A little kindness goes a long way. (Psst: It's also contagious, and that's a very good thing!)
I thought I'd kick my humble little blog off right by tackling something I see daily in the world... a distinct lack of kindness. This is genuinely frustrating, because it's so much easier to be kind than it is to be mean! Here are four easy ways - and one challenging way - in no particular order that you can contribute more kindness to the world. As the saying goes... be the change you want to see in the world. Pass it on!
Hold the door!
I just have to start off with this. While at the bank on Monday, I opened the front door and held it for a young woman who didn't even acknowledge my existence as she charged through. Somewhat stunned, I blurted out, "You're welcome!" - which I shouldn't have, and in hindsight probably came off as snarky, though I was only trying to impart a little human awareness - and I again got exactly no reaction at all. That was pretty surprising (and disappointing)... but what followed was even more surprising.
A middle-aged woman in an impeccably tailored business suit saw what happened and hastily intercepted the young woman. The older lady squared up in front of her and stopped dead in her path. Politely - but sternly - she admonished, "Miss, you owe that gentleman an apology. That was pretty rude."
Amazingly, instead of telling the older woman off, the younger woman dropped her head in embarrassment, turned back to me, and very sincerely apologized and thanked me. I said with a smile, "Happy to!" - and that was the end of it.
Now, this isn't to point out some generational flaw... my point is simply that not only should you hold the door for folks (because it's a good thing to do), but it's just as important to appreciate folks who hold the door for you. Most of the time, it makes everyone's day, including your own.
Take the high road on social media.
Social media is an area of communication that people really get wrong far too often. Sure, we all have our own personal styles, but it's a really bad idea to argue with people online. I mean, it's bad enough to argue with people anywhere, really - but in front of the whole world? Seriously? Even if you "win" the argument, a whole bunch of folks are going to perceive you as a jerk. Who wants that?
Instead, keep it light when posting and replying. Talk about the positive things in your life. Share the fun stuff you're doing and wax nostalgic about things you've done. Talk about your hopes and dreams and encourage others to join in the fun. If something's bothering you, it's probably best if you talk to a friend or family member in person about it, or at least on the phone. If you have a problem with someone else's post, it's probably best if you talk with them privately, or at most, give them a gentle nudge in a positive direction. If you can't do either of those, it's probably best if you just ignore their negativity, rather than pouring gas on the fire.
Along the same line of thought... wish people a Happy Birthday! Who doesn't love to hear from friends and family on their special day? I don't do this nearly as often as I should. My resolution right here and now is to do this more.
Give people a break.
Say you're at the grocery store and the cashier doesn't greet you and/or barely acknowledges you. Instead of putting on that pickle face, why not greet them and ask them how their day is going? Do this as cheerfully as you can - you don't want to come across as disingenuous - and consider that they might be going through a rough patch in their life and could use a lift. We all need it, from time to time. Your good cheer might just make their day and help them over the hump.
When I was a cashier, I always tried hard to engage my customers and help them feel appreciated. Even though I can't say I was thrilled with my retail job back then, I always appreciated that the person I was serving was the reason I was still employed. Still, I'd occasionally have down days, and on those days, it was wonderful to have a customer pick up my mood for a change.
A quick note here for those of you who have never worked retail: It can be frustrating and very, very stressful. Please don't add to their misery by being mean... and always tip appropriately. If you can't afford to tip, you probably don't have the money to be eating out, anyway.
It's driving, not racing.
Holy jeez, our manners are getting worse as our roads become more congested. The inconsiderate behavior of others can be incredibly aggravating... but you know what? It's a safe bet that others feel that way about you, too! Think about it - did you forget to signal while cutting somebody off to gain those precious few car lengths during your frantic commute to work today? Did you prevent a truck from exiting the gas station parking lot, because you just couldn't spare a few more seconds? Did you stray into a nearby lane while you checked that all-important text message? Did you scare the heart out of somebody by turning in front of them? Be honest.
Here's a really obvious observation - at least to me - you won't get where you're going any faster by being rude and impatient. I've lost count of the number of times I've witnessed folks weave in and out of traffic, cut people off, and speed way over the limit... only for me to pull up right next to them at the next red light. I like to smile big and wave cheerfully at these folks. They probably think I have special needs or I'm mildly insane, but I'm good with that. It's a reminder to them that they ought to just go with the flow.
Again, for emphasis: just go with the flow. Traffic absolutely will be infuriating at times. There's no helping that, unless you work for the Department of Transportation. Please don't add to the tension. Nobody benefits from that. And... here's a brilliant idea! Leave earlier.
Be kind to a meanie.
This one requires leaving your comfort zone to make happen, because in most instances it is completely counterintuitive. Bad behavior attracts bad behavior. When we encounter someone being mean, our natural reaction is to be mean back to them or just avoid them outright. I get it - it's extremely stressful, and kindness is about the last thing on your mind when you're offended.
At an amusement park once, I saw a little girl pluck a flower from a nearby bed and give it to a guy who was giving a snack bar worker grief over how long his food was taking. She didn't say anything... she just held out the flower until he softened and accepted it. I've never heard so many "Awww!"s in my life, and it was immediately impossible for the guy to stay mad. It was incredible.
Seriously, be kind... even if they refuse to be kind in return. Even if it doesn't seem like your kindness is getting through to them in that moment. Even if you think it'll make them angrier, or meaner, or whatever. Even if - and especially if - you're afraid to. You don't have to call them out on their meanness - you're not confronting them - just be kind back to them. There's a very good chance that they'll reflect on it later and realize that even though they were being mean, you had the patience to be kind to them... and if enough people do that, they'll eventually stop being so mean.
Remember: the meaner they are, the more they need your kindness. And, whatever their problem, kindness is a fantastic answer. It won't always help, but at the very least, it can't hurt, you know?
As always, I welcome your positive feedback, thoughts, and suggestions for future articles - feel free to contact me any time!
Kill 'em with kindness,
P.S. Take this excellent bit of advice from the Dalai Lama with you today, and every day...
And it is always possible, even when somebody seriously tests your patience. Try it and see for yourself!
Feel free to speak your mind via the commenting system - all I ask is that you do your best to keep your comments on the positive and constructive side, and that you respect the views of others. Have fun!
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