The state of the world is far from perfect, but that’s not what we’re asking for, right? Things don’t have to be perfect for us to live and thrive. In fact, some conflict is essential to healthy maturation and growth in all facets of life. “Smooth seas never made for a skilled sailor.” But I think we can all agree, as humans, that there are some foundational skills that need to be practiced in order to obtain the flourishing society and lives we thirst for. I’m just gonna touch on one of these crazy concepts for now, and that is kindness.
“Kindness?” One may say, “But Erika, I’m always nice! I always give people my honest opinion because I [insert selfish reasoning here], even when they don’t ask for it.”
While I agree that honesty is important in communication, sometimes one’s opinion isn’t necessary. And if one’s opinion is requested, then there are lots of ways to deliver honesty with kindness!
Kindness falls in line with this other amazing concept known as respect. Some people we share this planet with seem to have forgotten that these two really go hand-in-hand, let alone the basic practice of both. By demonstrating kindness to others–and I’m talking genuine kindness–you are thereby emitting respect. Speak to each other with positive tones, acknowledge one another, help each other, lift each other up, and stand not in front of or behind, but beside one another… Just be kind.
Have you ever heard that saying, where if someone says something non-constructive or rude, that it takes five compliments for you to recover from the sour bite of that negativity? I’m sure it’s a very general ratio, considering that some things that people say are just downright mean and it takes a while for you to get yourself off the ground from that. Or just the opposite, where you just let that rubbish slide right off of you and land in the trash where it belongs. As someone who occasionally struggles with self confidence (but let’s be real–who doesn’t?), sometimes unnecessary critiques send me into a dark space of my mind for an uncomfortable amount of time. But think about it though–one comment that didn’t seem so bad or was meant to be a joke affects someone so much if you hit the right nerve, that it takes maybe five compliments to make them feel better. That’s a wild imbalance to consider.
I had a friend that was faced with very unnecessary commentary recently, and she had professed to me that it made her feel just awful. Like, unintelligent, ugly and unable-to-do-anything-right awful. What a shitty way to feel! I sat my friend down and we talked, with me assuring her that she most definitely isn’t stupid, capable of doing whatever she sets her mind to and can do whatever the hell she feels like or whatever makes her feel good, and that isn’t anyone’s business but her own. I was perturbed (and obviously she was as well) that someone would talk to another person like that… let alone a peer!
People, didn’t your mother ever tell you:
a.) Think before you speak – because there are so many different ways to say the same thing, but if you choose to say it in non-constructive way, it doesn’t make you helpful. It actually makes you an asshole.
b.) If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all – because no one needs to hear your unwarranted, obtuse opinion.
c.) Mind your damn business – because we have absolutely no idea how someone else’s life actually is, no matter how many commonalities exist.
I’m not here to say that negative feedback (constructive criticism) isn’t necessary–it actually is, wherever appropriate. Constructive feedback will always be present because there’s always opportunity for improvement. It also demonstrates effective listening and provides motivation. But it’s all about the delivery and mixing it with positive feedback. A study published in American Behavioral Scientist examined 60 strategic-business-unit leadership teams, focusing on financial performance, customer satisfaction ratings, and feedback ratings of team members. Each team had one factor that made or break their success: the ratio of positive to negative comments. For the highest performing team, they experienced nearly six positive comments for every negative one. For the mid performance team, they had almost twice as many positive comments than negative ones. As for the lowest performing team, can you guess? They experienced nearly three negative comments for every one positive comment.
So whatever the situation, it’s important to know your audience, approach with positive intent, and be open to taking responsibility for your words and actions when you do something that doesn’t sit well with another person. This is growth. We’re not all going to agree on the same thing because we’re unique individuals with our own thoughts, behaviors, personalities and so much more… but we can at least work together and look out for one another, despite our differences, and embrace the diversity. And as long as what anyone is doing isn’t harming anyone else, who cares?
Besides, when someone says something unnecessarily nasty, it’s really a reflection of the speaker, isn’t it?
Bottom line: just be kind. Because it’s really not that hard and the world has enough grossness out there.