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The fantastic thing is that not only the object of your kindness feels good - but you do too!
In the build-up to and turmoil of the strange, self-obsessed me-me-me of Black Friday, Panic Monday and Christmas shopping generally, you may have missed World Kindness Day on 13th November... But it’s not too late! The day provides an excuse, if you need one, to be especially nice to those you know; but also to those you don't. The fantastic thing is that not only the object of your kindness feels good - but you do too!
And not only does being kind feel good - it boosts your endorphins and improves your mental health, too.
Our giving is often about getting. Give and you shall receive; it even gets a religious endorsement. But genuine giving comes from love, not fear – it makes us feel better. Give some Thanks without expectation of anything in return, and see what happens.
I recently had a coaching client who was facing a barrage of bad things – or “challenges”, as we coaches call them. Teenage children disruptive, job at a dead end, marriage on the rocks, she was feeling lonely and isolated; plenty of work to be done there, by coach and client, and there were and are – as ever – some deeper reasons why she is feeling so low.
But before we tackled those, she needed some short–term inspiration, joyfulness and hope. I asked her about her isolation; who does she see around her? Who has she seen that day? She had noticed the road-sweeper, while she was emptying her bins; as usual, in his orange overalls, he had been keeping his head down, going about his job, seemingly unnoticed by anyone. Had she ever said anything to him, or acknowledged him? Or even thanked him? No, though he had been cleaning her street for years.
The next day, a cold, frosty morning, she saw him again. She made him a mug of tea and took it out to him. She thanked him for keeping her street clean all these years, had a chat. He was embarrassed at first; then opened up just a little. Nothing spectacular. He seemed to feel good; she felt good. Now they exchange Hellos when she sees him; they are not best friends, but they are not strangers. And she feels less isolated.
So why don’t you give some Thanks away and help others? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
1. Try thanking people in your family – those you take for granted, that surround you every day, that maybe get on your nerves. Thanks not just for passing the milk, but for things they always do, ways they support you without even thinking about it; being a champion for you, staying up to see you safely home, taking you to school, washing your clothes, making you a cup of tea and listening when your love life has taken a downward lurch, or work has been dreadful.
2. Try thanking your friends and colleagues for things they have done to help you, in your career, in difficult tasks, in your emotional life, in other parts of your life. They may be surprised…. But see the effect on them after the surprise, and know they will remember what you said, as they go home that evening, in later days; and their self-esteem will be better
3. Thank people you see doing a good job or a good deed; the person who cleans your street like my client, or the person who gives up their seat for a pregnant woman, the bus driver that shows consideration for elderly passengers, the public official who has dealt with an aggressive customer with patience and dignity, the teenager that actually puts their fast food wrapper in the bin. Many people that help us daily seem invisible, and get no recognition: they are just “doing their jobs”. But so what? That check-out person in the supermarket who helps you with bagging the shopping, that person who serves you in the café and goes the extra mile to make you feel you are not just a customer but a person; just engage with them and say “thanks, you have really made me feel welcome”.
4. That person struggling up the stairs with a buggy and three children; those tourists holding their street maps despairingly. Don’t assume someone else will do it, that you are too busy, time is of the essence. Just do it!
Observe those you thank and help – how do you think they feel? And how do you feel?
So go on; get out there, be the one who gives away Thanks, and helps carry the buggy down the stairs or holds open the door; thank people for giving you good service or being kind and considerate to others. And feel much, much better about yourself and the world! Put World Kindness Day, 13th November 2015, into your diaries – or, more likely, into your smartphone – now as a reminder, and start those endorphins oscillating.
Graham Bennett is a confidence and leadership coach specialising in supporting people in the voluntary and public sectors to overcome the challenges they face. His own broad experience in human rights and development - he spent two years with a Fililpino family in a Manila squatter area, worked for Amnesty International, lived in Africa and Asia, Chaired a London girls school, headed a UK-based development agency - has given him insight into the stresses and dynamics of these sectors, and how to help people face and overcome them. He is based in the London area, and especially enjoys face-to-face coaching; but his Tiger Coaching business also has clients overseas, coached via skype.
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