Often, being kind is associated with being weird, wimpy or even up to no good.
“She’s being so nice. What’s her motive?” people ask. There’s even a Reddit thread on the topic, in which folks talk about feeling “on guard” or express an uneasiness when receiving favors.
“Does he ever get angry? I mean, he’s always saying good things about other people.”
“He’ll never make it in the workplace. He’s a softie!”
“Such a Pollyanna. Are her glasses always rose-colored?”
Granted, there are some people who are so perpetually kind and happy it makes you wonder if they’re capable of talking about something serious for just one second. You know, stuff beyond always holding doors for others or baking muffins for colleagues and occasionally breaking away to engage in deep conversations about politics, vent about strange gym experiences or inwardly curse tangled metal hangers.
Still, when kind gestures surface — the ones that are sporadic and genuine, not creepy and self-serving — they should be seen as anything but weird and wimpy.
A Culture of Negativity
So many times people are fast to jump on the negativity bandwagon, complete with name-calling, rumor-spreading and acting unkind for the sheer sake of it. Who wouldn’t welcome more kindness in the world?
Think about it:
- Social media posts: Take a scroll and chances are, you’ll come across drama-infused innuendos directed at an unnamed person. Memes about “idiots” and strangers from around the world making off-topic, derogatory comments in a simple weather-related post is often par for the course. Social media can be a free-for-all where negativity is frequently regurgitated.
- Driving: Middle fingers. Speeding up for no other reason than to prevent the person in the other lane from turning or entering the highway.
- At work: Spreading rumors. Talking bad about other coworkers to others. Setting someone up for failure.
- In daily conversation: I’ve observed people take on the attitude of someone else in a group, agreeing with their negative comments without even knowing the entire story — or even the person being belittled. “She’s a horrible person,” someone might say. Before you know it, others are nodding in agreement, illogically piecing together half-truths and unknowns that originate from someone who has likely based their comments on, well, half-truths and unknowns.
Turning Away from Bad-Mouthing and Negative Thinking
But what if we consciously sought to reverse all of these situations, or at least the way we think about them? People can be quick to judge, unleash unkind phrases, or incessantly bash someone else in a conversation.
- Social media posts: Say something nice. If others are saying something rude about another person, don’t get in it. Share something on someone’s wall (if on Facebook) to let them know you’re thinking about them. Mention someone on Twitter, not because you hope they’ll mention you and increase your visibility in return, but because you truly enjoyed what they shared. Compliment. Encourage. Bring people up.
- Driving: Give people the benefit of the doubt. Not everyone drives in an offending manner because they’re rude to the core. They could be, but still, consider that perhaps someone cut you off because the passenger started having a stroke and had to be rushed to the hospital. Maybe a bee landed on the driver’s lips. Perhaps they just learned they won the lottery and couldn’t contain their exuberance (ok, unlikely, but still). The list goes on. Rather than jump to negative conclusions about the person behind the wheel, take a breath and be kind.
- At work: Sing the praises of another colleague. Do it in front of their boss, their team, the individual one-on-one. Strike up a conversation with someone you see in the halls, but rarely talk with. Don’t bully just because the so-called prized employee (which could be a rumor anyway) does. Ask to help someone who’s been experiencing work or personal challenges — or both.
- In conversation: Question others who constantly bash another person. Whether it’s one subtle remark or a series of accusatory words, ask about the details and if appropriate, point out something that’s not adding up. Even just a “well, behind closed doors no one really knows” type of statement can often make the other person understand that speaking ill of another often isn’t fair. If it is justified, perhaps ask the person to speak to the offending individual face-to-face, rather than vent so publicly. Say positive things to and about others rather than participate in behaviors that spin the muddy wheels of negativity.
How have you spread kindness today?
Note: this post was previously published on TheKindnessCouture.com on 4/20/17.
Originally published at medium.com