Choosing Kindness is a Connecting Skill. “The choice is mine to be kind.”
How can I act kindly in this situation?
In any relationship or situation, we often have moments where we can take a little extra care and choose a kind approach. When we are friendly, generous, and considerate towards others, we help ourselves as well as them. When we make a choice to be kind, that choice gives us a sense of control and satisfaction and empowers us to be our best selves. It also empowers others because it helps them feel loved and valued.
Why Choosing Kindness — The Science
- Performing acts of kindness improves our well-being.
- People who have “low agreeableness” (hostile, antagonistic, with a propensity for conflict) report reduced depression and increased life satisfaction after performing acts of kindness.
- People who performed kind acts for others showed favorable changes in immune cell gene expression profiles.
- Curry OS, Rowland LA, Van Lissa CJ, Zlotowitz S, McAlaney J, Whitehouse H. Happy to help? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of performing acts of kindness on the well-being of the actor. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 2018;76:320-329.
- Mongrain M, Barnes C, Barnhart R, Zalan LB. Acts of kindness reduce depression in individuals low on agreeableness. Translational Issues in Psychological Science. 2018;4(3):323.
- Nelson-Coffey, S. Katherine, et al. “Kindness in the blood: A randomized controlled trial of the gene regulatory impact of prosocial behavior.” Psychoneuroendocrinology 2017;81: 8-13.
- Mascaro JS, Darcher A, Negi LT, Raison CL. The neural mediators of kindness-based meditation: a theoretical model. Frontiers in psychology. 2015;6:109.
How to Practice-Model-Coach
- Make the choice: When situations arise, such as when you encounter a difficult person in the world (a snarky classmate, a insensitive customer support rep, a nosey neighbor) take a breath and ask yourself how can you Choose Kindness in this situation. Often this takes choosing a Centering Skill or two. Can you take a few extra minutes to help? How might you just be with someone who is upset, or help to reassure them? Can you use a kind tone of voice?
- Remember a moment in your life when you did not choose kindness. Perhaps you were judgmental or rude. Think about why you did not choose kindness. What value of yours was crossed that made you judgmental or unkind? How did it make you feel? How did that impact your perception of the person? How did it change your relationship with that person? In retrospect, was there a more effective way to handle the situation?
- Recall a moment in your life when you DID choose kindness. How did that make you feel? How did that impact your relationship with this person?
- Choosing kindness even in difficult situations: When you listen with your heart, it can motivate you to act with kindness. When you see that someone is having a bad day, you can help them, regardless of how you feel about them. How does that make you feel?
- When Choosing Kindness, verbalize your process to others. For example, if you are at the grocery store and someone cuts in line you can choose to let it go, reframe the situation and share that with those close to you.
- Give yourself a pep-talk: Before going into a challenging situation (a difficult meeting, a conversation with someone you don’t get along with,), give yourself a two-minute pep talk in front of others about how you can choose kindness.
- Make the switch: If someone snaps at you, can you respond kindly? If you can center yourself and maintain healthy boundaries, sometimes a kind response can diffuse negativity.
- When you notice something about someone you like or appreciate (an outfit, their kind smile), have the courage to share the compliment. Try to do it at least once every day.
- When those around you are experiencing a tough situation, ask them to write down three things they could do to choose a kind response. Then ask them to follow through with them.
Resources for Choosing Kindness
- The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life By Piero Ferrucci
- How to Raise Kind Kids: And Get Respect, Gratitude, and a Happier Family in the Bargain by Thomas Lickona
Tweens & Teens
- Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart
- Growing Up with a Bucket Full of Happiness: Three Rules for a Happier Life by Carol McCloud
- Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed By Emily Pearson (Age 2-6)
- The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig. (Age 3-7)
- Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller (Age 3-7)
- Kindness is my Superpower: A Children’s Book About Empathy, Kindness and Compassion by Alicia Ortego (Age 3-7)
- I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoet (Age 4-7)
- Making a Difference by Cheri J. Meiners (Age 4-7)
- Have You Filled a Bucket Today: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud (Age 4 – 8)
- The Jelly Donut Difference: Sharing Kindness with the World by Maria Dismondy (Age 5-8)
- Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson (5-8)
- The Hundred Dresses (Age 8-10)