Recording #76:

Beth Stallwood 00:00:00 - 00:02:03
come to the Work Joy Jam podcast. I'm your host Beth Stallwood, and every week I am joined by a person from the world of work who has a perspective on work joy and today I am joined by the wonderful Sarah Browning. Sarah is the founder of the Time for Kindness program and a kindness cheerleader and communicator. She helps organizations, especially in the not for profit world, find ways to communicate their kindness stories and I think this subject is so important when we think about work joy and they're really, really related. This idea of noticing kindness when we see it, of sharing it when we see it, of thinking the kindest possible way that we could do something, even when those things might be really, really tough. So I really hope you enjoy this conversation. I know I did.

Welcome to the Workjoy Jam podcast. I am very excited today to be joined by the wonderful Sarah Browning. Sarah and I met a few months ago, I can't even remember how, via some kind of mutual something or other, I'm sure, and I asked Sarah to come on because I think she's got some really interesting things to talk about, especially in the world of kindness, which is something I think we all need more of in our lives. But rather than me introduce Sarah properly, I'm going to hand over to you. Sarah, can you tell us who you are? I feel like Cilla Black, who you are, what you do and how your career got you to where you are today.

Sarah Browning 00:02:03 - 00:02:39
Absolutely. Well, first of all, thank you for having me. It's very exciting to be here and as you say, I'm sure we'll talk about all sorts of things, but kindness is one of my favourite topics, so it will be great to talk about it. In terms of my career, I had a very academic education, which worked really, really well for me. I like learning, so that was fantastic. But it was set up a little bit more to take you onto the next step so it meant that I went to university to do my favourite school subject and then when I graduated, I had no idea what I wanted to do as a proper job so I went travelling.

Beth Stallwood 00:02:39 - 00:02:41
Yeah, just ignore the question.

Sarah Browning 00:02:43 - 00:04:34
But then I came back and my first job, because I needed some money, really, was as a pensions administrator for a big financial company, which was not something I dreamed of, but in actual fact gave me a really good opportunity to have a look around and see what do people do in work, and from there I discovered what turned out to be the internal communications team, and that became my job, basically.I did that for many years, first of all at the financial company and then when I left there, I went to Cancer Research UK and was also in the internal comms team there. I had always loved stories and writing and that sort of thing and my degree was languages, so it was all quite natural. When I left Cancer Research UK, I decided to set up my own business and because I'd been working in the charity sector, I carried on working with not-for-profit organisations and helping them to be effective in their communication and beyond their internal comms, but to connect with all sorts of different audiences. That's what I've continued to do up until today. The last couple of years that has also evolved and I got to thinking about, so my clients wanting a better or having a vision, I suppose, of a better world and I got to thinking, but what do I mean by that? That's when the kindness started to be articulated, I suppose, when I realized that I mean a kinder world and beyond that. I believe there's lots of kindness in the world already, I just don't think we talk about it enough. So the Time for Kindness program, which I now run alongside my communications work, is all about amplifying and sharing stories of kindness that already exists in the world and that's about giving people positivity and hope in a world that, let's be honest, doesn't always give it to us but it is there, and we need to train ourselves to notice it more.

Beth Stallwood 00:04:35 - 00:04:44
So true and I'm really interested in it and there's so many things I want to pick up on as well. So are you alright if I dive in with some thoughts and some questions?

Sarah Browning 00:04:44 - 00:04:45
Please do.

Beth Stallwood 00:04:46 - 00:05:32
I love it how our careers start out in the most random possible way and it was listening to your career about starting as a pensions administrator. I started out in a call centre in an investment company. I had no idea what was going on and then you find your niche. I suppose rather than a question, it's more of a statement that I wanted to make to our listeners, especially if they are early on in their careers or thinking about their careers, or if they’ve got kids are about to think about what they want to do and where do they want to go. We don't all have nice, neatly planned out careers. Where we start isn't always where we end up and it's so interesting, isn't it, about finding a job and then seeing where it leads you to and all these great things that have come from you starting there?

Sarah Browning 00:05:32 - 00:06:30
Absolutely. I mean, my job title now is as a Kindness Cheerleader and Communicator and there is just no way that, certainly not at school and certainly in the early years of my career that anyone would have said to me, I know what you should be. You should be a Kindness Cheerleader, something that you can kind of create as you go along. I think you're right that if we're not careful, we can get a bit set on a track and then much further along that track, think, hang on a minute, is this really where I want to be? So f trying to look up every now and again and think, actually, when I got my first job, in internal communications at the pensions company, it was because I noticed that there were some people doing it and frankly, I talked to anyone who would listen - my boss, their boss, all sorts of people saying, oh, that looks really interesting, I'd like to do that. When an opportunity came up, they gave it to me, I think, to keep me quiet as much actually.

