Why it all comes down to kindness
By Rúna Bouius.
As the avalanche of women (and men) continues revealing sexual harassment and assault in the workplace -- from the entertainment and media industries, the Silicon Valley start-up and investment world, and the political world -- I am reminded of a somewhat surprising theme that I have found popping up all around me.
It is about kindness in the workplace -- or rather the lack thereof.
Do you know that how we treat others is a direct reflection of how we feel about and treat ourselves? If we withhold kindness and support from others, then by that rule of thumb, we are withholding kindness from ourselves. Unconsciously, of course. It seems that the art of connecting is becoming a forgotten art in the craze of our disconnected digital connection.
If you want to learn more about how to connect and build meaningful relationships in the workplace, you can check out a book by the brilliant innovation and leadership expert Michael J. Gelb, The Art of Connection: 7 Relationship-Building Skills Every Leader Needs NOW
What Is Standing In Your Way Of Being Kinder?
No one goes to work in the morning with the intention of being unkind! However, when people are stressed, pressed, and under tight deadlines, they often act in ways they wouldn’t if they had a deeper sense of self-awareness. Also if they were conscious of the effect that their behaviour has on others around them. That is part of what the practice of Conscious Leadership addresses.
Many articles and books have been written about the importance of emotional intelligence, compassion, and empathy in the workplace. For many, those terms feel elusive and complex and they don’t really know how to start cultivating these qualities. I am therefore offering simplicity here and proposing very basic, practical acts of kindness that anyone can do, starting tomorrow.
Why not experiment with one or more of the ‘7 Simple Ways to Human Kindness’ I suggest here below and see where it takes you?
Take stock of what happens around you and what happens inside of you as you break out of your unconscious stupor and become intentional with how you communicate and behave at work, at home, and everywhere else.
7 Simple Ways to Human Kindness
Talk Less. Listen More
Splash a Smile
Indulge in Curiosity
Liberate Your Generosity
Give Free Hugs
Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind, and the third is to be kind – Henry James
Below are some suggestions, tips, and resources intended to inspire and support you in your ‘Kindness-Practice’. Dive in!
Talk Less, Listen More
Replace verbosity with deep listening. It is said that listening is one of the loudest forms of kindness. It is amazing how much more you learn and understand what’s happening in a room and with other people when you listen well. Deep listening shows respect and indicates interest, openness, and connection.
One of the evergreen training topics that companies offer employees is “Speaking Effectively” and/or “Communicating Effectively”. The missing piece is listening. Why not educate yourself on what it means to be a good listener? You can do this with the help of the “10 Steps to Effective Listening” published in Forbes. The more you practice, the more kindness is co-created.
2. Splash a Smile
Smiling (and laughing) happen to be the simplest and greatest stress-management tricks of all. It shifts our physiology by reducing the stress hormone cortisol. This releases us from the fight-or-flight mode that we are too often stuck in at work. Plus, it increases our endorphins -- the “Happy hormones.” These also act as the body’s natural painkillers. Less stress un-binds our energy and we become lighter and kinder.
“Smile like Mona Lisa” is one of Michael Gelb’s encouragement in his book, The Art of Connection: 7 Relationship-Building Skills Every Leader Needs Now. By doing so we are sending a disarming energetic message to others of our confidence and trust that all is well. And don’t just limit your smiles to the workplace. Smile to total strangers on the street. I do it all the time and it feels really great. And let’s not forget they are social magnetizers…smiling and laughing are naturally attractive. People trust someone who smiles, and they love dealing with a person who is happy and fun.
For those of you who are bolder, you might want to take a minute at break time and get your team to do some laughing yoga as a group. Try it — I promise it will totally change the energy in the place and open up the creativity floodgates!
In some of my workshops, I have the participants do a smiling and/or a laughing exercise. Once they have broken through the terror of having to smile or laugh on-demand, they release a huge amount of energy and get totally vitalized. This is giving kindness to themselves and to each other.
3. Indulge in Curiosity
Replace indifference with interest in other people, and to your surprise, they might just open up to you. Curiosity instead of blaming and judging creates trust, and you’ll find that people will be more willing to engage and give of themselves.
Everyone is required to be more innovative and creative these days, and the key to unlocking ingenuity and cleverness is to be curious. Asking questions and being willing to learn from others not only benefits you but also empowers them, and that is an act of kindness.
Don’t take my word for this wisdom. Curiosity is one of master Leonardo da Vinci’s seven principles that you find referenced in another of Michael Gelb’s great books, How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day
4. Sprinkle Appreciation
Saying “Thank you” and “I appreciate you” goes a long way in creating kindness. When you give appreciation to others, you are expressing and expanding the energy of seeing them, hearing them, and valuing them. You will get appreciation reflected back to you. That feels good. Kindness flows both ways.
