I was coaching a manager I will call Mike who had contacted me because he was having trouble getting along with his employees. I had sent him a card congratulating him on a great accomplishment. He commented to me – “You are a kind person. That’s my problem… I’m just not a kind person.” His comment surprised me because being kind is not all that hard. Here are a few suggestions…
- Ask yourself what kindness looks like – I asked Mike to tell me what kindness would look like to him. What would you be doing if you were a “kind person”? He came up with a list and decided to start with only one or two items.
- Present – I am amazed these days at how many people are so deeply absorbed with their electronics or their own thoughts that they barely notice what is going on around them. In order to practice being kind, you must first be aware of opportunities. One rainy afternoon, I was returning my empty shopping cart to the store. A young woman walked beside me texting all the way to the store totally oblivious that she could have offered to take my cart.
- Intention – Start each day with the intention to find ways to be kind. You will be amazed at how many opportunities will show up. You can also hold the opportunity to meet difficult opportunities with kindness. Intentions help to remind you of your desire to be kind.
- Courtesy/ Manners – Yes, kindness includes manners. Simply saying please and thank you will go a long way. A Facebook friend of mine living in NY shared that she got on the subway recently. She was 7 months pregnant and carrying a toddler. Not one person offered her a seat. I don’t know about you, but I would have been on my feet in an instant. Kindness matters.
- Start simple – Start by smiling at people. Say “Good Morning”. Hold the door. Share a kind word. One of my favorite simple kindnesses happens while I’m waiting. If I have to wait somewhere, I get out my phone. I scan my contacts for friends I have not connected with recently and then I send them a text just to say I’m thinking of them.
- Find a way to help – People don’t always ask for help when they need it. I know I have a hard time asking because I don’t want to impose. The first week in February I got that awful virus. I was sick for a full week and became badly dehydrated. One evening, my friend Sally called me on her way home from a meeting. She said – “I’m stopping to pick up some wonton soup and I’m going to bring some for you. Can you make it to the door?”
- Generate a system – People are amazed that I remember their birthday and send a card. The truth is I have a system. I have a calendar with birthdays of my important people – family, friends, and team members. It is also marked about 3 days earlier to “Mail card to Karen”, etc. In fact, at the beginning of each month, I sit down and write all the cards for that month. Then I hold them until the date they are supposed to be mailed. If you are thinking of a kindness practice, find a way to automate it or set up reminders.
- Know your team – An important part of practicing kindness at work is to know your team. Know what is going on at work and in their personal lives. This does not mean you should pry, but if you have a good relationship, they will most likely tell you. If you know they have a sick child at home or a spouse starting a new job, remember to follow up with a simple “how is it going?” question. “How is your son feeling this morning?” or “How is your husband enjoying his new job?”
- Look for ways to incorporate kindness at work – Talk with your team about ways you can incorporate kindness at work – with each other or with your customers. One idea might be to start or close a weekly meeting with opportunities for them to recognize/ thank each other. As a customer, I love going to Chick-fil-a. When I place my order and they tell me the total, I often respond “Thank you” and they respond – “It’s my pleasure.”
- Volunteer – Inside work or outside – find opportunities to volunteer. Many organizations actually provide employees time off for volunteering. You may find that volunteering together is a great way to build a team.
I hope these ideas help you enhance your kindness practice! Please write to tell me if you have something special you do. I’d love to share it! I look forward to talking with you again in April! Please drop me a line if you have questions or if you would like me to write about something specific.