Beth Stallwood 00:06:30 - 00:07:23
Being an annoying advocate for yourself and wanting to do something can be very helpful. Making yourself known, making your ambitions known, saying, I'm really interested in this, I want to go here, I want to see about this, is a great way of getting people to think about you. When those opportunities come up, whether they give it to you because of any reason or because they want to keep you quiet, who cares? If you get the job, you get to do something and you can work through it. I also love what you're saying there about this idea that if we get too structured about it, we can get on a path that maybe isn't our own path. I always think about it as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. We end up following a yellow brick road and then looking up and going, oh, I'm not sure this yellow brick road was what I really wanted to do. It was just where this more traditional career path took me, or where I thought I wanted to be but actually things have changed over time and I want to do something different now.

Sarah Browning 00:07:23 - 00:08:29
Yeah, exactly and I think right from those early days, it may be because I'm fortunate to have this sort of personality, and like I mentioned right at the start of this talk, I've always enjoyed learning. I have talked about things that I'm genuinely interested in. I was saying to people at work at that time, oh, that looks really interesting, I want to do that. Not because I thought it was the right thing to say, or even that it would be a step on a ladder. I just was genuinely interested and thought, oh, that looks fun, that looks like it would be joyful. So expressed it in that way at that time, but it certainly was something that interested me. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn't it? But my other roles in my career and so on, have all been driven by things that have genuinely been of interest to me. That isn't to say I've been happy every day and I've always loved everything I've done, but broadly speaking, it's been things that I have wanted to do more of and wanted to explore and find interesting.

Beth Stallwood 00:08:30 - 00:09:06
I always talk about, when I talk about careers with people, is follow the joy, follow your curiosity, follow what you're excited about. That doesn't have to be forever. You could do that for a while and then find the new thing that you're excited about. And if we think about it, if we're projecting so much into the future about what we might be doing in our careers in the future, I mean, the robots are coming to get some of those jobs, so some of these jobs won't exist in the future that very much exists now, and some of the new jobs will come up, like a Kindness Cheerleader did not exist when I was at school. Nobody said I could do that as a job, although I reckon I would be pretty good at it.

Sarah Browning 00:09:06 - 00:09:08
I think so. I think you already are.

Beth Stallwood 00:09:11 - 00:09:32
No career advisor ever said to me that I could be a cheerleader, but I can be. I can be whatever I want to be. I love that. So I've got loads more questions, probably not quite as career related, but I'd love to talk a little bit more about the kindness side of things. So can I dive into some questions around kindness?

Sarah Browning 00:09:32 - 00:09:33

Beth Stallwood 00:09:34 - 00:10:22
First of all, I just want to say I think you're absolutely right, that there is actually a lot of it already, a lot of it. But I don't know about you, I have been, especially in the last few years, really switched off from things like the news, from things like Twitter, from things that say it's news and newsworthy. For me, there's just been way too much negativity and a lot of looking at the worst side of life involved in some of those platforms. And I think, I imagine you will tell me the truth here and about the facts and stuff, but I think if we were to shine a lens on the other side of life, we could actually really help work out some of the problems that are genuine problems and issues.

Sarah Browning 00:10:23 - 00:12:04
Yeah, absolutely. I think you're not alone. There was some research that came out last week, I think, wasn't there, of the numbers of people that are actively turning away from the traditional news and have the last few years, because, as you say, there is such a lot of negativity to it. I always say with the Time for Kindness work that I do, I'm not about denying that side of things. Clearly there's some awful stuff that goes on in the world, but that's not the only story and my worry is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy if that's all we hear and that's all we see and people retreat because they think, oh, those people over there are not kind, therefore I'm not going to be kind. It sort of becomes entrenched but I don't think we're there yet, not by a long chalk. I think we need to redress that balance so that we are telling the other side of the story as well. I see all those negative things, but that's not who we are. Most of us, the vast majority of us, would choose to do something kind, would go and help a neighbour with their shopping or whatever it might be, if we saw them drop something. So I think we need to remind ourselves that the Time for Kindness work that I do is all about sharing real examples of kindness, real stories of things that are actually happening, rather than sort of motivating with positive quotes. I think there's a place for those, absolutely, but that isn't what Time for Kindness is about. It's about saying, look, it is there, let's see it, and the more you notice it, the more you see it. So that becomes then a self-fulfilling prophecy in the other direction in a positive way.

Beth Stallwood 00:12:04 - 00:13:17
I'm just going to for a minute, if it's okay, indulge in the work joy, work, gloom side of life to relate to this - is that we all have negativity bias in our minds already. So we are as human beings, drawn to the negative because it's about our safety and our wellbeing and our survival and all that kind of stuff. We're very deeply drawn to look at it and make mountains out of mole hills on the bad stuff that could have an impact on our lives. Actually, one of the things we talk about in the work joy world is if you focus more on the joy, the gloomy side of things tends to feel more manageable. This isn't about that toxic positivity stuff and it's not about saying, oh, isn't everything wonderful when it's not? It's about saying, hang on a minute, there is some good stuff over here and if I focus on the good stuff, I feel better able to manage the stuff that isn't so good. I feel better able to engage in my work. I feel better able to understand what I can do to stop bad things happening again or to be able to understand that that's just part of life and deal with it. I'm imagining it feels similar in the kindness world, is that actually, if we focus on some of those things, we'll see it more, think about it more, do it more, rather than think nobody's doing it, therefore I shouldn't bother.

