We think we know what kindness is. But it is good to look at the fundamentals of kindness to be more likely to make our acts of kindness more effective. The fundamentals, according to Atkins and Salzhauer in The Kindness Advangage: cultivating compassionate and connected children, are:
Acceptance of others as they are is a great kindness in this age of fearing and hating others for what they are when they are different from us. In order to accept others we need to be fully accepting of ourselves as we are. When this occurs we are more open to exchanging ideas and customs with others. This, then, helps bring us together. We can find ways to relate to others rather than keeping our distance. We can be aware of our differences, aknowlege them and how they contribute to our uniqueness, but we don't allow the differences to interfere with acceptance. Make connections with people who are different from you.
Commitment to making kindness a way of life for you and your family will begin to change the world. It is easy to think of being kind, but we need to act on it when given a chance. And watch for those opportunities as we encounter our world. "Being kind involves your whole being: body, mind, and heart." You may find that it is easier to see the opportuniteis to choose kindness when you are alone, but try not to ignore them when you are with someone else. That way you will be modeling kindness to others and encourage them to be more kind.
Connection with others and sharing ideas is the foundation for a meaningful relationship. Connecting with someone is about paying attention, listening, watching, and being there. "Dispite language, culture, neighborhood, or physical differences, we have the ability to connect with anyone, because at our core we are the same." When you connect, truly connect, for even a few minutes, you have a better chance to know what kind of kindness the other person needs. Sometimes making that connection is the kindness they need at that moment.
Empathy is the abiity to understand another person's internal experience, whether you agree or disagree with that experience. Empathy is unlike sympathy, when you make assumptions about how the other person is feeling. Understanding someone else's experience requires you to listen carefully and watch closely, putting your own reactions aside and focus on the other person's experience. We can try to understand their situation from both our head and our heart, making our responses meaningfult to them. What you need may not be what they need.
Giving kindness is the action that results from your kind thoughts and your awareness of the other person's needs or wants. Giving to others benefits even the giver. It creates a positive response in our brain that makes us feel good. There are lots of ways to give, of course. And as you become more empathic your giving will become more gratifying to you and the other person as well.
Interest can lead you to opportunities for kindness. Learn more about what interests you, and look for opportunities for acts of kindness. That interest might move you to help someone or do something and become part of something greater than yourself. There are myriad causes in the world where help is needed. Find what interests you and explore its opportunities for acts of kindness.
Nurturing gives a person the feeling that someone cares.There are countless opportunities to nurture relationships with people, animals, and plants, just by noticing and doing something. Give an honest compliment, bring someone coffee or share a snack, tend to a plant with watering or fertilizing, even a handshake can be a nurturing gesture. In this busy world where folks keep their distance, human touch has become pretty rare. And with concerns about sexual harrassment people shy away from touch. There are, however, clearly friendly caring touches of a hand or shoulder to make a point or share a laugh.
Observing is vital for learning where kindness is needed, where opportunities for acts of kindness can be found. There is much to see when we open our eyes and ears and minds to notice what otheres are doing. We may discover new things. What you observe may make you to think and act in a different way. And take time to smell the roses; be kind to yourself.
Questioning can broaden your perspective with new information. There are things we don't understand happening around us all the time. Questioning is probably the best way toward understanding and learning where acts of kindness are needed, what kinds of acts of kindness would be most appreciated. Question things that don't seem right. Investigate ways to make changes for the better.
(be) Yourself. Remember that there is no one else just like you. Everyone can offer something unique to the world. We can share our uniqueness for good in the world. Take pride in your strengths or talents so that you feel good about yourself. You are more likely to give of yourself when you value your uniqueness. Good self-esteem helps us be more engaged in our world and willing to act on the opportunities of kindness we discover.
Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give. - Eleanor Roosevelt, politician, diplomat, activist.And one more thing that helps you to be kind is your own gratitude. When you are aware of and grateful for all that you have, no matter what your financial status, you realize that there is always something that you can give. Give your time, your talent, your money, your ideas, your attention, out of gratitude for what you already have yourself.
*This post is based on information in The Kindness Advangage: cultivating compassionate and connected children, byDale Atkins PhD, and Amanda Salzhauer, MSW.