Being kind seems so simple. It’s common sense right? We just need to be a friendly, generous and considerate person. But why does it seem so hard? You’re probably reading this thinking, “It’s easy for me, I’m always kind. It’s others around me that aren’t kind!” But what if we are unintentionally unkind? What if our acts of kindness negatively impact another?
I recently presented on the ‘Gathering of Kindness’ forum for Monash Health which made me look further into the many benefits of kindness. In particular, the small acts of kindness in my own recovery that truly made life in my new realm, tolerable. Also, the impact on my life when others were not so kind.
In this presentation, I focussed on six of the expressions of kindness. Expressions that challenged them to reflect on their practices. Encouraging them to slip extra acts of kindness into their days. Becoming more mindful of how powerful these acts can be in enhancing their ability to care and the experience of those who receive that care.
I have summarized these expressions below –
1.Speak with Kindness
The impact it had on me when I was spoken to poorly. Also, when another spoke rudely of another behind their back or directly to them in my presence. As a patient, I lost so much respect for those who spoke in this unkind manner. In delving into this quality, I learnt that there is a direct relationship between staff well-being and patient well-being. It’s said that unkind and disruptive behaviours by staff not only undermine team effectiveness but also are barriers to cooperation and lead to more mistakes and poor outcomes.
If we feel intimidated or berated by another how can we feel confident to perform at our best? How can we change the manner in which we speak to each other? Are our words actually only hindering our ability to be kind? Also, consider the way you talk to another. Also how you speak about another. Does it empower them? Does it put them in a good light?
2. Think with Kindness
Often we forget to stop and listen to another. We assume our acts are meeting their needs. But are we disempowering them by our belief and subsequent action? Perhaps in our assumption we are unintentionally hindering their recovery or performance & tainting the rapport we’re building with them.
Consider if you are pre-empting another’s needs. Are you performing a task the way you’ve always done it or how you’d like it to be carried out? Have you thought to find out what the other person wants?
3. Attend with Kindness
At times we forget that how we communicate both verbally and non-verbally impacts our ability to be kind. For example, what if another walks by and we want their attention but they’re too busy to stop and attend to our needs. Instead, they pretend you’re not seeking their attention and keep going with the task they’re doing. This action may not affect some. But perhaps when someone is vulnerable or struggling to communicate, this act is interpreted by another as unkind and disempowering.
Become mindful of how your body language, postures, eye contact could be misleading another. In avoiding eye contact or crossing your arms what message are you conveying? Radiate Kindness in all your attending skills – from eye contact to your body language. If someone approaches you with openness, warmness – you feel that much better.
4. Act with Kindness
I write in Reinventing Emma about how some acts “…only reinforced my feelings of dependency and powerlessness…” Whether it was not closing a door or not leaving the buzzer within my reach. The numerous times when I’ve mustered up the energy to state my needs only to receive the complete opposite. For example my preference for a ‘coffee” when asked if “I’d like a cuppa or coffee’ only to be given “a cup of tea” by my carer. I feel unheard and their act has only heightened my frustration and left me coffee-deprived (Chapter 26, p.168).
Remembering to ‘Act with kindness’ in all that you do – often we might not realize the impact of our own actions. When another person is adversely affected by our actions is that kind? Do we ever stop and see that the way we act actually hinders another? Perhaps we need to consider if our actions are going to empower another or only create further obstacles.
5. Enable with Kindness
In my everyday, it’s the little acts of kindness that enable me to participate in life again and perform at my best. Whether it’s my mum stoking my freezer with meals, my friend offering to drive me to yoga or a stranger giving me a smile. These acts also counteract the inevitable obstacles I encounter, making them easier to tackle.
Remembering that we can really disempower another with our acts. Small acts of kindness, with no expectation of our efforts being reciprocated, can hugely change someone’s day. Perhaps become mindful of how your actions could enable another to participate and perform better. How could you make this possible?
6. Acknowledge with Kindness
Feeling appreciated and valued is essential to building and sustaining good relationships. It also ensures that our self-worth remains intact. There are so many ways that we can become more mindful of our own ability to be kind. A thank you note or taking time to acknowledge someone’s efforts can make their day. Also, being mindful of the domino-nature of this act on yourself and all those around you – both those directly impacted and also those who have observed this act.
How can you act with kindness today? Write a letter, give another a gift for no reason, smile at a stranger – remembering small acts of kindness make all the difference to someone’s day.
Kindness seems so easy but can actually hinder another’s life if we aren’t mindful about how we deliver it. It’s a quality which can be expressed in so many different forms. Considering how we can only be more effective in the kindness we deliver. Let’s empower another with delivering more acts of kindness everyday. Remember – “Kindness is FREE… sprinkle that stuff everywhere!”