Our world moves at such a fast pace these days that it can be challenging to find the time to help others.
Here are 5 exceptional acts of kindness you can offer that will make others (and you) feel great.
1. Pick Up the Phone
Humans were meant to communicate via our voices and our body language. Text and email are efficient, but not effective when it comes to really connecting with another person.
Have you ever noticed that when you are feeling down or facing a hardship, a simple phone call from someone can help much more than 50 texts from people wishing you well with Emojis and inspirational sayings?
When our daughter was diagnosed with Brain cancer, the emails and texts of support came flooding in. While they were appreciated, I will never forget the feeling of having one of my old friends from a previous job – a guy I typically only spoke to once every 6 months or so – call me while we were in the hospital just minutes after the word got out via social media.
Just to feel the support in his voice, even though there was nothing he could do to change anything, made all the difference.
2. Put Down the Phone
This means practicing the lost art of listening. It is very difficult to truly concentrate on another person if you are glancing at your phone every minute or so.
Putting aside the fact that it is just good manners to focus on and listen to a person who is speaking to you, today it is truly an act of kindness to offer someone your undivided attention.
Sometimes all it takes to help you remember this is to put yourself in the speaker’s place. Remember how it feels to you when you have something important to say, and you can tell that the person you are speaking to is not paying attention.
For me, I tend to feel like ‘why am I bothering to talk to this person if they are not even going to listen?’
My wife and I learned this early on with our kids. The reality of the world today for a kid is their phone. Yes, I meant that as I wrote it; unfortunately for most of our kids their phone has become their reality. A huge amount of the information they receive about their world comes through their phone, and more troubling is that the vast amount of their communication with each other happens via their phone as well.
Much has been written about this, and most people are aware of the issue, so I will just focus on a simple suggestion for anyone that has children; enforce a rule that while they are speaking with you, they may not hold their phone.
This applies to any time you speak with them, no matter where you are. When you talk to them, the phone goes down, and they focus on you.
Teaching our children the skill of interacting directly with another person – making eye contact, engaging in the conversation, understanding physical cues from another, and most importantly, the ability to have a difficult conversation in person, face to face with another human being – is one of the most valuable gifts you can give them.
It is also a great act of kindness to show them just how important they are to you in that you are willing to put your phone down and listen to them, one on one, with love and respect.
Life can be very hard. One of the simplest acts of kindness you can do for another person is to offer them a smile. You may not exchange a single word, but you have let them know that you see them as a person and that they are worthy of making a connection, even if it only lasts a second.
When I say a smile, it does not have to be a big toothy, over the top smile. A simple upturn of your lips in a way that shows you are engaging is all it typically takes.
There is another reason that smiling at someone is important. If you practice the act of smiling at people, you will quickly notice that you can’t smile at someone without looking them in the eye.
This seems so simple, but it is amazingly fundamental to connecting with another person. If you live in the Northeast, you know what I mean.
I was born and bred in the Northeast, and one of the trademarks of people here is that we move fast. We are moving so fast most of the time that we fly right by one another without a glance.
In fact, in the Northeast, looking someone in the eye can be seen as a sign of aggression; just think of the classic scene in the movie Taxi Driver…”You lookin’ at me?”
So, when you make eye contact with someone, it is essential that your intention comes through clearly and when you look someone in the eye with a genuine smile, your intention is apparent.
You will find that it may throw people off at first, but if you keep practicing it will become very natural to you, and your kindness will shine through.
Our old maxims are there for a reason and ‘laughter is the best medicine’ couldn’t be more accurate. I don’t know about you, but I don’t get a chance to laugh enough these days.
As Ferris Buehler said, “Life comes at you fast,” and I spend a lot of time just trying to keep up, which doesn’t leave me a lot of time for a good laugh. But a good laugh is a great act of kindness to give another person.
Once a year I get together with buddies of mine that I have known since High School. We spend 3 days playing golf, drinking a bit too much and laughing non-stop. Every year I come away from that weekend feeling like I have been given the greatest gift of release and renewal. It’s like all the stuff that has built up over the last year is washed away in one weekend, and I am ready to go again.
I’ve tried to incorporate more of that into my everyday life in trying to find ways to get in a good laugh whenever possible. Laughter is Kindness, try to spread it around as much as possible.
It may seem strange to say that crying could be an act of kindness, but along with laughter, sharing a good cry with someone is one of the most authentic forms of kindness you can offer. I say this especially since I am a guy. Regardless of how much we may have evolved as a society, men still get the message at a very young age that crying is not high on the list of emotions you should regularly be showing.
Having had my share of experience with hardcore crying after our daughter died of cancer, I can say two things about it. First, crying is incredibly cathartic and second, for a guy, crying can be incredibly scary. Since guys are still typically taught not to cry, we don’t have a lot of experience with the power of the emotions that are released when you do cry.
When I say crying is cathartic, I mean it genuinely. My experience has been that there is pretty much nothing that can cleanse your system so thoroughly. When you break down and have a truly good cry – I mean you really let down your guard and let it all out – the feeling of relief that washes over you is incredible. It’s not that it takes the pain away, but it allows it to wash out of you for a time.
When the hurt is deep, I describe it like waves on the beach. The pain may feel like waves in a storm. However, if you let the tears flow when you feel that pain, they will subside just like a wave washing over you and flowing back out. Once the hurt starts to lessen with time, you may still get waves of emotion, but they will be less intense and easier to manage.
One of the purest acts of kindness you can offer another person is to hug them and let them know that they can have a good cry with you.
It doesn’t make them weak or any less of a person. They will probably be a better person for it – better for themselves and the people around them.
Commit to yourself that you will offer at least one of these acts of kindness to someone this week; it will make you and them feel so much better. And remember, in a world where you can be anything, Be Kind!