Some people always seem to be in a rush, but most of us end up rushing around at times, and it’s usually not good for us. Not only that, but it can also have a negative impact on how we treat other people, as was discovered in a famous 1970s psychology experiment.
Two psychologists, John Darley and Daniel Batson, were interested in why people help other people and whether helping behaviour was more connected to something about the people (their personality or motivations) or the situation. They conducted an experiment in which a group of students, who were studying to be priests, had to walk by themselves to another building to give a talk. Before they set off, the students were broken into three groups: the first group was told that they were early, the second group was told that they were on time, and the last group was told that they were late and needed to hurry. On the way to the other building they saw a man lying down in the street moaning and in need of help.
The results were that 63% of the ‘early’ group stopped to help, 45% of the ‘on time’ group stopped, and only 10% of the ‘late’ group stopped to help. Although many of us have ideas about who we are, like, ‘I’m the type of person who …’, the results suggest that situations can have a powerful effect on how we behave, and being in a rush greatly reduces how likely we are to stop and help someone. Interestingly, some of the students were actually going to the other building to give a talk on the Good Samaritan (a religious story in which a Samaritan stops to help a man in need), but this had little impact on whether or not they stopped.
As well as reducing how willing we are to help other people, rushing also means we miss some of the moments of life, and it can be bad for our health and happiness. Psychologist Rick Hanson explains that although we might experience some excitement when hurrying, often there is more stress and anxiety, which over time is bad for your mind and body. Patrick Buggy adds that hurrying is often not worth it. Writing on the Mindful Ambition website, he explains that rushing is a simple exchange: you put in extra mental and physical energy to catch up, but the costs outweigh the benefits, as rushing only ever saves you a little bit of time, but it adds stress and anxiety to your life and might even lead to a disastrous outcome like crashing your car.
Although sometimes rushing is necessary to get what we want, Hanson explains that often we do it because of external pressures or because we put too much pressure on ourselves to meet unrealistic internal standards. And Buggy adds that rushing is often connected to fear, a useful tool from our evolutionary past. Fear helps us by motivating us to act to avoid dangers, but as there are fewer dangers these days, our brains react with the same fear response to less serious situations like being late for work, he explains. He suggests that when you notice that you’re hurrying, stop and ask yourself, ‘what is the worst that can happen if I don’t rush?’ – it probably won’t be that serious, he says, and you might realise that rushing isn’t worth the risk and the extra stress.