Sarah Browning 00:13:17 - 00:15:20
Absolutely. And it's interesting because quite often people will quote at me that sort of research around, oh, well, we're preconditioned to look out for the fight, flight, safety and all of that sort of stuff. There is actually an emerging body of research around that, that isn't necessarily true and that actually to survive on the wild plains millions and millions of years ago, people needed to work together and they do things for each other. For me, I think quite often this idea, and I think you're right, particularly in a work context, or often in a work context, in a leadership context, people will say or perhaps be concerned that kindness is some sort of weakness and therefore sort of pull away from it. I believe the opposite is true. I don't think kindness is weak, I think it's powerful because I think us as human beings and I think some of that idea that kindness is weak comes from thinking that kindness is the same as niceness. Yes, and it is actually being kind isn't always the easy thing to do in that sort of work context. Sometimes actually, the kind thing if you've got somebody in your team that's not performing, for example, the kind thing is not to let them blunder on and perhaps be in a role that is not suitable for them, meanwhile, everyone else around them in the team is suffering as a result. The kindest thing to do perhaps is to hold them accountable, work through what's going on, etc, and maybe even have to manage them out for want of a better word - I hate that phrase but you get my drift. There are kind ways to do that as well. So I think that's where there's this idea that we're all predisposed to be that's the way we're programmed yes and no. If we are all programmed that way then I've been programmed wrong.

Beth Stallwood 00:15:22 - 00:17:06
We also have the choice to change our programming. If your current programming looks like that, you can make efforts and do stuff that actually changes that, rewrite some of your programming so we're not stuck in that. Also, if that's the way that we've been brought up, if that's the way that our organizational culture works, if that's the way that our wider culture works, is to look at all the bad stuff, of course we're going to spend more time looking at all the bad stuff. We're not going to look at the good stuff. But if we can really focus and reprogram ourselves to look at some of the good stuff and not ignore the bad stuff, we can do things. It's a positive action thing, isn't it? We can go and do some stuff that makes a difference versus wallowing in a sense of self pity or a sense of, nobody does anything for anyone. I think the word I wrote down while you were talking about that is this sense of community and the sense of helping each other and supporting each other. Obviously this happens in bigger pictures in terms of communities outside of work. But let's go into the working world and think about how kindness plays out there. I could probably think in my working life of something that's happened if I really thought about it, probably at least once a week where someone has done something kind for me. But I really have to think about it because it doesn't automatically come in and kind of label it. I'm thinking from little things like someone's seen you're really busy and they bought your coffee over. How kind is that? It's like so nice and just supportive for someone helping you out with something, to somebody proofreading something for you. All of this stuff is a real kindness that people can do for you, but we probably don't spend enough time thinking about it or noticing it.

Sarah Browning 00:17:06 - 00:18:57
Absolutely and I think it's interesting, isn't it? Because I was looking fairly recently into definitions of kindness, all sorts of definitions and no one agreed definition, though there's lots of sort of threads that go through different ones, of course there are, but I think one of the things that can be a bit of a challenge in terms of us noticing, particularly in a work environment, when kindness happens and acknowledging when kindness happens is because we're so busy rushing on to the next thing. Or if we do think about it, we think, well, of course it was Sam's job to help me out with that report, so it wasn't a kindness because he had to do it, because it was his job. But actually, for me, I don't think that negates the fact that it's a kindness. So there are all sorts of different ways that kindness can reveal itself, as it were, in work and I think you're right, that making that conscious choice to notice it. Perhaps not in the moment because you are busy, because you've got to get the report in and there's a deadline, but whether that be later the day, whether it be your monthly team meeting or some kind of occasion where you consciously stop and think, right, what has happened? What has been kind, what has gone on that was kindness to me, or indeed that I did, that was a kindness for someone else. Also what I'm finding with my work is that people are sending me stories. I'm never going to run out of kindness examples, but more often, certainly nine times out of ten, they will tell me about things that other people have done that have been kind and they don't recognize it in themselves. But if you recognize it in yourself, that's a big boost as well, a big positive boost to feel that you have done something to make someone else's day better.

Beth Stallwood 00:18:58 - 00:19:18
That’s so interesting because I'm sitting here reflecting on what you've just said, about I more often notice it in other people than I do in myself. And then I'm thinking, does that mean I'm not very kind? But I think it's just we're more open to seeing the great things that other people do than the great things we do ourselves. I think we're quite blind often to our own, and that's teachers.

