It’s natural to feel compelled to help someone who’s struggling, but certain hindrances may try to stifle the generosity we feel. Would we be invading their personal space? Would it bother them or not at all?

Psychologist Robin Banerjee led a team at the University of Sussex to develop an online questionnaire called the Kindness Test. It’s the world’s largest psychological study on the issue of kindness, with over 60,000 people from 144 nations participating. The range of responses was broad, with some people candidly acknowledging that they weren’t always kind while others demonstrating a great level of goodwill. It was evident that compassion was widespread, regardless of people’s age or where they lived. Still, some obstacles keep us from being kinder. The most common reason for not conducting good deeds was the fear of being misunderstood. Well-intentioned gestures of generosity, such as offering a bus seat to a woman who may or may not be pregnant, can be difficult. We also have a fear of embarrassment or rejection. However, Gillian Sandstrom of the University of Sussex, who was part of the team that studied the Kindness Test, discovered that our anxieties about talking to strangers are frequently groundless and that people enjoy it more than they think. Those who have been the recipients of an act of kindness describe themselves as “happy”, “grateful”, “loved”, “relieved” and “pleased”. Under 1 percent of those surveyed stated they were ashamed.

Receiving and offering an act of kindness helps us feel good and delighted. Considering all this, we must start viewing kindness as a strength rather than a weakness.