During my morning walk with the dog, we often cruise through a local, bucolic park, which has become a haven for the homeless. As we passed an individual who was hunched over on a park bench and diving into some leftovers he found in the trash, I said “good morning sir.” He straightened his body, squared his shoulders and looked up at me with a dazzling smile and said “good morning, ma’am.” I know he made my day; I’m hoping that I made his. As with giving positive feedback in the workaday world, the giver of kind words – in this case me – to a stranger was at least as inspired as the receiver
This is the seventh in a series of blogs offering communication tips for these turbulent times. The first focused on two key leadership skills: listening and asking, noting that many leaders are great at “telling,” and not as good at listening and asking. The second turned the spotlight on the importance of owning one’s communication by using the word “I” and banishing the word “you,” to almost nil. The third blog focused on how assumptions about what another means can get us into trouble. To coin a legal phrase, it challenged us to avoid “assuming facts not in evidence;” while the fourth blog targeted the importance of communicating with humility and compassion.
The fifth post in this series provided actionable tips to “make it easy for them to say yes,” or, how to communicate effectively to seek buy-in and approval from the decision-makers. And, the last blog reminded us of the power of positive feedback: Not just from the recipients’ point-of-view, but also for the giver. Thus, the parallel to today’s topic.
In reflecting upon my experience, I decided it was time to “redefine success” in my daily transactions. Rather than have my (internal) knee jerk/lizard brain reaction when seeing someone not wearing a mask, I decided to flip it, and to thank those who did. Thus, my line has become “thank you for wearing a mask. I am so grateful to you.” There is almost always an upbeat acknowledgement – be it a wave, a smile or a few words of agreement. I’ve noticed that when there is a split couple – one wearing a mask and the second not – the show of appreciation has served as a gentle reminder, and the one not wearing the mask typically puts one on.
As a result of my twin experiences, I decided to say at least five kind things to five different people during a given day.
Tips for Spreading a Little Kindness in the Era of Covid-19
1) Never be Phony or Fake – Look Until You Encounter Situations in Which a Kind Word Makes a Difference: Even in this era of virtual contact and communication, opportunities abound; one just has to be on the look-out. It could be during a walk, while shopping for necessities, during a zoom chat, or on one’s choice of social media.
2) “Redefine Success:” Watch for those Opportunities You Might Find Annoying, and Turn them on Their Head: When you have that mental knee-jerk/lizard brain negative reaction, figure out whether and how to turn it into a positive. When the person behind you in the check-out line at the market fails to keep her six-foot social distance, thank the person in front of you for keeping his six-feet distance. Who knows, the offending party could hear and move backwards a few paces.
3) Share Positive Results with Others – You May Inspire Them to Do the Same: How wonderful it would be to inspire others to adopt the practice. Tell your family and friends what you are doing, and how good it feels to spread a little kindness and suggest they may want to, as well. On the theory that the only thing any of us can control is ourselves, if many of us committed to this practice “what a wonderful world it could be.”