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Written by Natacha Wilson

The power of emotional intelligence and kindness skills

The kindness project

I have had the privilege to work with The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation (RAK) based in Denver, Colorado on a great “Kindness skills” programme for schools.  RAK, headquartered in Colorado,  designed an evidence based programme focused on social emotional learning for children and teens. I worked with them for the best part of 3 years to adapt, pilot and launch the programme in Cambridge, UK.

Why kindness skills are important?

Educating the mind, without educating the heart, is no education at all.” Aristotle

RAK developed lesson plans for teachers to teach kindness skills in the classroom. The 12 kindness skills are: Assertiveness, Compassion, Helpfulness, Caring, Fairness, Integrity, Respect, Responsibility, Self-discipline, Gratitude, Self-care and Perseverance. This programme is part of wider resarch based on Social and Emotional Learning (SEL).

SEL is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understandand manage emotions,  set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.  SEL supports students and educators to develop and practice emotional intelligence skills and a process for teaching, learning, and practicing these skills.  Emotional intelligence skills are increasingly seen to be key for academic, work and lifelong success.

The science of kindness and SEL

Kindness and SEL skills can be taught at school, university and work. Studies focusing on the school context have demonstrated that children are more likely:

  • to be academically motivated (Solomon et al, 2000)
  • to act ethically and altruistically (Schaps et al, 1997)
  • to develop social and emotional competencies (Solomon et al, 2000)
  • to avoid a number of problem behaviours (Resnick et al, 1997)

From Social Emotional Learning to Emotional Intelligence

My involvement with RAK and the kindness skills project, helped me understand the importance of what we call “softer skills”. Teaching those skills early on makes complete sense and lays the path to what we refer to as Emotional Intelligence; a well sought after aspect of leadership. Broadly speaking, Emotional Intelligence refers to someone’s ability to perceive, understand and manage their own feelings and emotions. Psychologist Daniel Goleman lists five core components:

  1. Self-awareness – the ability to recognise and understand your moods and emotions, and how they affect others
  2. Self-regulation – the ability to control impulses and moods, and to think before acting
  3. Internal (or intrinsic) motivation – being driven to pursue goals for personal reasons, rather than for some kind of reward (the opposite is external motivation)
  4. Empathy – the ability to recognise and understand others’ motivations, which is essential for building and leading teams successfully
  5. Social skills – the ability to manage relationships and build networks

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About Natacha Wilson

Natacha Wilson, founder of Cambridge Insights, is a learning and development consultant and coach. She creates tailored development programmes, which combine 21st century skills, mindsets, and wisdom, to boost leadership capabilities and nurture innovative cultures. Her mission is to support transformational leaders and  “leaders in the making” increase their postive impact, solve global challenges and create a greater world.

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