We hear about it on the news and read stories on Facebook. Someone pays a restaurant bill for a soldier and his family, another generous person gives a large tip to a struggling waitress. These "pay it forward" stories make us feel good and restore our faith in humanity. They may even inspire us to spread around the kindness.
There is another type of chain of reciprocating behavior. A study completed through the combined efforts of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Colorado, Boulder placed hundreds of people in situations in which others demonstrated either greed, generosity, or fairness in monetary distribution.
What were the results?
Those were treated fairly by others were most likely to be kind in return. Unfortunately, those who interacted with the greedy tended to emulate that type of behavior.
The researchers were not surprised by what they learned. After all, they couldn't identify any no "good reason" to pay things forward. In addition, negative emotions, such as those you would experience after feeling shafted tend to be stronger and more influential on behavior than positive ones. That's because we deal with our bad experiences by taking things out on other people.
But this pattern, this negative chain of behavior, isn't your destiny. It isn't a foregone conclusion that you have to act as badly as any jerks you may encounter.
You have a choice. The next time someone doesn't treat you as well as you deserve, stop. Think about the consequences of your actions. Make a conscious choice to do a good deed for someone else. Start a new chain of positive actions.
If someone is disrespectful towards you, make a choice to treat the salespeople in the next store you enter with extra courtesy. Cut off in traffic? Let the next person who needs to merge go ahead of you.
Let's see what chains of goodness we can create.