We usually think of ‘attractive’ in the same sentence as physical appearance. But deep down, what we really find most attractive is kindness. Think about it.
A study of over 10,000 people found this. Quizzed about what they most wanted in a potential long-term mate, kindness was the No.1 choice. It came above good looks and good financial prospects in both males and females.
This might come as initially surprising to some people. That’s partly because we typically imagine what other people would pick – we assume that others would be considering our appearance. But when you really think about it yourself, most of us pick ‘a kind person’, ‘a kind heart’, or some other version of kindness.
Psychologist, John Gottman, is famous for being able to predict with over 90% success which couples will still be together years later, simply by studying how they interact with each other for a short time.
In some of his research, he identified what he called ‘bids’, like when one person invites their partner to “Come and see this!” Bids are basically bids for connection.
He then identified whether the partner would ‘turn towards’, where they would respond attentively to their partner’s ‘bid’ – an act of kindness – or ‘turn away’, where they basically showed little interest, perhaps by murmuring, ‘yes … nice’ then returning to the TV or looking at their phone, or even responding with contempt.
Examining 130 newlywed couples going about their day, he followed up on them 6 years later. He discovered that of those who ‘turned towards’ their partner, 87% of them were still together, but of those who typically ‘turned away’, only 33% of them were still together after this time.
Using these kinds of observations, you can appreciate why some psychologists can predict the likelihood of a relationship standing the test of time by simply watching couples interacting with one another for a short time. Kindness is a reliable indicator of relationship longevity.
Many other pieces of research show the same kind of overall phenomenon. Kindness is key in any kind of relationship, from our closest relationships, through friendships, with neighbours, and even with work colleagues.
It’s a no brainer, really. Do you prefer to hang out with people who show you kindness or contempt? It’s obvious … but I feel it’s important to remember this because it’s so easy to get caught up with the trials and tribulations of life, and even as the political landscape in the world shifts from time to time. Sometimes … we forget that kindness is so damn important.
It’s the fabric that holds society together. It holds relationships together.
Of course, love is the magic ingredient in an intimate relationship. But kindness is that love expressed in words and deed. Kindness is the thread of the fabric because there are so many little moments in any day where kindness can be shown, so many little stitches that can be made, some so small and seemingly insignificant, but so vitally important.
So I invite you to look out for bids and sew some stitches of kindness into the fabric of life where you can.
Copyright 2021 David R. Hamilton PhD.