Sarah Browning 00:19:18 - 00:20:16

I reckon this is my purely kind of anecdotal not at all view, but I think that's probably learned behaviour somewhere along the way. Last month, I had a stall at a local community festival and we were doing an interactive share your kindness is all around us, share your story activity and we had people with postit notes writing their stories, and we were getting the kids to draw pictures and so on. And I was saying to the children, oh, we're collecting stories of kind people do you know any? And one little girl said, yes, me. And actually, she wasn't the only one. I mean, she was the one who was who was so vocal about it, but actually she wasn't the only one and the kids definitely had that different way of looking at it, not being embarrassed that they were kind because they knew it was a good thing to be. I guess that, as I say, it's completely non scientific, but it would appear that somewhere along the way we'd learn not to shout about that.

Beth Stallwood 00:20:17 - 00:20:44
I think it's probably, and I know I have this one quite strongly, but I have a don't brag about it message that I've definitely had since childhood. Don't brag, don't brag stuff to the point where actually, sometimes I don't even tell people good news. I just don't tell anybody things and you're like, okay, this is a bit silly now, but I just had that image of that little girl that you said about and I really want her to keep that and go, yeah, that was me. I was really kind in that moment. I'm good at this thing.

Sarah Browning 00:20:44 - 00:21:02
Absolutely because it does work both ways and I think that's another thing that makes kindness powerful, actually, is that it's a really positive thing both for the person who receives it and the person that gives it. Therefore that, again, makes it strong because it's got that sort of double aspect.

Beth Stallwood 00:21:02 - 00:21:19
And the aspect that also joins those two people together as well. Right, so there's something about the connection and the community and the humanness of it all. And there's something for me about what you're talking about here, is all of this stuff is like it's a deeply human thing to be kind to each other.

Sarah Browning 00:21:19 - 00:21:54
Yes, I think so. I absolutely think so, and I think some of that as I said, I'm not denying there's definitely some people and certainly some acts that are very unkind. So it's not about rose tinted glasses but at the same time, the more we have those connections, the more we understand other people as human beings. It's the whole ‘more in common than the divides us’ thing as well. I think it's focusing on those aspects, there has to be a positive force for the world.

Beth Stallwood 00:21:54 - 00:22:36
I'm also sitting here reflecting on, especially in my world of the tougher stuff, so the difficult conversations and it was kinder for that person to give me some feedback about what I could have done better there because it wasn't my best work. It is a kindness. It might not feel like it at the time, it might feel a little bit like I didn't like that but actually it is a kindness. I will always remember a situation where I walked out of the toilets at work and had my skirt tucked in my knickers and the head of legal came up behind me and went you've got your skirt tucked in your knickers and that is a kindness. These situations of real life that happen.

Sarah Browning 00:22:36 - 00:22:51
I think what's lovely about that example is that it shows that there's a kind way to do it as you say, it sounds like they came up to you and sort of whispered it to you rather than shouting across a shared office of 100.

Beth Stallwood 00:22:53 - 00:23:56
Yes they came up, stood behind me and said your skirts…and stood there until I'd sorted it out. There was a whole kind situation I can't believe I've just shared that one on a podcast but every time you're talking about it I'm getting things come to mind. I'm just really hoping that the listeners are thinking about this and all the times, even in your work environment or beyond, because life and work are all part of the same big life. Thing is, I'm hoping everyone's thinking now of some examples of where either they've done stuff that's really kind or where other people have done stuff that's really kind for them. And so many stories are coming up in my mind and I just wanted to go back to this point about because I think this probably is a theme across all of your work, isn't it I'm going to assume, is that there's more than one story here. Yes, this isn't the only story we should be thinking about or looking at and I think time issue is one of the things that makes us get there. I think we get really specialist in our expertise and we get stuck in a bit of thinking but so often we think there's only one story.

Sarah Browning 00:23:56 - 00:25:11
Yes, absolutely and even for a single given story, there are different angles to it as well and there are different perspectives to it. They'll view it in different ways. I mean, in the communications work that I do, a big part of that is to help organizations and individuals to think about what is a situation like for their audience. This is an area I've changed the way I talk about it over the last few years, actually, because I used to say, put yourself in their shoes. But actually, I've changed that because it isn't about how would you feel if you were in that. It's about what is it like for them? What's their experience? What's their story? Understanding things again from different perspectives enables you to, I guess we're sort of starting to talk about empathy, really, aren't we? You don't have to have experienced it yourself to have at least some inkling of what it might be like and what the impact those experiences may have on the way that somebody acts, speaks, behaves, all that kind of stuff. That is an important element, I think, of this human connection aspect.

