A wise friend of mine always says that I should assume good intent with everyone with whom I come into contact. I try to do this instead of making snap judgments and reacting in the moment, but it isn’t always easy to practice in real life.
For example, a couple of weeks ago I accidentally bumped someone with my ginormous handbag on the NYC subway. Her response was, well let’s just say not very nice and included a four-letter word. The old me would have retorted with something snarky, but the new me, who lately has been going through a lot personally and who keeps hearing the “assume good intent” words in her head on loop, simply apologized and wished her a better day. I instantly felt better. I was the bigger person and didn’t react negatively (woo hoo)! And more importantly I was kind, because I knew that her anger had nothing to do with me and rather was about something going on in her own life. If each of us was more empathetic toward each other, we would eliminate so much unnecessary conflict and drama.
I wanted to write about being kinder to others to remind myself and others because so many of us are carrying around heavy personal baggage on a daily basis that impacts us. In fact, it’s a miracle on some days that we can even function being saddled with this much baggage. It doesn’t matter how successful or old one is, everyone deals with personal and professional issues that affect our moods and impact our interactions with others. And while we don’t have control over what others do, we do have control over our own actions, how we deal with the cards we’ve been dealt and how we interact with others.
It is not often apparent to the naked eye the struggles that someone is facing internally. Many people can hold it together during the workday and then break down as soon as they get home. Others struggle all day long. The bottom line is to treat everyone with kindness because you just don’t know what someone is dealing with on any given day. You could really make a difference in someone’s life with a simple gesture of support or kindness.
Why should we be kinder? Well it makes us happier for one. It reduces stress and anxiety. Research suggests that kind people are often healthier and life longer. It’s calming. And it’s the right thing to do. I believe kindness is contagious. Kind acts encourage other kind acts.
Lately I’ve been amazed (and inspired) at how people – even strangers – can be so kind to each other through simple acts.
I’ve been going through a personal loss and having a rough month. I am not one who can hide my emotions, and so one day I was walking my dog on the street and even while wearing the largest sunglasses I own, a woman noticed that I was crying. She approached me and asked if I was okay and told me that this too shall pass. She didn’t know me and she didn’t need to do that, but she did, and I am so thankful. So, the next time you see someone struggling, please do the same – go out of your way to be kind.
While I’m on the gratitude topic, I also want to thank the Jet Blue agent who waived my change fee on a recent flight home from Nantucket because he saw I was visibly upset. I was so touched. And to the leasing agent who went above and beyond to ensure that I got the apartment that I really needed, thank you. She recognized that I was in a time of crisis and despite me being a stranger, she demonstrated kindness.
Kindness is a choice. So, choose it. How can you be kinder? Here are some simple things each of us can do in and out of the office. (And don’t forget to always assume good intent!)
- Smile even when you aren’t happy. Studies have shown that the act of smiling can trick your brain into happiness.
- Hold the door open for someone
- Don’t sweat the small stuff – let it go
- Offer a hug or gesture of affection to someone who needs it
- Listen versus talk
- Go out of your way to invite someone new into your friend circle
- Thank people who have helped you
- Give out more compliments
- Keep a gratitude journal and write down for what you are most thankful
- Reach out to someone you know needs help
- Forgive someone who hurt you
- Regularly say thank you and please
- Pay for the coffee for person behind you in line
- Drive with kindness
- Let someone in a rush go ahead of you at the checkout line
- Say “I love you” more often to your family and friends
- Offer to help an overwhelmed co-worker
- Hold the elevator open for someone
- Help the homeless
- Send thank you notes just because
- Empty the dishwasher/make the bed/take out the trash
- Tip generously
- Say hello to strangers
- Offer to babysit a friend’s child so they can have a night out
- Be nice to people you dislike – remember the phrase “kill them with kindness!”
- Make a hard copy of a photo you have and send to the person in it just because
- Get your pet certified to be an emotional support animal and bring your pet to hospitals and nursing homes
- Visit loved ones more in person – especially elderly ones
- Give away books you love to those you love
- Think before you speak
- Don’t gossip – don’t be a mean girl
- Do what you say you’re going to do (when you say you’re going to do it)
- Respond to emails, texts and phone calls especially from loved ones
- Help someone who needs more rest get it
- Pick up litter even if it’s not yours (and recycle!)
- Call your parents/grandparents more
- Say “bless you” or your preferred term when someone sneezes
- Gift something meaningful to someone
- Donate and/or volunteer for your favorite charity
- Give up your seat to someone who needs it
I’d like to leave you with a final thought to savor the everyday moments that make you happy in order to become a kinder person. Relishing the little things, such as a sunny day, when your dog finally catches a Frisbee (my dog did this just one time but it was a great moment for us), eating an ice cream sandwich (if you’re lactose intolerant find a suitable non-dairy alternative) or staring at the flowers in your garden, teaches you to be more grateful and appreciative of what you have, especially when things go wrong, and as a result, you may find yourself being kinder to others. Go with that feeling – there’s no such thing as having too much kindness.