By Dayna Mason
When we are self-oriented, we move about the world without paying much attention to the thoughts, needs, and feelings of others. Over time, this orientation will prevent us from forming meaningful relationships and from realizing our full potential.
In contrast, prosocial behavior—the intent to benefit others—not only makes us feel good, but we experience more health and happiness advantages from being the giver than from being the recipient.
Being other-oriented is the conscious effort to put the thoughts, needs, and feelings of others first, without abandoning our own needs.
Health and happiness benefits of giving
In a study at the National Institutes of Health, researchers discovered that we release feel-good and human-bonding chemicals (serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin) during gift-giving behaviors. Altruistic behavior also stimulates the reward center in the brain, causing a powerful physical sensation of euphoria, known as the “helper’s high”—our built-in reward system for helping others.
Giving feels really good.
The results of another study (Brown 2003) indicate that mortality is significantly reduced for those who provide support to others, while receiving support had no effect on mortality.
Giving extends our life.
Other-focused attention—compassion—triggers a decrease in heart rate (Calvo and Peters 2014).
Giving lessens our stress.
When we go through hardships, performing simple acts of kindness can reduce our stress. In addition, studies have shown that when battling big problems like addiction, chronic pain, etc., our suffering is reduced when we connect with someone who is going through or has been through a similar situation. And, when we are the helper we are twice as likely to alleviate our own similar struggle by helping another. This is known as the “Wounded Healer” principle.
Giving makes burdens lighter.
Numerous other studies have found additional benefits of being other-oriented, including less anxiety, less trouble sleeping, lower risk of depression and dementia, better heart health, better overall physical health, lower blood pressure, better friendships, and greater self-esteem and satisfaction with life.
Giving makes us healthier and happier.
Other-oriented success in business
Effective interpersonal skills—communication, listening and attitude—are critical to a thriving business environment and can make or break our career and a company’s success.
Businesses that promote an other-oriented culture reap greater rewards than their competitors in the areas of performance improvement, team building, leadership development, conflict management, job satisfaction, customer satisfaction, and ultimately financial gain.
Ross Shafer’s story
In the late 80s, Ross Shafer hosted The Late Show a nightly talk show on FOX. He wanted Elizabeth Taylor to be a guest in hopes that she would enjoy the experience so much that she would encourage her important celebrity friends to agree to be guests. Unfortunately, she was unavailable, so she sent her boyfriend at the time, Malcolm Forbes, the head of the Forbes business empire.
Ross had been trained for this. It was “Talk Show 101”: Never talk about yourself, show extreme interest, lean in, and ask follow-up questions. He wanted to make sure that Malcolm had a great time, so he’d tell his friends, leading to other big-name guests.
The interview lasted only 5.5 minutes.
After the show, Ross said to Malcolm, “I had a great time and I hope you did too.”
Malcolm replied, “You’re a fascinating young man. Would you like to go hot air ballooning with Liz and I this weekend?”
Ross thought to himself, Fascinating young man? He knows nothing about me.
He accepted Malcolm’s invitation. In the basket of the hot air balloon, Ross looked around at Malcolm and his friends and thought, This is impossible. How did I get into the billionaire boys club?
Ross was professionally curious and trained not to talk about himself. Malcolm knew nothing about Ross, yet he thought of him as fascinating and wanted to spend more time with him. Why?
Because he couldn’t wait to hear more about himself.
Studies repeatedly show that our favorite topic to talk about is ourselves. Science has determined that when we talk about ourselves, the brain “lights up” in the same way as when we eat good food or engage in sex. It’s gratifying and feels good.
If we encourage someone to talk about themselves, they will feel so good, they will think we are fascinating.
Years later, while reflecting on his experience with Malcolm Forbes, Ross realized there was a need in the business world for the same other-oriented training he’d gotten as a talk show host. In 2018 Ross and his business partner Garry Poole founded the training program, Other-Focused™ Living an Other Focused Life.
Ross believes, “When we are self-absorbed, we have zero scalability. When we focus on others, our lives become scalable—capable of expansive progress while elegantly managing the growth—and others become our champions, spreading the word about us.”
And not only will others become our champions; our kindness will inspire altruistic behavior in others.
Domino effect of giving
When one person behaves generously it inspires observers to do the same, according to research conducted at the University of California. The study found that one act of kindness causes observers to pay it forward, and those individuals’ kindness triggers other observers to be kind, etc. One person can potentially influence hundreds of others with one simple generous gesture.
Give and be fulfilled
In the Other-Focused™ program they’ve found that “People who live other-focused lives, and practice putting others first, realize the powerful, positive impact they make in the world around them. Why? What do they see? They see people who smile more because they feel sincerely cared for and valued. They see people who shed a tear of joy because they feel heard and understood, maybe for the first time in a long time. They see people who sit up straight and glow brighter because they feel celebrated. They see people who rise to the occasion and accomplish more than they ever dreamed because they feel validated and championed. They see people who also want to live other-focused lives now because they’ve experienced first-hand how it feels to be treated like they matter.”
Science supports the idea that being other-oriented helps us in all areas of our lives—business, personal, health, and wellbeing. When we give to others, we not only feel the “helpers high” but we experience wellness, longevity, fulfillment and a sense of purpose. We receive more benefits from our giving than our recipient does from our gift.
“For it is in giving that we receive.” ~Saint Francis of Assisi
Let’s pursue a long, healthy, joy-filled life, and GIVE—of our time, attention, talents and resources.
The Science of Kindness – a video on the scientifically proven benefits of being kind. It’s contagious, teachable, and makes you feel all fuzzy inside.
Get Started living Other-Focused™ – Situational Awareness Exercises:
In the car
- Be aware of where you park your car. Are you evenly spaced between the lines or are you making it inconvenient for others to use a space next to you?
- When you are looking for a parking space, are you aware of others who may have circled the lot and already targeted an open space before you spotted it?
- Is someone waiting for you to back out of your spot so he or she can park in your spot?
- Are you going slower than the speed limit? Others may be time-crunched or trying to aid someone in need. Are you slowing them down?
- When you are at a stoplight, (and you choose to text) be aware for when the light turns green so that others behind you don’t have to honk to wake you up.
In the store
- When you are in the store, be aware of your cart. Is anyone trying to pass on the right or left? Can you get out of their way?
- Be aware that others may be trying to find items on a shelf you are blocking. The person behind you may be time-crunched. Can you step aside so that you both can see the shelf?
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