By @SimonCocking. Great interview with John M Sweeney Founder & Chief Kindness Officer Social Media Coach. Speaker. Misfit. Kindness Matters. 🙂

Your background briefly?

My background I guess is as a plumber and early school leaver. For years I was miserable and unhappy, my life in truth had no purpose. Then nearly 4 years ago I launched a social movement called Suspended Coffees. At this point I don’t think I’d ever even sent an email, let alone understanding what it was that I’d actually started. I had received nothing like an education, had little or no belief in myself, but I believed in a concept of being kind to others and the positive impact that could have on society. I’d always dreamed of doing work that matters, which is why I was so drawn to the concept of Suspended Coffees. It wasnt even the coffee that excited me, I’d never even drank a cup in my life. It was vision I had of being able to connect the entire world with kindness, though social media and because I had no confidence after years of being bullied and beaten, I could hide behind a computer screen while I did it.

Did you imagine you’d be doing now what you do? Can you also see a logical progression to it?

Lol! NO!! Never. Its funny, I dreamed of a life like this, but never thought in a million years it would happen. I believed I was the loser i’d always been told I was. Once I started this though the progression has been incredible, really, I pinch myself sometimes when I think about what I’ve done, even with the challenges I’ve faced. I’ve managed to meet some of the coolest people on earth doing incredible work, which constantly inspires me to be the greatest possible version of myself.

Congrats on your latest TEDx talk, do they get easier? Tips to others?

Lol, Yes and No! This was my third and will be my last I think. I’ve done two main TEDx talks and one TEDx youth which I didn’t even prepare for, because I wanted the young people there to understand they don’t have to be perfect, that they are perfect just the way they are, and yes, they can be better, but they don’t need to strive for this false sense of perfection like so many people feel pressured to. But I was sick about it, not many people who do talks only see their slide 10 mins before they go on stage, and have no idea what they’re going to say. It was very hard but I’m glad I did it. My other two main TEDx talks were very different. The first one I did on why kindness matters was only the 3rd time I’d ever even spoke in public. I was much more comfortable with my recent one, because I’ve gained so much more confidence and I know what works for me, but its still a lot of pressure and usually means before an event I really struggle with nerves, however when I’m up on stage in a weird way its like I’m free. The most important tip I could ever give someone is to not go for the over rehearsed, scripted talk, people want honesty and authenticity. So don’t be afraid to speak from the heart, if you do, people will always be drawn to you.

You are working with some of the big tech companies now, how can they incorporate your ideas into their working practices?

Generally when I do a talk for a company or workshops what I do is very simple, but it often has a really big impact. Kindness is something which is really underestimated, but it can help improve productivity, loyalty, happiness and general well-being in the workplace. If you care about your business you have to care about your workforce. I know a few companies now that have made kindness one of their core values and its having a profound impact. The key though is that its sincere, dont just say it, it has to come from the top.

What tips would you give to managers / people running offices in terms of how to work with people in an effective but empathetic/compassionate way?

To be honest but in a kind way. This is why having a coaching philosophy in the working place can be vital, because rather than ruling with fear, you empower people to reach the best of their potential. Also to really listen, we dont always truly listen to what people are saying, which is why people can end up having conflict and not working together as a team.

What are your plans for the future? What would you like to do more of?

I love what I do, especially the talks and workshops. But lately I’m being asked to consult on social media strategies, more so with Facebook platforms and I love it. I didn’t realize I had so much value to offer in this regard, but now I’m starting to see that I’m very different to your traditional marketeer and I have a lot to offer in regards to growing a real and genuine community online. For me I just do what I do, but being able to regularly reach over 2 million people weekly online is quite an asset to have, by all accounts. 🙂 I also have a big dream to really take kindness to the next level, but I need to find the right support first.

Are we moving into a more caring / thoughtful society? If so / not, why?

Yes, we sure are. Right now there is a lot of talk around mindfulness, and i predict that there is going to be a huge shift towards kindness. There is so much data and research coming out in regards ot it its only a matter of time before the entire world stands up and takes note, even now a new report says that Intelligence is good, but empathy is better. So say 78% of teachers in a new survey released by Sesame Workshop when asked if they’d prefer their students be kind or academically successful. Likewise, the survey found 73% of parents prefer kindness over academic success, while 26% preferred the reverse.

You’re a social media coach, how do you manage online / offline, worklife balance?

Its always a battle. I mean its 24 hours a day 365 days a year in truth. I’ve 4 young kids, so I have to be fair to my family, although its not always easy. I’m very accessible and if someone reaches out to me I always try to respond, so due to the level of people that reach out to me, i have to have some rules in place. I have some really good friends who help me manage all of this, which I’m very grateful for, but I generally try and keep family time to family time. Otherwise I feel I get burnt out and my family don’t always see the best of me when I get like that. SO to be true to me, you have to be kind to yourself and make sure you’re not trying to give from an empty place. This is always an ongoing battle though.

Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked you?

I like Chinese tea? How about that. 🙂

Perhaps I would also add the importance of inspiring kindness in others can not be underestimated. Negativity breeds negativity, so I always feel each of us is so accountable to create the world we want to live in.


If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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