“Because it’s so hard to be kind to the world when all you’ve ever felt is hate. Because it’s so hard to see goodness in the world when all you’ve ever known is terror.”
― Tahereh Mafi―
Here are some things I try to do to step up my kindness when it’s really really hard.
Be cool – chill out. (Relax, don’t do it!) Why do we take everything so personally? (As if the guy blocking the intersection and making us late is trying to get us fired?) So much of our inability to be kind is thinking that our agenda is more important than everyone else’s.
Know what sets you off, and be prepared. If you’re going into a situation you know you’re going to find frustrating—crowded stores, long meetings, family dinners, phone calls with tech support—be prepared.
Connect with compassion. Instead of assuming the reason someone does something that infuriates you is because they’re thoughtless or clueless or cruel, assume it’s not the case. Suspend your judgment and keep your heart open to the possibility that they’re having a terrible day or fighting some battle you don’t know about.
Watch your mouth. Corollary to #3: Don’t assume you know someone’s whole story. Sometimes keeping your less than generous judgments to yourself is an act of kindness.
Drop the negativity. It’s easy to find things to complain about and criticize: Your cousin’s wedding was nice, but the chicken was rubbery and cold—and you feel the need to talk to everyone about it. To be kinder, push beyond the negative, try to find the positive, then share it. Tell people what you like about what they are wearing, doing or saying.
Reset yourself. If you lose your cool in a situation, don’t be afraid to stop and change gears. I was talking on the phone once to a bank customer service person who had called me several times about the same issue, so on the fourth call with her, I caught an attitude. I could hear it in my voice and feel it in my face. But I thought to myself: “Don’t you pray every day to be kind and helpful to people? Well here’s an opportunity.” So, I owned up to my behavior right there on the phone: “I am so sorry. I’m treating you so badly and you’re just trying to do your job,” I said. “There’s no reason for me to act this way.”
Don’t abuse your power. When we’re in the power position, I notice we have to work harder to be kinder.
With every move we make toward kindness, we get to check our presumptions and biases and the people on the other side of the interactions have an opportunity to adjust their preconceived notions as well. And when we move in real time to affirm the humanity of others we meet an evolving version of ourselves that makes us hopeful. Let’s all do our part as often as we can to keep our world spinning toward greater peace and possibility.