Because ‘Kind’ Matters.
Many years ago, I remember a couple of my employees struggling with a lack of kindness in the workplace. One of them happened to be my mom (yes…my mom worked for me, but that’s a different story for an entirely different newsletter). We hung a sign in the office that said “Kind Matters” and made it a point to talk to our team, often and intentionally, about kindness and bullying (yes – adult bullying does exist) in the workplace. That sign long-held a place of honor, right next to the large portrait of my mom’s favorite Seinfeld character: Kramer. (Our team values evolved to consist not only of kindness and respect, but also of humor, clearly).
Several years later I was facilitating a series of training sessions for a large group of new leaders – We talked regularly and passionately about ideas like Culture, Values and Presence. A recurring theme was kindness. I vividly remember one of the participants commenting how interesting he thought it was that we spent so – much – time talking about treating other people kindly and with respect…simply because they were human beings, and as fellow humans, deserved as much. That he’d never in his career gotten the message that that was important before now.
Over the past two weeks I have heard from friends and clients who are struggling with a kindness-drought (both in their own lives, and in those of their children):
– A teacher being verbally harassed, and feeling powerless by both students and parents
– A pre-teen girl being excluded from invitations with her peers, and feeling lonely and desperate to fit in
– A teenager being racially targeted by peers and not know how to defend himself
– A woman feeling intimidated in her workplace and subsequently believing herself to be incapable
– A teenage girl being cyber-bullied and feeling alone, to the point she is considering changing schools
This is a very small handful of examples…but every day I hear things from my clients that make my heart hurt:
“I’m not smart enough to do that job.”
“I’m not good enough to be selected for that project.”
“I don’t really deserve to find someone that loves me that much.”
“I’m too ___________________ (insert your own adjective here: fat, lazy, dumb, poor, etc.)”
Some of these abuses are more subtle, others are more systemic. And I say all this knowing all too well that I am just as guilty as anyone: of making uninformed judgments, of being unkind or impatient with myself and others, or of not always defending the victimized.
Years ago I did an experiment with my kids:
Each of them selected two apples from a bin at the grocery store. Each kid wrote “Good Apple” on one, and “Bad Apple” on the other. For two weeks, the kids were assigned to get up each morning and say loving, kind things to their “good apple”, and to do the same at night. To their “bad apple” they called it names like “stupid”, “ugly”, “bruised”, etc.
At the end of two weeks, we cut the apples open. Both of the “bad apples” were soft, bruised, wilted. The “good apples”? Untarnished. Fresh. Bright. Beautiful. (Delicious)!
That experiment taught all of us an important lesson: Our words have impact. Our expectations create the reality. And if we can’t count on others to be kind to us (or kind in general), we have to learn to be kind to ourselves.
I don’t know the solution to all of our world’s problems…in fact, I don’t think I know the solution to any of them (man do I wish that I did)…but I do know that I will do my best, one day at a time, to practice kindness: both for myself, and to/for the world around me. And I’ll commit to trying to teach my clients and kids to the same:
If you would like some support in your own life, learning how to develop your own confidence and self-appreciation, don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation with me.