Hello, how are you today? I hope you are feeling fine and that if you have friends or relatives in Japan you are able to get some positive news. No doubt your thoughts are with everyone affected by this morning’s earthquake and subsequent tsunami. At times like this it is natural for us to feel sympathy for people caught up in disasters and to try and empathise with them. People will be gripped by the TV coverage, the radio reports and the constant stream of updates on Twitter. And, inevitably, many people will contribute to any charitable causes designed to help the people in the Pacific region affected by this. You see, deep in our brains there is a natural desire to be nice to people, to help people, to support each other.
New research from Pennsylvania State University suggests that one of the reasons why being nice is built into our psyche is because it helps reduce the physical activity people need to take. One principal of biological systems is that they are designed around the need to reduce the physical requirements to the minimum. Otherwise, you have to expend more energy to achieve the same ends. Your brain will always try to find the method of least effort for everything you do, in a bid to minimise your energy requirements. This latest research suggests that being nice to other people helps us minimise their energy requirements too. In other words, being nice to people is part of how our entire species helps maintain survival.
Interestingly, this research is published at the same time as another study looking at the impact of empathy in healthcare. What this showed was that when doctors are nice to you, then you get better more quickly. Essentially, a doctor that is nice to you is better for your physical health than a clinician who is off-hand and distant. It is yet another example of how valuable being nice is to humans.
So, how nice are you to your website visitors, or your followers on Twitter, for instance? Do you welcome them in some way – such as when they sign up for your newsletter? Do you say “hello” when they have added to your Twitter stream? The chances are you do this sometimes – but perhaps we don’t do it often enough; I know I don’t. However, what this new research suggests is that if we are nice to more people more often, we will get a benefit from it. You might not see an immediate impact such as someone adding something to their shopping basket straight away – but you will, like those doctors helping their patients, get people to like you more and see you and your business as a force for good. You can then turn that into business later on.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+