Beth Stallwood 00:25:11 - 00:25:36
Yes and I am slightly giggling in the background, because one of the things I always say to people, when people always say to me, oh, you should put yourself in their shoes is okay, but one of the big things you have to do is you have to take your own shoes off first. So you have to take off your own perspective and your own standing of it, and actually properly stand with people and understand their experience from their perspective, not from where you come from in that perspective.

Sarah Browning 00:25:36 - 00:25:40
Yeah, I really like that. I've not heard that phrase before. I think that works really well.

Beth Stallwood 00:25:41 - 00:26:09
I don't think I have coined it. I think I have taken it from someone, but I don't know where from and it was a long time ago that I started using it so if we know who that is, thank you very much for allowing me to use it, because I've used it a lot. And I think, as well, if we think about bigger picture things like levels of privilege and understanding and diversity and all of these different things, if we stand in someone else's shoes with our own shoes on, we're not really understanding what's going on.

Sarah Browning 00:26:09 - 00:26:16
Yes, exactly. I think that's really true and we can lose sight of that, I think, sometimes, can't we?

Beth Stallwood 00:26:16 - 00:26:43
Yeah. I'm sitting here thinking about empathy and kindness and in my head have some kind of word association relationship with each other. It’s almost like, are they so totally interrelated that you can't have one without another? And I've just gone down a massive rabbit hole now, so help me unpick it. Kindness and empathy, can they exist without each other?

Sarah Browning 00:26:44 - 00:27:19
Well, there's a question, because actually, I said earlier that I might be programmed wrong. I think one of the ways in which the programming I don't have, that a lot of people have, is I'm quite happy not to have a definitive answer on questions like that, and not even actually to have scientific proof and data. I'm happy that my gut tells me that your hypothesis should we call it a hypothesis?

Beth Stallwood 00:27:19 - 00:27:22
Oh, we'll get fancy and like, we're scientific about it.

Sarah Browning 00:27:22 - 00:28:10
I'm not very scientific either, but that feels to me like there's a lot of truth in that and I know I've said this a lot already, but I think for me that where it's got that overlap, I suppose, is in terms of connection. I don't know if you have to have empathy to be kind, because I suppose what it is, is that I don't know if you have to have empathy for a specific detail of a situation or a person actually may just be that you have empathy for them as a fellow human being, and therefore you want to reach out and be kind and do something that makes their day better.

Beth Stallwood 00:28:11 - 00:28:17
Yes, it's kind of an overarching empathy for other humans versus, I understand your situation that you're in.

Sarah Browning 00:28:18 - 00:28:34
That's my current thinking. If any of your listeners have more scientific evidence or even listening about that, then I would love to hear about it because I think it's an interesting topic, isn't it?

Beth Stallwood 00:28:34 - 00:28:58
It's such an interesting topic and I think I could go down many different rabbit holes with this particular topic. And I, like you, do not possess the scientific understanding of the deep neuroscience behind it. I just know that kindness feels nice when someone offers it to you and it feels good when you offer it to somebody else. And I kind of go, why wouldn't we want more of that goodness in the world?

Sarah Browning 00:28:58 - 00:29:57
Yeah, absolutely and I mean, certainly again, there is a growing body of research and evidence in terms of kindness that is showing some of those making those connections, I suppose in a work and business context that actually whichever lens is most important to you as a leader. Whether it's about encouraging a culture of kindness because it's a good human thing to do, or whether you are more interested in your business results and your productivity and all of that side of things. That kindness culture delivers both of those, this idea that if you have got that kindness culture, then the productivity goes up, the motivation goes up, the wanting to work together, to collaborate, to innovate, all those things and they will drive your business. So I, like you, come back to thinking, well, why wouldn't you? Why wouldn't you want yes.

Beth Stallwood 00:29:58 - 00:30:00
There's no downside, is there?

Sarah Browning 00:30:00 - 00:30:01
It doesn't seem there is to me.

Beth Stallwood 00:30:01 - 00:30:30
No, I'm trying to think if there is a downside. The only thing I can imagine as a downside and is the thing that you talked about before, is that people assuming that kind equals just being nice and a bit kind of airy fairy about everything. Versus the kind of deeper sense of what's the kindest possible thing we could do in this moment? How could we do this horrible thing but do it with the most kindness? How could we think about this from a kindness perspective? So I think it's in the misinterpretation where it's not a win win.

Sarah Browning 00:30:30 - 00:31:37
I think it probably also has something to do with if you have a culture within your business that rewards that sort of individual mindset. Yes, kindness is a collective, we talked about connection, but it is a collective thing. I wonder how much longer that individual mindset is going to last, really, and how much that it's going to continue to serve us all. And for the big challenges you mentioned earlier on, about the big challenges that we face as an entire world, to solve those, individuals are not going to solve those. We have to work together. We have to be more collective about it and so those individualistic cultures, I hope personally will go away. But if you have got one of those, I can see that being kind and getting involved with other people and having that sense of oh, it's holding me back, slowing me down, that's going to feel like a downside, isn't it?

