The good news is we are wired to be kind. The bad news is that sometimes we forget. Kindness doesn’t require grand gestures; little things can make a big difference. Here are a few small ways to weave everyday kindness into the tapestry of your life:
PLEASE & THANK YOU
I can hear echoes of my mom’s voice: “What do you say?” prompting me to say “please” or “thank you.” When I became a parent, I urged my son with the same question.
Saying “please” and “thank you” to the people in our life — family, friends, cashier, parking attendant, landscaper, wait staff, customer service representative — is a game changer.
When I was in corporate America and taught “It’s All About Attitude” to customer service representatives, I gave each one of them a small mirror for their desk and asked them to look in it when they spoke with customers. Notice I said “with” customers, not “to” customers. That alone levels the playing field, letting customers know the conversation is a two-way street, not a dead-end.
It’s natural to smile at ourselves in the mirror. When we smile while talking, even if the recipient is on a phone and can’t see us, they can “hear” the smile in our voice. And smiling is contagious — when we see or “hear” someone smile, we often do the same.
NOT JUST FOR HUMANS
This following photograph is of my son, Evan, at Bogus Basin in Idaho. We’d gone as a family to do some hiking and were on our way back down to the car when we heard a repetitive thumping sound. Turning, we saw a small bird trapped under the plexiglass of a shuttle waiting area. Tired, hot, and disoriented, he didn’t know how to get back out.
Evan encouraged the bird onto his hand, sat in the shade, then used our dog’s traveling water bowl and gently—drop by drop—eased water onto its head and back. Finally, the bird got the idea and hopped into the bowl, using it like birdbath to splash around. Then taking a few sips for good measure, he finally flew away.
The people in our immediate sphere of influence — family and friends — are often open to a friendly embrace. In addition to boosting the recipient’s oxytocin level, a comforting hug has a boomerang effect, making us feel good, too
Many of us aren’t fond of carrying change in our purse, wallet, or pockets. Instead of hanging onto it, spread it around. Use it to pay the toll for the person in the car behind you at the tollbooth; drop it into someone’s parking meter, or put in into a charity tin at the grocery checkout counter.
DROP A LINE
In today’s technically-savvy society, handwritten cards and letters are few and far between. But every one of us knows that receiving a physical card or letter in the mail is a tremendous pick-me-up that leaves a lasting, positive impression.
[Cue Stevie Wonder in the background singing I Just Called to Say I Love You]. And while sending and receiving text messages is all the rage, they don’t replace a real, honest-to-goodness phone conversation. Especially for those of a certain age who may not be as fond of technology as the rest of us.
LEND A HELPING HAND
- Take another person’s grocery cart back to the cart corral with yours.
- Share a meal with someone who doesn’t have one.
- Hold the door open for someone.
- Let the person behind you in the grocery line go ahead of you.
- Bake cookies for your neighbor.
- Lift a heavy suitcase into the overhead compartment on the airplane or off the baggage carousel for someone the next time you travel.
- Buy a cup of coffee for the person behind you in line.
- When you pick up after your dog, if you see that someone forgot to pick up after theirs, simply add it to the bag.
THE FRIENDLY SKIES
I travel a lot. One of the coolest examples of kindness I witnessed was when a young couple and their small children were getting situated on an airplane. Before takeoff, the mom handed out individual packages of earplugs to the people sitting in the rows around them. With a friendly smile on her face she said, “I’d like to apologize in advance for any disruptions there might be.”
Everyone laughed. To my way of thinking, this was a great, parent-friendly preemptive strike on her part. After that, who on earth would complain about a crying child? No one.
“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” —Dalai Lama