One word that has been reverberating around in my head for the last couple of weeks is kindness. So hey presto, that’s what K will be all about as it has a real feel good factor. It also helps us to build better relationships whilst making the world a nicer place to be!
Many of you will recognise curious as one of my favourite words. It started off as a bit of a joke when I was facilitating a training course with some fabulous colleagues from Sticky Change. But, over a period of time, the word curious really did resonate with me and I feel that it’s been my saving grace in helping me to keep an open mind in many sticky situations – especially those where I found people behaving in way that was out of context. It’s helped me to ask more open questions so that I may understand my audience, rather than getting them to understand my point of view, and has worked! In the majority of cases I found that I’ve ended up with a much better appreciation of where they were coming from and why they were acting in the way they were!
Although curious is still a key part of my vocabulary, I think it works extremely well with kindness. Kindness is about genuinely caring for those around you; wanting the best for them as you do for yourself and this is something that is really important to me and hope very visible in what I say and do. It is about creating a warmness and trust but is also about creating resilience. Even in my days at Mortgage Express, my motto was to kill our customers with kindness as it’s hard to be unpleasant to someone who is going out of their way to be caring and thoughtful. When I feel myself entering the critical zone about something or someone, I hear my mother’s voice saying, ‘if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!!’ I’ve tempered her voice a little as there are a number of times when I am required to give feedback that may not be what people want to hear. However, when it’s done in a way that shows people you genuinely care for them and only want them to improve, they are much more likely to be accepting of what you have to say. When you are hell bent on giving your opinions or point of view without thinking about how you can be kind in your words, the feedback will never land as you’d want it to.One quote that always resonates with me is by Lao Tzu that says
‘Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.’
When we are kind to others we all benefit. As a receiver of kindness we grow taller, feel prouder and of course much happier. As a giver, I just feel that I’ve done the ‘right’ thing and hope that it will have a positive impact on that person’s life, whether that’s through kind words or actions. Kindness is not about reciprocity. We don’t have to show kindness to get something back in return. If you think that being nice or kind to someone will manipulate them into giving you something you want, you have misunderstood the meaning!! This is deluded kindness about self-interest and being calculated in your approach and you will often fall flat on your face as you create more harm than good. My whole purpose in doing what I do is to make people feel more confident and competent in their abilities – whether that is serving customers, managing their staff or just having better conversations with their loved ones. But I wouldn’t be able to do this if I wasn’t kind to myself. For many years, I was my harshest critic. I thought I was Wonder Woman. I would expect myself to be up early in the morning, go to the gym, carry out a day’s work, have a massive ‘to do’ list to complete, clean the house, complete all the ironing, cook the dinner, entertain friends etc. And if I dropped any of the balls I was juggling, I’d be cross with myself and give myself a really good talking to. It was only after one particular period where I was giving myself a hard time that I had a light bulb moment! Would I ever use such harsh words when talking to any of my friends, family, colleagues, clients? Certainly not! I’d be caring and nurturing and look for ways to build them up rather than knock them down.
So now, I am kinder to myself. This doesn’t mean that I’m less professional, but I’ve found some great people to do the things that aren’t my strength which has taken away some of my inner anxieties. This helps me to focus on the things that I love to do, such as being a judge annually for the WOW! Awards. I get to hear so many amazing stories of people bestowing genuine acts of kindness upon one another – nationwide. It beats hearing all the doom and gloom in the news! I’ve also stopped feeling selfish when I want to do something for myself. The time I now take out for reflection and relaxation can only be good for the people with whom I come into contact as they get to see a much more stress-free me who is open to opportunities.
So let’s see what we can all do to create random acts of kindness for those around us. I love this article by Leigh McManus from the Huffington Post. She has listed 75 ideas, to help you get started, beginning with a smile!
Here are my top five tips to help us be kinder:
- Show genuine personal warmth – give without expecting anything back, as in The 100/0 Principle.
- Be empathetic and understand when your thoughts are required to be said out loud or kept to yourself. I have a little joke with my friends when one of us might say something a little critical, even if it’s tongue in cheek. We say ‘did you mean to say that out loud?’ And it just lightens the atmosphere as we burst into laughter!
- Be optimistic and upbeat as it rubs off on others
- Think about others rather than yourself. Plato said that we need to be kind, for everyone is fighting a harder battle. It’s often not until we hear the stories and experiences of others that it helps us to put our own lives into perspective.
- Look after yourself. You will feel more confident and happier which is the foundation of infecting others with your kindness! 🙂
I’d love to hear some of your stories about random acts of kindness either given or received. Have a great summer time and even if we don’t get the warmth in the weather, let’s spread it through our actions!