I recently read a social media post. A lady was thanking a stranger who had given her 20p at a hospital parking machine. The small donation had enabled her to visit her dad. It turned out to be their final farewell, as he passed away that evening.
This story shows that making a difference doesn’t need to cost a fortune; in fact, it need not cost a penny. We all have it in us to be kind. We can easily smile and greet someone with a warm welcome.
Definitions of being kind include words like considerate, benevolent, caring, generous and friendly.
When I think of being kind, a simple saying springs to mind:
“Treat others how you would like to be treated.”
One Kind Word
The theme for Anti-bullying week is ‘One Kind Word’.
One kind word can be all it takes to make someone’s day a little brighter. It costs nothing, takes minimum time or effort, yet lifts spirits.
When a stranger pays you a compliment, says ‘thank you’ or engages in a short conversation, you feel noticed. When you are having a tough day, these moments are a light in the dark. They help to build resilience.
Taking this a little further, isn’t it wonderful when someone offers a nugget of advice or goes over and above to help you get what you were looking for? They apply their resources and knowledge to give you a hand.
If you understand how these small actions make your day, then it’s easy to give your time to acknowledge and help someone else or simply pay them a genuine compliment.
The Key to Happiness
The great news is that being kind has mutual benefits. Studies have shown a correlation between helping others and feeling happy. Taking time for conversations with neighbours, colleagues and customers build a sense of belonging. When you listen to others, you learn and you build relationships. It helps you appreciate what you have and reduces social anxiety. These connections make us part of a network.
This link between being kind and feeling good is nothing new. Ancient Chinese proverb states:
“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. A day, go fishing. A year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”
There is also a belief that kindness has a ripple effect. When someone helps us out and lifts our spirits, we are more likely to be generous towards another. This is how a sense of community is formed; both in work and in the neighbourhood.
Sometimes it’s Hard to Be Kind
Helping a customer to reach an item on a high shelf or get the best deal when they renew may come naturally. It’s part of your role, you value your customers and are happy to assist. Giving a stranger 20p or saying ‘Good morning’ isn’t too taxing, but sometimes being kind is a little more difficult.
You want to help, yet feel apprehensive about offering or getting involved. You might need to stand up for someone who isn’t being treated fairly. Are you prepared to challenge to help another? You may see a customer who is upset or distressed; do you approach them to ask how you can help? Those in vulnerable circumstances are in greatest need of kindness.
When in conversation with some customers, it can be frustrating when you need to keep going over the same information. Drawing on your reserves of tolerance and patience can be testing. You have so many other demands on your time, yet, think of it from their perspective. There is a reason why they need more time to absorb the information. They have better ways to be spending their time too. If you can be kind and stick with it, you can help them to make the right decisions.
When people are having a tough time, their responses may be aggressive or dismissive. Do you take offence or are you able to stay calm, be polite and show empathy? If someone complains, do you switch off or get defensive or do you listen, accept the feedback and see if you can turn things around?
At times, the best way to be kind is to think before speaking or say nothing at all. Accepting the other person’s views or actions if they conflict with your own is tough. Listening without judgement takes self-control, yet simply allowing someone to air their views is a form of kindness.
Saturday was World Kindness Day, but this should be something we strive for every day. Make time to notice, appreciate and help others at every opportunity. Listen and respond with kindness; your actions will have a positive impact.