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BBC London - Singapore

SINGAPORE: Kindness Guru Chuck Wall On His Mission In Singapore

BBC London Interview

November 1,1999

Singaporeans are in the middle of a new campaign asking them to show more kindness, but for once it's not being run by the government. This is a speaking term used by Dr. Chuck Wall, the self-styled guru of kindness.  Chuck Wall and his organization Kindness Inc. promote the idea that people should commit what he calls "random acts of kindness" in a bid to encourage all of us everywhere to be nicer to each other. It may not surprise you to learn that he is based in California. When I spoke to Chuck Wall, I asked him what exactly is he trying to preach:


Dr.Wall:  What I have been allowed to do by the Singapore kindess movement is to bring my idea that respect and dignity is something that all people around the world devoutly desire and when I came to Singapore that was my message that each of us wants to be treated with respect and dignity but the fact is you have to first give it in order to receive it.


Q:  Okay, I agree with you that does sound fairly obvious, that we all want to be treated nicely and we should treat each other nicely, but how do you actually go about making sure that people do so?


Dr.Wall:  Kindness is a learned behavior and it becomes something that through constant reinforcement will become a way of life for us. Whether you are a child, adult, parent, employer or an employee, the way to do this is to monitor our own behavior. You can't go around changing other people until you find out who you are yourself.


Q:  Singapore has been running something called a courtesy campaign, you may know about it, which has been going on for more than 20 years and every year they try to encourage people to be more courteous to each other, but the fact that it has been going so long implies that it doesn't work very well.


Dr.Wall: I think like a good marriage that lasts 29 years, it doesn't last because the day you got married you said "I love you" and then after that you don't think you need to say it anymore.


Q:  Singapore is a very competitive city where people are out to make the best of their career, investments and so on. Can competition coexist with your brand of kindness?


Dr.Wall:  That's an excellant question and it is one the corporate world is concearned with and my answer to that is a resounding "absolutely" because the name of the game in business today is customer service and if you can not demonstrate that you consider your customer to be the most important person in your corporate life, you are not going to survive.


Q: Your are talking about kindness in terms of an everyday interaction between people in the corporate world. Does that have a wider implication, I mean, could for example your idea of the world in which people are kinder to each other prevent wars and famine? Can it actually do good on a wider global scale?


Dr.Wall:  The implications for a world that is devoted to the concept of kindness is so vast but is one that has been untapped. We don't know what it would do if we all believed in the concept of each person deserving respect and dignity, compassion and humility because we have never experienced it.


Q:  It sounds naive I have to say that this idea you have that is you smile at someone and treat them kindly it will make a difference to the world.


Dr.Wall:  It could be seen that way and I have heard people tell me, this is really a trivial pursuit, and that we have more important things to think about. I say what is more important than returning respect and dignity to each person on this planet.What's more important that giving credit to people who have done something well in their job. One of the things that we seem to be incapable of doing is the very simple thing such as "thank you, you did a great job, I really enjoy working with you. Let's work on this project together as a team". Those seen so obvious, but they are left out of our everyday life and you can see it everywhere you go. When you go shopping and see rude clerks and angry hostile customers, it says to me we have got to make a change and if this is trivial then I want to stay involved with trivia.

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