I often have participants do an appreciation exercise at my workshops and retreat. They are encouraged to give acknowledgement to anyone or anything that they have experienced -- it could be gratitude for taking the time to attend with an open mind and invest in their own growth and learning, it could be thanked for kind words or actions by one of the other participants, appreciation for something they learned or felt. Or simply an appreciation for life.
At Whole Foods Market, they are known to start meetings with an expression of appreciation. That immediately generates a positive and kind atmosphere that sets the tone for the meeting. Try it out at one of your next group meetings. The leader could give kudos to the team, or invite each team member to give recognition to someone for some appreciated act since the last meeting, or in general. Play with it.
And don’t forget yourself! Self-appreciation is the very foundation of personal self-esteem and centeredness. From a place of confidence, you are more likely to be both kinder to yourself and others.
5. Liberate Your Generosity
Generously give of your knowledge, wisdom, time, and appreciation, and your “Kindness Bank Account” will start to swell. Instead of focusing on yourself and your individual success, focus on the team and the company’s vision of success. That’s where the power lies, as together you will contribute to something greater than yourself.
Being supportive, helpful, caring, and loving of our co-workers doesn’t cost us anything except a hint of awareness. And the deeper our awareness becomes, being generous takes on a life of its own, and we begin embodying generosity effortlessly.
Unfortunately competition is the present norm in too many workplaces. The new workplace evolution is to shift to collaboration, in which everyone shares generously of their genius, which in turn creates much greater results and a win-win for all.
A young entrepreneur friend of mine, who is wise beyond his years, recently posted a blog that spoke beautifully to this. Jay Velasco talks about the importance of giving credit where credit is due, versus taking credit for what your team member(s) did. You can read his post on Medium -- “Accept Credit When It’s Earned. Give Credit Where It’s Due: Respect Yourself and Respect Others.”
6. Give Free Hugs
Do you know that hugging is healing? When we touch heart to heart, love and kindness flow freely.
This important knowledge was brought to my attention in 2011 when I attended the Conscious Business Conclave at Esalen Institute in Big Sur. One of the participants, Roy Spence, the Co-founder and Chairman of the Purpose Institute and the Chairman and Co-founder of the advertising agency GSD&M, insisted on giving everyone a hug. He did more. He gave us a copy of the first draft of his book about hugging, a book that later became The 10 Essential Hugs of Life. Roy told me that his dad had been a hugger and that he is simply carrying forward the family tradition. Yes, this was in a business setting. The business leaders present happened to be Conscious Leadership practitioners, and hugging is a regular practice among them.
I have myself been attending yoga and energy classes at the Body & Brain centres in Santa Fe and Los Angeles for the last fifteen years. When you arrive at one of these centres, the masters greet you with a hug and say goodbye to you with a hug. And often after class, they ask the participants to give a hug to at least one other person before leaving. Why do they do that? The Koreans know that hugging gives you a feeling of belonging -- it opens hearts, activates the connection, and creates kindness all around. When you enter a Body & Brain centre you enter the energy of love and kindness.
Recently I attended a TEDx UCLA event. And guess what? Underneath our seats, someone had placed a small flyer that simply said “FREE HUGS.” That surely was an act of unexpected kindness that both my fellow companions and I appreciated. That was yet another inspirational sign to me to write about kindness.
7. Stop Judging
We are taught to judge and evaluate. Judge what is “right” and “wrong” and “good” and “bad”. For some people, something is “good” and for others, it is “bad”. And sometimes we find ourselves changing our minds about something we had judged as “bad“. Has that ever happened to you? It has happened to me. Therefore the less we judge the more open space we hold to see things in a kaleidoscope.
When you judge anybody or anything, your experience of the person or the situation remains the way you see it. You immediately trap your own energy around the experience and what you know about the situation. Plus, what you judge in others or situations also indicates that you are judging yourself in the same way. Ouch!
If you release the judgment, you automatically free up your energy, open your heart, and that helps you to expand your mindset. Your acceptance and understanding deepen. Kindness is created for yourself and others.
Take stock of your judgments over one day. Jot them down as soon as you become aware of them, and at the end of the day look over the list and ask yourself if it was worth spending all that energy on judging. I bet the answer is “No.” The more you keep your energy free and open, the happier, more productive and joyful you become -- and kindness becomes your best friend.
Kindness, like a boomerang, always returns - Author Unknown
What about you?
What has been your experience?
Have you seen a lack of kindness where you work?
How can kindness be expressed more powerfully in your workplace?
Can you see kindness as one of the cornerstones of great company culture?
Add your own favorites to the ‘Kindness-Practice’ list and share with us. And why not share your experiment also with your family, friends, and co-workers and start a dialogue in your workplace around the topic of “Being Kind”?
This Story originally published on People Development Magazine, is written by Rúna Bouius, founder of The True Power Institute, a think-tank-like project created around the need to re-examine how we, as leaders, entrepreneurs, politicians, and influencers, understand the nature of Power, relate to Power, source power, and wield Power.