In the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy for the plight of others to escape our thoughts. We often spend so much time focusing on our needs and lamenting all of the bad things that happen to us that we don’t consider how blessed we truly are. As a society, I am often astonished at how we can be so connected and yet so disconnected at the same time.
We are so in tune to our BlackBerry, e-mail or iPhone that we don’t have time to acknowledge one another, hold the door for a stranger or have meaningful conversation with the real people in front of us. I don’t say this from my high horse; I, too, am guilty of this type of “multitasking.” But I strive to keep it in check, balancing my obsession for technical connection with my innate need for a human connection.
We have just ushered in a New Year, and there is no better time to resolve to make a positive change. I request that you join me in committing to truly make a difference this year. It won’t cost you a penny, but you’ll feel richer for doing it. It won’t require an extra minute, but you’ll feel like you gained more quality time. It’s a simple assignment, although it may not always be easy. All I ask of you is to commit to being kind … to everyone. Easy enough, right?
Being civil to those that you care about, respect and who treat you well is a piece of cake. I’m not saying that means any of us are batting 1.000 at it, but it certainly doesn’t seem like a daunting task to be nice to people who are nice to you. But the commitment that I seek is to be kind to everyone without exception. This doesn’t mean that you let people walk all over you or that you don’t stand up for yourself. It means that you carry yourself and react with dignity so that you can be proud of each and every thing you say and do.
The first and most important step in kindness is to acknowledge others. To do this properly, you must be present (i.e. not distracted by your phone, computer or any other gadget). Making eye contact, smiling and saying hello to another person could quite possibly make their day. It won’t be a bad thing for you, either — remember, what you project out to the world is what you will get back in return. When we acknowledge others, we are letting them know that their existence matters to us. Choosing not to acknowledge others doesn’t make them disappear; it just tells them that it wouldn’t really matter much to us if they did. What does “acknowledge” mean? It can be a simple “hello” or “how are you doing?”. If you make a telephone call, say “how are you today?” to the person who answers before jumping into your reason for calling.
The next step is a little trickier and can require a bit of introspection with a dose of self control, but accomplishing it will give you the greatest reward. Be kind to those who don’t deserve it.
I know it sounds crazy and may even seem a bit impossible, but I believe you can do anything you put your mind to. Think of it as killing them with kindness or a way to break the cycle of incivility — whatever it takes. At the end of the day, it’s about you, not them. It’s about you feeling good about the person that looks back at you in the mirror every day. You can’t control the actions of others, and you probably will never know the cause of their grumpiness. Once you begin depersonalizing the bad behavior, you will find room for empathy and forgiveness.
My last request of you on this civility journey is that you do what’s right. It is such a simple concept, yet I am convinced that if we all lived by this, the world would be a nicer place. I see people make decisions based on policy, or on what they can do, or what others think they should do, or a litany of other reasons. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and following your conscience is a powerful and selfless thing to do. Living your life with that kind of integrity sets the standard for all of those around you and can set the stage for good things to come.
Happy New Year — I wish you all of the joy, prosperity and civility it has to offer.