Kindness is a contagious quality. When people witness others being kind, they become inspired themselves to act alike. I found myself wanting to do the same. I wanted to make someone’s day. I wanted to be the reason that someone is smiling. There’s nothing more rewarding. At least, that’s what I thought.
I tried to show kindness continually, wherever I was with whoever I was. However, I wasn’t always doing it for another, but rather for myself. With friends, I agreed and nodded yes to protect their feelings, knowing it should be the opposite. With colleagues, I told what they wanted to hear instead of what they needed to hear. With classmates, I thought I was listening, but I was only hearing. I misunderstood kindness.
Kindness Is A Language
As the famous quote of Mark Twain goes: “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
Kindness and communication have something in common — both require paying attention. Whether it’s through words, a smile, a touch, or a gift. What I saw in myself was lack of awareness of the way I sometimes treated colleagues, friends, or anyone who wanted attention. I hurt people unintentionally, which hurts my ability to communicate kindness with them.
People are complex and sensitive, making it easy to forget the vulnerability we all have. We hardly show true feelings, because we don’t want to get hurt. So, we contradict ourselves or lie to ourselves. This is what causes misunderstanding — making it hard to know what is true or not.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” — George Bernard Shaw
Every time, when I communicated kindness for the wrong reasons, I felt guilty. I wondered what I was missing to be able to speak the language of kindness. Up until today, I could pinpoint three of my missing fundamentals.
Firstly, I missed empathy. Empathy is an ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another person. Too often, I didn’t try to understand the mind of another, rather I responded in what I thought was kindness. I should have tried to feel what the other person was feeling by imagining myself in the same situation.
Secondly, I missed compassion. Compassion follows up with empathy and that is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help another. Compassion didn’t always occur to me. Sometimes, I unintentionally helped myself instead of helping another, which made me wonder what my intentions were since the beginning.
Thirdly, I missed sincerity. In being sincere, a person should assess his or her deepest, true feelings about every aspect of the situation in question, and respond to the questioner in a complete, calm, direct and earnest way. From my point of view, this was the hardest fundamental, because being sincere can also hurt another. Sometimes, it means to bring a period of displeasure and anxiety on myself that I could have avoided by being insincere. On the other hand, my conscience was clear.
“Sincerity is moral truth.” — George Henry Lewes
When empathy, compassion, and sincerity are combined, the language of kindness will come naturally.
Take the first step — lean in and be the person who starts a conversation. Take into consideration that people might be anxious or selfish, because of which they cannot start interaction or participate in conversations. Make life easier for them. It’s not as if they don’t want to talk or feel uncomfortable. It’s just that some people find it difficult to initiate a conversation. Start paying attention to other’s messages through verbal and body language. Often, our words are not aligned with our body language.
And surely, from time to time, we will be let down. However, holding others at a distance the whole time is more harmful and wearing. Kindness, by contrast, makes us embrace experience with open arms.