind for someone else and it's not reciprocated, am I being naïve, stupid, or used? I pause.
I never think an act of kindness is wasted.
I know it’s not. Being kind, for me, is never a choice. It is a way of doing business, as they say. It’s coming from the place in myself that feels right and good. In fact, according to research, “goodness” is one of the greatest signs of intelligence.
Goodness Takes Intelligence
“Kindness is loaning someone your strength instead of reminding them of their weaknesses,” the quote goes. It doesn’t take a genius to see why kindness is a sign of intelligence. There is a link between kindness and intelligence because, as neuroscientist Richard Davidson writes, “the basis of a healthy brain is goodness.” This resonated with me. Why is it that there is a link between kindness and intelligence?
Thinking Outside of Ourselves
The ability to think outside ourselves is the basis for this theory. If you consider this, it makes a lot of sense. That is because the very definition of intelligence is “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.” Said a different way, being smart is not just about memorizing math or random facts, it’s about applying this knowledge to daily life.
It’s much easier to be mean and selfish or to judge others than it is to see life from their circumstances. It’s easier to look through your own lens of life than that of someone else’s. It takes insight and intuition. On the other side, kind people often do good things or acts of kindness at a personal sacrifice. They give up their time, money, and sometimes more than that. They are able, though, to think and reason that in doing so, it helps make the entire world a better place rather than just their small piece of it. This is the difference between being kind to others and being selfish.
Mean People and Levels of Intelligence
Taking this a step further, other researchers have found that kind people are more intelligent. Numerous studies have shown that mean people have lower levels of intelligence. A Canadian study from LiveScience, as an example, found that people who were more racist and prejudiced tended to have lower IQs than people who are more accepting of others and their viewpoints. While the study was initially designed to look at a way to see why some people have certain political ideologies, the outcome of the study revealed this information.
Some researchers believe the reason for this is that many people lean toward racism and prejudice because of their inability to adapt to change, which is a symptom of lower IQ. In other words, “Intelligence demonstrates the ability to adapt to change.” This too makes a lot of sense. The ability to accept change requires thought and examination of ourselves. First, we need to understand why change is necessary. This requires personal reflection. Then we must let go of our initial beliefs. For many, this is incredibly difficult to do.
Lastly, change is scary for many. It makes us question our lives, or in some cases our entire worldview. The ability to question our viewpoint, to see things through another person’s eyes, is not the sign of a stagnant mind. Fear of the unknown, or change, is part of being human. It’s the ability to accept change that separates the intelligent from those who may have a lower IQ. As Wayne Teasdale writes, “Kindness is the highest form of intelligence.”
Intelligence Guided by Kindness is the Highest Wisdom
Considering other findings of kindness research, studies do show that people with very high IQs have flaws, too. They tend to be more arrogant and incapable of seeing their own flaws, for example. However, IQ tests are not the only way, or even the best way, to judge true intelligence. Many researchers recognize at least three kinds of intelligence, which include both emotional and social intelligence.
While discussing intelligence, it’s important to note that goodness does not take intelligence. It has nothing to do with a person’s level of education. Education has very little to do with how “smart” a person is. The intelligence needed for kindness has more to do with our ability to hone and use critical thinking skills. This means the ability to truly think for yourself, to explore your own mind, and to decide what type of person you really want to be. Lacking this type of intelligence makes it hard to have empathy for others, which is the basis for kindness.
Emotional Intelligence and Its Ties to Success
Showing empathy is a major part of emotional intelligence. It is so important, in fact, that at schools in Denmark, they teach it alongside core curriculum in math and science. Kids spend one hour each week learning to be more compassionate and kind. This makes perfect sense. Empathy is, above all, the ability to understand the feelings of others. Understanding what others feel takes significantly more brain power than memorizing facts and regurgitating them on demand.
Of course, there are always exceptions to this. Some people with high IQs are ruthless and mean and can be extremely unkind. The same is true of those with low IQs, who can be incredibly compassionate. In the end, though, intelligence is so much more than how well a person scores on an IQ exam. Showing kindness to others, taking their feelings into consideration, and adapting well to change in the face of fear, are markers for true intelligence.
Life Hack Decks™ and Random Acts of Kindness Prompt Deck Cards
Our Random Acts of Kindness Deck offers simple ways to demonstrate kindness to others. With 52 simple prompts, the deck is easy to use. Just pick a card and perform the act of kindness to brighten someone’s day. These cards are a perfect gift and can be gifted to others when you’re finished with the deck.
Remember, acts of kindness never go unnoticed and are truly a way to make the world a better place. The Random Acts of Kindness Deck sells for $19.95 per card deck and comes in a box for easy storage.