Beth Stallwood 00:31:37 - 00:32:32
Yeah, because it'll feel like working against the grain and it'll feel like you're the odd one out and that might not feel too good. I mean, I often feel like the odd one out and kind of use it as a strength, but some people find that really challenging. And thinking about this cultural thing, thinking about organizations, thinking about how do we take it and do stuff with it, how would you? I'm asking you this question because almost every organization I'm working with, in fact, I can't think of one that isn't, says, what do you need in your future leaders, your future employees? They say they want innovation, they want collaborative working, they want people to be able to solve bigger problems because they know that in the future AI is going to solve the kind of smaller problems for them, etc so organizations want all of these things. What are some of the kind of key facets that you would see as a real kindness culture?

Sarah Browning 00:32:33 - 00:32:51
I think it's a lot of what we've talked about already, actually. So I think it is about thinking about the other people in your culture as and not just your team, your people at desks, on screens.

Beth Stallwood 00:32:52 - 00:32:54
So kind of rehumanizing it.

Sarah Browning 00:32:54 - 00:34:39
Yeah, I think so, I think that's some of it. I think in terms of communication skills, one of the absolute biggest areas for improvement that will deliver some of the things you're talking about is real, genuine listening. Listening to understand rather than to reply because I think that's what I'm guilty of it as much as anyone else. We all can fall into that, what am I going to say next? They've said that, so now I'm going to say this or whatever. Whereas the kind of real listening deeply to understand and again, it comes back to that perspective thing, doesn't it? That real understanding of their perspective, their views, starting with the idea that nobody has come to work to do a bad job. That isn't the sort of reality and so listening in that way, I think can have probably a bigger impact than people even realize. I think many years ago, I can't even remember which of my previous organizations it was, but I was sent on some sort of active listening training. And the trouble with that, I think, is that sometimes it can feel quite formulaic. And again, you've been taught a process and that can feel quite comforting, actually. I can see why there is some benefit in something like that, to give you a bit of structure, a bit of a framework, but I think if you apply it too literally you get so hung up on the process. I know I can be guilty of that as well because I'm not particularly drawn to processes.

Beth Stallwood 00:34:39 - 00:35:24
I followed my five steps, I must have listened, oh no, I don't remember a single word anyone said. I'll just give a little call out, in season one we had Janie Van Hool come on and she has written a book called The Listening Shift so I'd recommend people go back and listen to that episode. I can't remember the exact one, but I'll put it in the show notes because actually listening is so important. I remember training as a coach and I reckon at least 50% of the coach training you do is around actually how to properly listen to people. I have a great friend who's also a coach, and he always said there's real value in giving people a good listening to. And I love that phrase and I use it often, having clearly stolen it from him, but I just think there's something wonderful, isn't there, about being genuinely listened to?

Sarah Browning 00:35:25 - 00:35:46
Absolutely and again, we have to remember that we're not saying genuinely listen to someone. That doesn't necessarily mean you agree with them and actually that's okay. But like you say it's that feeling genuinely listened to can have a huge impact.

Beth Stallwood 00:35:48 - 00:37:24
There's also, I'm just thinking about all those different situations that cause people what I call work gloom and one of the situations I'm thinking of also has an answer to it, which I think I have taken from Brene Brown. Which is when, you know, when people are really winding you up, which happens in the workplace and nobody has ever spent their career working and gone, do you know what? No one's ever wound me up. They've never had any red flags. I've never felt the red mist rising. People get wound up at work. It's a fact. Human beings don't always see eye to eye with things and sometimes things grate. The phrase I think she says is something like this ‘what's the kindest possible reactional reason I could give to this thing?’ And even that, if you think about it, it might not be that you're perfect, it might not be that you can go, they're not annoying me. Sometimes you're going to be the annoying person too and that's a fact we should always remember. But actually and I often think about this when someone's winding me up, I kind of go okay, what's the kindest possible reaction I could have to this? Or what's the kindest possible reason they could be doing this? And the kindest possible is usually they're not doing it deliberately to wind you up but people are in different situations. We only ever know 5% of what's going on in anybody's life behind closed doors. There's always stuff that we don't know about, we don't understand. And for me I find if you're in that situation where you don't really want to be kind to somebody taking a breath and going what is the kindest possible reaction, what is the kindest possible reason this could be happening? Really helps to take the sting out of it a little bit.

