Kindness - It Can Be Contagious


My intention was to make a clean break this week and the transition from mourning the loss of my wife Roneet to discussing more economic and business-related issues. But honestly, I found that I’m not mentally and emotionally in that place right now. As a result, I felt like this would be a week where I could transition by doing a hybrid of discussing Roneet in some ways, but tying it to business as well.

The Task at Hand

Before I focus on the task at hand, however, I want to first thank everyone who has expressed their condolences, sorrow, and sympathies to me and my family with regard to the passing of Roneet. The outpouring of support and love has been extraordinary. I have received so many cards and emails and texts and phone calls. The donations to the three causes in honor of Roneet have been so gratifying as well. She would have been so happy to know that she helped inspire people to contribute to the research of doctors as well as other institutions that were so important to her and could have such an impact on others. 

If you would like to make a donation, the links are found at the end of this blog:

It has been so heartwarming and gratifying to see the goodness in people. I was trying to think of a way to depict the incredible support that I have gotten in the aftermath of this tragedy. I finally decided to take the cards that were sent to me and put them in somewhat of a collage-like manner and then take a picture of it.

What you see below is my creation of the collage of gratitude.


I counted 126 cards/notes. And while this is a lot, I don’t think the picture fully does justice to quantifying the outpouring of support.  It is one small way that I could show the world how loved Roneet was, the gratitude I feel to so many who have cared so much about my needs and my loss and the impact on my family. As an aside, I was initially going to clean the cards up right away after I created it (in honor of Roneet who was an organizational maniac), but I was struck by the power of it and its beauty that I decided to keep it there for a period of time so I could just observe it, internalize it, and reflect on how good people can be, especially during times of trials and tribulations.

Roneet’s Key Attribute Kindness

One of the key attributes of Roneet was her kindness and consideration for others. She was always there for people in their time of need. And she was just as likely to help a stranger as she was a friend. This beautiful characteristic of hers was a major theme of my eulogy. I suggested that one way we can honor her would simply to just be kind to people whenever we can. And this is where I will briefly tie it into business.

I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review talking about how kindness can become a core tenet of a company. And rather than proscribing it through rules and regulations, the way to do it is to have people model it throughout the organization through their behavior. The author says that the way “to unleash kindness in your organization is to treat it like a contagion, and to create the conditions under which everybody catches it.” The author focuses on the dealerships of Mercedes-Benz in the United States and how kindness has become a tenet of their success. The author quotes the CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA and this is the crux of his vision for delivering extraordinary customer experiences.

“Every encounter with the brand,” he declared, “must be as extraordinary as the machine itself.” And almost every encounter with the brand, he understood, came down to a personal encounter with a human being in a dealership who could either act in ways that were memorable or could act the rote way most people in most dealerships act.”

They realized that kindness was elevated when workers had pride in the brand. Shockingly, nearly 70% of employees had never driven a Mercedes outside of the dealership lots and this was impacting brand pride. To rectify this they made a concerted, and very expensive, effort to have every employee drive a Mercedes for 48 hours, The results were extraordinary as the pride in the brand increased exponentially. And when people care about and have great pride in what they are selling and who they work for then this can translate to wonderful service rooted in caring, concern, and kindness. People want to do their best to make sure that their customers have the same level of pride and satisfaction in the product as they do. It can become a virtuous circle as prideful employees help create customers with great pride in the brand and the business flourishes.

The Stanford Kindness Experiments

The contagion aspect of kindness derived from a study the author references done by a Stanford professor. Through various controlled experiments, he found that kindness can be contagious. He showed that when people are exposed to others being more generous than they, in turn, become inspired to take action that would result in them being more generous. Whether it be giving more money than they otherwise would or writing more sympathetic letters to people who have been going through trials and tribulations in life, the end result was that people were more giving and caring if they saw others being so. He’s not exactly sure the reasons why kindness is contagious. One possibility is that people value being on the same page with others and as a result, this helps them feel more connected and not alone. Being part of a group gives them more validation. Conformity and feeling more secure in a group in this regard can be very positive. Of course, there are the negative sides to groupthink and conformity as when we see it in our really harsh and polarizing political discourse. But this does give one some hope that if you can model your behavior in ways that people perceive to be as kind and generous, then you may help inspire others to follow suit.

This is exactly the message spread by Roneet through her words and deeds throughout her beautiful life. Her kindness came back to her throughout her life by having deeply devoted friends and family that gave her life such joy and meaning. And after her passing, her impact on people became even more evident as exemplified by what was written in the cards, emails, texts, and voicemails. I can’t tell you how many people said how kind and compassionate and caring Roneet was. She was there for people during their darkest times and they will never forget that. Many people who reached out didn’t know her very well, but the impact she made in such a short period of time was so memorable that they felt her loss in many ways as intensely as those that have known her for many years.

Take Away: The Importance of Kindness

I will wrap it up by saying that kindness is cool and if you can be kind then I know others will follow your lead. It not only makes the world a better place, but it will make you feel better as well. It also happens to be a great business approach.

7 comments on “Kindness - It Can Be Contagious
  1. Debra Buck says:

    Nicely said, Gary. How we act toward others is a choice and I choose kindness!

  2. Bob and Pam Serr says:

    Perfectly stated Gary. We try to live with gratitude and kindness each day. Caring for our granddaughter Paisley with her extreme special needs has really helped us keep these tenets front and center in our life. Blessing and comfort to you and your family my friend.

  3. Val Ruhlen says:

    Gar That was so beautiful and touching💗 Be gentle to yourself . I’m learning through all this to be a Better version of myself. Your actually teaching me to be Stronger. Roneet will be guiding us all. She will always have a say so. I feel her with us all. Love you

  4. Guy Hugaert says:

    No need to hurry in your transition from writing about Roneet to writing about business. One of my mentors was former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. At all of his speeches he always mentioned his wife and his love for her even though she passed away many years before he did. Her is a link to an article about that subject

  5. Robin Cox says:

    These are lovely thoughts and thank you for sharing in your own grieving. Roneet sounds like a wonderful person .
    (Andrea’s Atlanta – relative – by – martiage)

  6. Randi says:

    Beautiful Gary

  7. Sunnie Mills says:

    My mantra…”be kind, or be gone”…Kindness is free, it costs nothing and yet the bounty reaped is unfathomable. There really is something to the Golden Rule and I choose to live my life by it.

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