Mancunians show us how to be #usefulandkind...

What phenomenal displays of prosocial behaviour we have seen in Manchester this week and elsewhere. Generosity, bravery, compassion, giving without counting the cost, helping, healing.

These people are you. So much is being explored and written about prosocial leaders, their traits, qualities, behaviours, skills. We are all leaders. We can all rise to the need to help someone else. We can show our love, our common humanity in the small unseen gestures as much as the great strategic sweeps.

Psychologists have researched the Bystander Effect but it seems they would have been dumbfounded by the way in which so many people helped and didn't wait for others to go first. It is the job of the emergency services to go into these harrowing situations which can have huge psychological consequences for them leading to flashbacks, PTSD and compassion fatigue. In a sense this makes their actions even braver than those who just respond automatically in a prosocial way as the experienced emergency worker knows only too well what might lay ahead.

Our prosocial desire to help and listen and heal can sometimes backfire. The huge rush of counsellors to the Tsunami was well researched and it has been shown that retelling the story so soon lays the event down more in the memory, the best way to deal with it is to avoid sleep and interestingly to play Tetris or similar.

For those of us who have personal experience or understanding of the power of the Metta Meditation (May you be well, healthy, free from suffering and fulfilled) taking that step towards offering love to the bomber (not his actions) seems difficult in a culture that talks of perpetrators as 'losers' or cowards. Who can actually imagine the inner terrain of someone so bombarded and brainwashed that they are willing to blow themselves up? Rona Fields looks at this in her interesting book Martyrdom: The Psychology, Theology, and Politics of Self-Sacrifice

The language of hero and loser is reductive and binary. Those who make simple #usefulandkind gestures do it automatically (gathering children to take them to a hotel, sitting with the dying to give comfort, loaning someone your 'phone).

Our work at U&K Unltd is to raise awareness of all these issues and to encourage the useful and kind in us all. The great and generous people of Manchester did not do it for reward, or aggrandisement they did it because they could, because they had to and because we are hard wired to do so. My sense is that so often the generous financial post-event recognition can be an assuaging of our collective guilt and relief.

So as we come to the weekend let us pause. Let us be mindful. Let us give thanks to those who showed how prosocial behaviour is the best of us. It is all of us. Let us grieve the tragic loss. Let us learn love for our neighbour and our enemy.

Show love.


Thanks to those who have helped my thinking on these matters this week (Mark Loftus, Iqbal Wahab, Daniel Goleman, Dulcie and Ella Fraser)