Sarah Browning 00:37:24 - 00:38:57
Absolutely and I think it's some of just having, as you say, a strategy of some sort can be helpful in itself, can't it? Because even having that question to ask yourself, cause at that moment of pause that kind of take a beat and that in itself can break the cycle enough for you to walk away or whatever it might be, but to do something different. So I think having those kind of strategies in your back pocket I don't like processes, I don't like them having those sorts of things. And it is a little bit like I've written about, exercising your kindness muscle in terms of noticing things and consciously deciding to notice what is the kind thing that has happened in this situation. One of my favourite kindness stories that we've shared on Times of Kindness was somebody was at a shopping mall, there was only one set of doors that were working and there was an older lady trying to come through the other way and people were streaming through and she couldn't get through. And then the person who sent in the story kind of stopped and did let the old lady to come out and it would be really easy in that situation to look at all the ones who didn't stop and be well, of course that's it, isn't it? No one's kind to anyone else anymore. That's typical. That's how things are. But somebody did stop. So actually let's look at them. Let's have that strategy to think, what is the kind thing that has happened here and let's look at that.

Beth Stallwood 00:38:58 - 00:39:13
Yeah. And I love that it's like just because other people didn't do it doesn't mean that doesn't take anything away from the person that did. Yes, we can still give them props and actually that person doing that the next time those people see something happening like that they might do it because they've been inspired by someone else's kindness.

Sarah Browning 00:39:13 - 00:39:23
And maybe they didn't stop because they were late for a meeting, maybe they were picking up their kids from school, maybe they just didn't notice her because they were in a dream world.

Beth Stallwood 00:39:23 - 00:39:27
There’s all kinds of different things.

Sarah Browning 00:39:28 - 00:39:31
None of them thought, I'm not letting her through.

Beth Stallwood 00:39:31 - 00:39:49
There's no malice, is there, in the kind of neutrality of non kindness? It's not a bad thing, it's just that it kind of ups it from neutral when someone does something really kind. Love it. Right, I would love to talk for more and more hours on this, but I'm going to move us on if you're ready for some quick fire questions.

Sarah Browning 00:39:49 - 00:39:50
Absolutely. Let's go for it.

Beth Stallwood 00:39:51 - 00:39:59
Right, let's go for it. Number one, for you personally, what is always guaranteed to bring you a little bit of work joy?

Sarah Browning 00:40:00 - 00:40:22
People. Definitely people. Which is odd to say when I run my own business and spend plenty of time on my own, actually, but I love working with a group of people and bouncing ideas off each other and the conversation and the fun that you can have getting the task done.

Beth Stallwood 00:40:23 - 00:40:27
Brilliant. Love it. Number two, what book are you currently reading?

Sarah Browning 00:40:28 - 00:41:04
So well, I have just, this weekend, actually started reading The Autobiography of Esme Young, who is one of the presenters on the Great British Sewing Bee. So I read a lot and I read a lot of fiction, actually but when I'm not reading fiction, I often will read autobiographies because I like stories and obviously, by definition, an autobiography is somebody's story. I'm only at the childhood stage, she's just started doing her first sewing and adapting outfits, but, yeah, it's very promising so far.

Beth Stallwood 00:41:04 - 00:41:27
Love it. And I also love that it links back into your story side of things, of reading autobiographies. I've never heard of her, I've never watched The Sewing Bee, so I don't know who you're talking about, but an autobiography is a good thing to read, I think. Right, question number three, what is one bit of advice that somebody has given you in your lifetime that you always find yourself coming back to?

Sarah Browning 00:41:27 - 00:42:30
Yeah, so I gave this a lot of thought, what do I want to share? So I think one piece that came to my mind actually, is years ago, when I was trying to decide which university to go to and which to have as my first and second choice. I was doing the teenage thing of agonizing and going round and round in circles, and my dad, who is lovely, but was very much the sort of, speak to your mother about that, type of father. But he, for some reason, I was talking to him about it and he said to me, nine times out of ten in life, you will make the wrong decision but actually it very rarely even if it's the wrong decision, is it absolutely the end of the world. So don't let indecision be a sort of against progress, really. Yes, consider things, but eventually make a decision and something else might come of it, actually, even if in that moment it feels like the wrong thing, who knows where it will lead you?

Beth Stallwood 00:42:31 - 00:42:46
That's such good advice, isn't it? I'm sitting here thinking as well, it's so true that actually I've gone a bit deep again, I've gone down a rabbit hole in my own head, is there such thing as a wrong decision? Surely it's just the decision you made at that time and then you'll make another one and change something if you don't like it.

Sarah Browning 00:42:47 - 00:43:01
Yeah, again, it's mindset, isn't it? A lot of it is how you view it, really and I have to say, this is fantastic advice from my dad. I don't always follow it, I do often come back to it, I do often think, no, come on.

Beth Stallwood 00:43:03 - 00:43:31
I get that as well, I don't always follow the fantastic advice I get either or the advice I give to other people and sometimes you're like, oh, I should probably follow my own advice. That's a whole totally other podcast. Right, question four, what is one super practical thing that people could go and do now after they've listened to this, build as a habit that you think would help them get a little bit of work joy in their lives?

