Can Kindness Rise Above Challenging Times?
SINGAPORE, 9 April 2013 – The latest Graciousness Index, an annual study that tracks the perception and experience of kindness and graciousness in Singapore, showed a decline compared to last year, falling eight points to 53. The study, commissioned by the Singapore Kindness Movement, found that respondents felt that they were experiencing significantly fewer acts of kindness and graciousness in Singapore over the past 12 months when compared to the same period the previous year.
Across the board, respondents who said that they have been on the receiving end of graciousness fell from 65% in 2012, to 41% this year. They also reported doing fewer acts of graciousness, dropping from 83% to 62%.
Perceptions of overall graciousness, however, did not drop as sharply. Although there is a slight dip of 0.4 points to an average of 5.8 this year, many still perceive Singapore as a kind country and would like the society to be a more gracious one.
Commenting on this, Dr William Wan, General Secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, said: “Despite the yearning for a kinder society, we are seeing a decline in the experience of graciousness that appears to be influenced more by our perceptions and sentiments. The last year can be generally perceived as challenging, and the angst could have led us to accrue a deficit of kindness.”
There are silver linings, however. The study shows an increase in certain gracious behaviours on public transport, particularly the practice of commuters giving up seats to those in need, and making spaces to accommodate incoming passengers. There is also an increase in showing of appreciation, such as saying “thank you”, and in the returning of favours to those who have rendered help.
“There is a clear disconnect between the sort of society we say we want, and the sort of behaviour we collectively engage in,” continued Dr Wan.
“This is a wake-up call for everyone who believes in a kind and gracious Singapore. Unless all stakeholders in our society work together to reverse the decline, this mean spiritedness may become rooted in our ‘new normal’. Is that something that we want, or do we still truly desire to live in a gracious society?”
Community attitude ratings indicate that there is indeed that desire. Some respondents agreed that not enough was currently being done to improve kindness and feel that the fostering of neighbourliness would be of help in achieving this.
25-year-old Bishan resident, Adrian Phoon, felt “empty” passing other runners in silence or indifference. As such, he created a movement named The Morning Greeters and started greeting fellow runners in his neighbourhood when he runs. The movement’s Facebook and YouTube pages have also garnered a following among other runners, who have taken on the challenge and started doing the same in their neighbourhoods and other running routes.
Another such kindness champion is former radio personality, Emily Teng, who founded non-profit organization Blessings in a Bag back in 2007 while she was still as a student. Reaching out both locally and abroad, Blessings in a Bag partners with communities, orphanages, schools, homes and hospitals to provide cheer for medically-ill children. It also undertakes livelihood projects for underprivileged and needy women in neighbouring developing countries. 25-year-old Emily now works on Blessings in a Bag full time, organising and coordinating volunteers, whom she calls World Change Agents, as well as supporters and sponsors. She has also spoken passionately in support of kindness both over radio as well as at a TEDx Singapore talk last December.
“These findings and example show that we are innately a constructive and positive people,” concluded Dr Wan. “We must decide to unlock this innate kindness into pro-social behaviours like neighbourliness and consideration for each other. We can then carry on a civil conversation about our concerns, and deal successfully with them. It starts with each one of us deciding to show acts of kindness within our own circle of influence. If more of us do that, more of us will experience the kind and gracious society we desire.”
The Graciousness Index has been conducted by the SKM for the past five years. The study polled 1,200 respondents about the experience and perception of kindness and graciousness in the past year, and provides a useful proxy measure of the overall social etiquette and standards in Singapore.
For more information, please visit www.kindness.sg.
For media queries, please contact
Singapore Kindness Movement
Associate General Secretary (Marketing & Corp Strategy)
+65 6837 9894
Strategic Public Relations Group for the Singapore Kindness Movement
+65 6325 8278