I suspect that many will see the title here and think: “I’m a kind person; I don’t need to read more.” Wait; don’t go! Please read on. I am not talking about being kind when everything is humming along smoothly. I’m talking about the pivotal importance of being kind even when we feel angry or offended, and how to do it.

Kindness lubricates the interlocking pieces of a strong democracy or cohesive working group. Many other elements are crucial, too, but without kindness, persistent friction corrodes the mechanisms and reduces the effectiveness of the overall system. Kindness is an essential element for creating an environment in which everyone can thrive.

Equally important, we cannot understand those with whom we disagree without kindness, because understanding requires us to be open-minded and open-hearted. We hear (and are heard) when there is a generosity of spirit, even as we challenge certain ideas.

Many will be quick to say: "But I cannot be kind to someone who says something reprehensible! That would condone such behavior." Of course, there are instances when we may choose not to engage because we find a statement or action to be so egregious that it does not deserve recognition. But before we condemn, are we sure we have understood that person correctly? Does the other person agree that we have understood correctly?

There is an art to resisting, disagreeing, or standing firm while being kind, and it takes practice to develop. This is not about turning the other cheek; it is about staying in alignment with our own moral compass and leading from within, rather than living our lives in reaction to others.

Certainly, it is challenging to be our best selves in every circumstance, but we get better the more we do it. Personal Leadership (PL) is a set of defined practices that helps develop these skills. Most importantly, when it is in play it shifts the dynamic of the interaction and changes what we put out into the world.

The more we practice kindness in our everyday lives, the more easily it will come forth in times of stress or disagreement. When we think about kindness received, it puts us in a positive frame of mind. When we share affirmative stories, we inspire each other. This is not Pollyanna speaking; it actually works.

Right now we spend a lot of time sharing outrage, dismay, and grievances. We form tribal alliances based on what we agree is wrong—in Washington, in classrooms, in our communities. Let's rebalance a bit, and also share stories of unexpected kindness.

We can shift the energy of our environments, one interaction at a time, and I invite you to help make that happen.

Would you be willing to briefly share your story of receiving an unexpected kindness in the Comments section below? It will inspire others, and it deserves to be shared. And it would make my day. Thank you!  :-)

Copyright © 2018 Sharon V. Kristjanson. All rights reserved.

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