Sarah Browning 00:43:33 - 00:44:20
I think getting outside every day, at least once every day, makes a massive difference. And whether that be, I mean, I'm fortunate that I live near a really beautiful lake, so pretty much every morning I go and I have a walk around that and it just sets me up for the day. It gets my blood pumping and my brain going and so on. But even if you don't have the privilege of that sort of space, even if you can just go out on your balcony or five minutes up and down your road, whatever it is, there is definitely something I think about getting outside, getting that fresh air and movement as well that can make, as I say, a real difference, to get going and prepare you open your mind for the day.

Beth Stallwood 00:44:20 - 00:45:14
I am 100% in agreement with you there and I think actually the research and data would back us up even though we don't feel we need it, it would definitely back us up in terms of getting outside, walking, fresh air, etc, it makes a massive difference. I know for me, if I don't go for a walk in the morning before I start work, I'm never quite as on it, I'm never quite as good. So I think, definitely get outside, go for a walk. I know one organization I used to work with mapped out a mile walk from their office doors, a circular route, and it's such a great thing. And people were doing walking meetings and all kinds of stuff, so definitely worth a go. And it's so tempting to stay stuck at our desk, whether we're working from home or working from an office or working from a school or working from a factory, wherever it is. It's so tempting to stay and think that we're being productive, but actually, we're usually more productive if we step away. So give it a go.

Sarah Browning 00:45:14 - 00:45:37
Yeah, absolutely and I think there's something about just a different perspective as well, isn't it? Which is why I say even if you don't have that privilege of a walk to do, or you're not able to get out for very long, just going and standing somewhere else, can have a bit of a shaking up effect, for sure. And find your favourite spot.

Beth Stallwood 00:45:37 - 00:45:45
Love it. Right, final question from me is where can people find out more about you and Time for Kindness and all your lovely work?

Sarah Browning 00:45:46 - 00:46:47
I have two websites, so we have and that's where you can read the stories of kindness that we share. We also have blogs on there. There is also, as of last week, I have just launched a kindness ambassadors scheme, which is where you can sign up as a completely voluntary thing. You can sign up to be a kindness ambassador and all I ask is that you pledge to notice kindness at least once a week and for everyone that you see, you tell at least one other person about it. I'm not going to check up on you. It's just something I want to put out there for getting in that habit and having the conversation. So, Time for Kindness, if you go to the website, it's got all the social media links on there as well. We're on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook, and then for my communications work my business name is Browning York, so is where you can find out all about that. And I, as Sarah Browning, I'm also on LinkedIn.

Beth Stallwood 00:46:47 - 00:47:03
Brilliant. We will put those links into the show notes so that people can click straight through and find out more. Love the idea of the kindness ambassadors and really spreading the news thought telling people. What a great thing to have. I'm totally going to go and sign up.

Sarah Browning 00:47:03 - 00:47:09
Marvellous. Oh, you get a digital badge, I forgot to say that, if you sign up, you get a digital badge.

Beth Stallwood 00:47:09 - 00:47:13
I'm also such a nerd that I love the idea of getting a badge as well.

Sarah Browning 00:47:14 - 00:47:18
Absolutely. To be part of something is awesome.

Beth Stallwood 00:47:18 - 00:47:28
Exactly. Well, Sarah, thank you so much for coming on the WorkJoy Jam, it's been a real pleasure to talk to you and I'm really looking forward to sharing this with everybody.

Sarah Browning 00:47:28 - 00:47:31
Thank you very much for having me. It's been an absolute pleasure.

Beth Stallwood 00:47:33 - 00:49:41
Well, thank you again to Sarah Browning for joining me on the WorkJoy Jam podcast. So many things to think about when it comes to kindness and kindness in our organizations. Kindness in terms of what other people do that we notice, but also remembering how kind we can be and really helping ourselves to think more and do more in that space. I love Sarah's idea of being a kindness ambassador and being a person that notices, spots and shares and spreads the message around kindness. And it’s not just being about that positivity side of things, not that false positivity, but to actually use kindness as a way through some of the difficult things that we all experience in life and in work. And I am there also going to give a call out to anybody who has researched anything to do with kindness and linking empathy together and whether those two things can exist without each other, because I have no evidence to support anything that I've said there in my head. That's where it came from. I encourage you all to really think about an experience you've had where you have noticed or given some kindness to somebody and to really think about how do we maximize that in our working lives. We also have lots of episodes available on the WorkJoy Jam podcast. Go back and have a listen to some of them. I recommended the episode with Janie Van Hool on Listening which would be a great one to compliment thinking about kindness. Lots of episodes there. Pick and mix, choose the ones that are great for you. Remember, also on the website, we have a couple of freebies available. One is a tracker to really understand where you get your work joy from. It's called WorkJoy: Where Do You Get Yours? and to be able to understand it so that you can maximize it in your life. And the other one is if you're feeling a little bit gloomy, if you're not really into your work at the moment, we have another freebie which is called How To Fall Back in Love with Your Job. So have a look there at for some things for you to take away and practice with. Speak to you soon.

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