I am excited to participate in Random Acts of Kindness Week (February 12-18).
I am passionate about kindness. Kindness in the workplace and at home. Kindness to others and to ourselves.
Often, I am called in to mediate, investigate and adjudicate what might appear to be vastly different complaints between colleagues and amongst teams. However, the issue that lies at the heart of most of these complaints is a lack of basic, simple kindness.
A lack of kindness does not require the presence of meanness. It does not require malicious intent or strategic planning. In fact, it is most commonly rooted in a simple yet palpable lack of consideration towards others – that is, a failure on our part, during our busy lives, to consider the words we use, the way we use them and their overall impact on those around us.
In an effort to facilitate more kindness in our relationships at work and at home, I offer the following food for thought:
- The fact that someone is “critical” does not mean, by definition, that they are being “mean”. Critical feedback about how we have affected or been perceived by others often feels “uncomfortable” because it is difficult to hear. However, it is only “unkind” if it is communicated or delivered in a disrespectful, antagonistic, dismissive or aggressive manner.
- Criticism does not have to be mean to be effective. In fact, most people are open to hearing feedback about their behaviour and how it might be affecting those around them. However, they become defensive and disengaged when that feedback is communicated in a manner devoid of kindness – that is, delivered with a personalized “dig”, a sarcastic tone of voice or a condescending, patronizing directive to change “who they are” as a person.
- An absence of kindness goes beyond the words we use to include the manner in which we use them – including our facial expressions (eye-rolling, smirking with sarcasm) and our body language (hovering over someone, shaking our heads dismissively, pointing our fingers in judgment).
- Our commitment to being kind to each other does not require us to agree with each other. (The corollary to this, of course, is that the mere fact that someone disagrees with us does not mean, by definition, that they are “unkind” and need to be “eliminated” from our lives or shamed in our real or on-line communities). A culture of kindness simply mandates that we discuss our disagreements with tolerance, civility and respect, appreciating that others have a right to their own viewpoints and perspectives. Mocking or humiliating others for their beliefs is not an acceptable way to advocate for our own.
- Our busy and stressful lives, at work or at home, do not justify being unkind.
- Telling our truths, fighting for our causes and proving our points do not justify being unkind.
- Being treated with unkindness does not justify being unkind in response.
- We alone are responsible for how we choose to conduct ourselves and communicate with others.
- We alone determine whether we add to or detract from a culture of kindness in our personal and professional communities.
In honour of Random Acts of Kindness Week, I urge each of you to make a commitment to kindness – to consider, with care, how you will “show up” for others. In doing so, consider how your words or actions might impact those around you. Consider ways in which you might “tweak your text” or “tone down your tone” to ensure your message lands as well as it possibly can in the circumstances.
Ultimately, a culture of civility and respect – at work and at home - starts and ends with our collective commitment to kindness. Let’s make kindness a priority - this week – and in the weeks beyond.
During Random Acts of Kindness Week, we will be giving away daily prizes for demonstrable efforts others make to make their workplaces kinder. To qualify for these draws, please complete Marli’s Random Acts of Kindness challenge and then share your story of RAK on our Facebook page in the comment section of this post or on Twitter by tagging @marlirusen. We will announce the winners on a daily basis throughout this week.