Wednesday, May 9, 2012
The Kindness Project
Too often kindness is relegated to a random act performed only when we’re feeling good. But an even greater kindness (to ourselves and others) occurs when we reach out even when we aren't feeling entirely whole . It’s not easy, and no one is perfect. But we’ve decided it’s not impossible to brighten the world one smile, one kind word, one blog post at a time. To that end, a few of us writers have established The Kindness Project.
In my work, I talk to a lot of really fatigued parents. They come to me because they have had it UP TO HERE with their kid, who is constantly arguing, hitting, kicking, spitting, back talking, etc. etc. They come to me because they are looking for answers--and for a way to make the kid act like a civilized human being.
Usually, by the time they make the appointment, they've tried every consequence allowed within the bounds of decent parenting: they've confiscated toys, privileges, video games, whatever. And they're spending nearly all their time yelling at or criticizing the kid. They're desperate to stop the shouting and the fighting, but they don't know how else to make the bad behavior GO AWAY.
So, when I tell them that the first thing they need to do is start praising the kid for the slightest good behavior, and playing with the kid in this special way ... that feels pretty weird.
Except: it works. Oh, man. Does it ever work.
There are a few reasons why. First, yes, you're rewarding behavior you'd like to see more often. But also? You're showing the kid you LIKE him.
And guess what? A kid who feels liked is more likeable.
A PERSON WHO FEELS LIKED IS MORE LIKEABLE.
You know it's true! When you feel disliked, what do you do? You probably either withdraw (*raises hand*) or you decide you don't like the person who you think dislikes you. Result? You probably act less friendly. You actually become less likeable (at least, toward the person you think doesn't like you).
But when you feel liked? You feel safe. You reach out. You connect. You're filled up a little more, so you can give a little more. It makes you braver. It helps you get through tough times, because you've got some emotional reserve in the bank.
By focusing on noticing the quiet "good behaviors" amidst all the "noise"--the information and drama and doomsday predictions tossed at us every day--we can nurture a community. By stretching a little, and letting people know when they've done something good, kind, considerate, compassionate, neat, cool, interesting, fantastic, awe-inspiring, useful, practical, difficult, impressive, selfless, quirky, original, classic, elegant ... or even just noticing them and acknowledging their place in our community, we can make it better. By taking the first step toward someone (even when it doesn't seem "deserved" or super-special, even when you're feeling tired and overwhelmed by all your own stuff), you can increase the chance we'll all benefit from his or her gifts, whatever they are.
It takes a few seconds. And a little bit of thought. Not much more than that. Even so, I know I don't do it often enough. Now I'm going to try a little harder.
Here are the other bloggers who are participating in this project. I'm honored to be associated with them:
Carolina Valdez Miller
We post the second Wednesday of every month. Want to join us? Grab our button and spread a little kindness.