Kindness Starts With You
What happened to kindness?
Do you wonder ‘what’s happened to kindness?’ The news is filled with stories of sudden rage: people resorting to violence over minor items. Bullying in schools and workplaces. Trolling on the internet.
‘Everyone’ is complaining. And yet, ‘everyone’ is part of the problem – and the solution. We don’t need politicians, religious leaders or celebrities to lead new initiatives. We just need to return to the basic manners that (most of us) learned as children.
Rein in your temper
The phone is ringing, your text messages are dinging, and What’sApp is pinging. Everyone wants something from you, and you need something from them. When it all works smoothly, great. But when one item slips off track, the whole train derails. It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and lose your temper. But really – will anyone die because that email was late? Will the whole family starve because someone put onions in the salad? Before you explode, take a breath and think about what’s really consequential, and what is a minor hiccup. Then react accordingly.
Embrace Diversity of Thought
Diversity of thought is sometimes called ‘the art of thinking differently together.’ But social media algorhythms work against this, showing us more of what we already like. Whether it’s a political perspective or cute kitten videos, your feed quickly becomes an echo chamber. You forget that other people, with other viewpoints, might have something interesting to say. I’m saddened to find advice about how not to talk about controversial subjects with family on line. In my family, we learned to debate, and to listen, at the dinner table. Stop avoiding the discussions. Start listening instead of immediately telling people who disagree with you how wrong they are. You might learn something valuable.
What if it was me?
Before posting, emailing, or speaking, imagine how you would feel on the receiving end of that comment. Would you be angry? Insulted? Hurt? Or would you think, ‘well, we don’t have to agree, but at least she listened’? Recently on Quora someone asked whether they needed to learn Mexican to go to Mexico. A disheartening number of people called the poster stupid. Very few spoke to the real question: here was someone visiting another country, asking for advice on how to interact with the locals. People who answered with kindness said things like ‘before you go, learn to say Hello, please, thank you, and I am sorry, I don’t speak Spanish.’ They didn’t need to point out the error, just gently corrected it. Wouldn’t you rather read that, than read, ‘You idiot, Mexicans speak Spanish. If you don’t know that, don’t bother to visit!’
A little kindness goes a long way
Every day brings the opportunity to perform small acts of kindness. Take advantage of those opportunities. Say thank you when someone holds the lift door for you, or hold it for someone else. Tell a colleague that that you thought they did a good job on their last project. Praise a child for their actions, not their looks or possessions. Give up a seat for someone on public transport (where I live, this is not kindness, it’s an expected standard of behavior). Or try one of these 103 suggestions.
You can change the world
What’s the solution to the negativity in our world? Follow these simple rules. Teach them to the children around you. Model them at home, at work, and in your social life. Demonstrate kindness. It all starts with you.