I’m tired of having lower standards. How about you?
I’m tired of expecting that the person who I get coffee from every day will not even look at me when she asks for my order, takes my money, passes me the cup and hands me change. I’m tired of not being surprised when I ask, “How are you?” and people skip the response, choosing to go straight into bitching about their boss, traffic or the weather instead. I’m tired of settling for the loss of kindness that is so common in our interaction with each other.
I want to start a campaign for kindness that involves a concerted effort to make eye contact in public, smile in greeting to strangers and say “thank you” every time someone gets the door for me. Three things. The contagion begins here. My personal campaign for kindness is on.
I admit it…I’m already pretty compulsively kind. To. A. Fault. As in, the I-don’t-know-how-to-say-no kind of kind. I’m that person who talks to everyone (ask my kids), does the please and thank you way too many times with customer services folks and makes a comment like, “You go, girl” when someone is really working their butt off.
I know I could do more. Couldn’t you? What if we all did way more of those three things I mentioned? That’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout…
Let me take you back to where my ‘kindness awareness rant’ started to roll out.
Thank you KOMers for reading my post here in December where I tasted the holiday spirit on the streets of Gotham with our own Lara Heacock and declared that I’d found kindness behind the camera lens. Out of that curation of kindness I decided to spend monthly space walking my talk here on KOM in 2017.
I wrote about being happily surprised to find kindness in New York, despite warnings. (Sorry you get a bad rap, New York.) But walking around in my everyday life, I have to admit that we really aren’t that kind to each other in public places, crowded places and busy places. Is that what our lives living in communities, towns and cities have become?
It’s counter-intuitive to me. What I mean is, so many of us do not want the isolation that goes with quiet, reclusive or utterly private lives. Many of us, in fact, would admit to fearing a life where we didn’t have access to other people and constant interaction when we want it. Knowing that most of us do not want to be entirely alone, isolated geographically or socially, wouldn’t you think our behavior might be a little more conducive to congeniality?
Emotional regulation doctoral student, Adrienne Wood and her colleagues, among other geniuses, have done the work to bring some proof to bear on what I might expect the results to be from my January strategy to inject more kind into the universe. Here’s the proof: smiling is contagious. In fact, emotions are contagious. We cannot resist mimicking an emotion we see on another person. I’m oversimplifying for blog brevity of course, but there is plenty of formal behavioral and neuroscience proof. Anecdotally, (please try this yourself at home and everywhere else) if you smile at someone while walking towards him or her, they will smile back. They just will. It isn’t just babies that mirror our facial expressions, we do it to each other.
For the next few hours, days or weeks I’ll be marking my efforts to do more of these things. I hope you’ll try these three things, too as I work my little #campaignforkind.
Make eye contact in public: Try it with the cabbie who turns to talk to you or meets your gaze in the rear-view mirror. Start with that. That’ll do.
Smile in greeting with strangers: When that person you’re about to have a meeting with walks towards you, smile directly at them before you extend your hand in introduction. Ice broken, check.
Say thank you: To the guy that catches the door of your building for you because your hands are full. Or that person who stops the elevator doors from closing as you dash to get in. Say “Thank you.” Just say it. Even if you can’t catch their eye or you have no idea what they even looked like as they saved you from being crunched. Shout a “Thank you” after them.
I’ll be practicing some awareness of how people react when I do more of this. I’m counting on the contagious part of kindness. I’ll be looking for the corners of mouths raised, nods of recognition or the crow’s feet creases in the eyes of people who feel just a little better about living their lives pressed up against others, because I looked them in the eye, smiled a hello or said “Thanks.” I hope you’ll join me. Drop me at line at email@example.com and let me know how it feels.
Article also posted at Kind Over Matter.