Here's what Happens When You Spend a Week Being Kind

November 11, 2015

World Kindness Day falls on November 13 every year… That’s coming up quickly! It’s been on our radar here at Baudville, and I especially have been thinking about what I could do to observe it. I decided on an experiment, which was loosely based on an article I read about the effects of cutting out sugar for a week. That sounded nightmarish (the abstinence, not the outcome), but switch in being kind for avoiding sweets? I thought I could probably handle that. Here’s how I did:

I checked my driving. I am a notoriously aggressive driver. Well, maybe impatient is the better word. All right, aggressive it is. I don’t mean to be; I just am. Some people love riding with me for my decisiveness and ability to ruthlessly get from here to there in a snap. Others seem to be waiting for me to slow down enough so they can open the door and jump out—that being the safer option. Tackling one of my top personal flaws seemed to be a good place to start, so that’s what I did at the beginning of last week. I traveled in the cruising lane (which is on the right, by the way, for those who don’t distinguish), allowed other cars to have the right of way, and generally avoided horn blowing, expletives, and gesticulation of certain digits. While it was difficult at first to resist my natural urges, I ended the week more relaxed and serene, and also more aware of my surroundings. I like to think my fellow road warriors appreciated it, too.

I spared a dollar (or two). I spend most Tuesdays at our downtown satellite location, which puts me in the heart of our city center and just a few blocks from several shelters. When I go out during lunch, I’m almost always asked for change or a few bucks, but I so rarely carry cash that I often have to kindly say no. This week, I decided to fill my wallet with small bills and big change, so I could give if the opportunity presented itself. It did, and I did. And, while I knew my small contributions weren’t going to make any lasting difference, I did know that it felt much better for both of us that I said yes. I know there are more productive ways to help those in need, but small acts of compassion and acceptance can still have a meaningful impact.     

I talked to strangers. Rick Springfield and my mother both agree that, in fact, I should not talk to strangers. However, under the right circumstances, being friendly can be incredibly rewarding—and not the slightest bit dangerous. While I was out and about, I went out of my way to talk to the people I encountered. I struck up conversations with people on the street, on the elevator, in the grocery aisles, at the gas station…any time it felt natural and a few times when it didn’t. Not everyone was interested in engaging with me, but most were. Whether we talked about the weather, our favorite brand of sparkling water, or what we were doing on the sixth floor, it may have just been small talk, but it went a long way toward removing us from our inward selves and out of isolation. It was simply nice.

I called loved ones. Speaking of mothers, I know mine—and my dad, too—wishes I would call more often. When I do, one answers the phone and the other picks up the second line (yes, theirs still plug in to the wall) and they take turns grilling me about what’s going on in my life. Even though my responses are usually pretty dull, I can tell they enjoy hearing my updates. I also know they won’t be around forever, and since I’ve had a few wake-up calls to this reality lately, I’ve definitely tried to make more of an effort. The result? I make the people who brought me in to this wonderful world happy, and they bring me comfort, knowing they’re still there for me. Unconditional love is a rare gift indeed.  

I listened to others. I recently attended a meditation and presence retreat, and one of the activities was a listening exercise with a partner. Accompanying it was this David Augsburger quote: “Being heard is so close to being loved that, for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” It certainly felt that way for me, and I carried that memory with me to apply to my daily life. Of course, once I was back from the northern Michigan woods and flung into the real world again, I promptly forgot this great lesson. During my kindness week, I picked it up again and practiced it as much as possible—with my husband, with coworkers, and with friends. It turns out you can learn a lot when you pay attention to and tune in to what others are trying to tell you. It also builds better relationships and brands you as an audience instead of a narrator.

I thanked a colleague. If you don’t know Jennifer, IDville’s Sales and Service Manager, you can get to know her by her posts on the Baudville Blog. Recently, she went above and beyond for me. I asked several people for contributions to a project I was working on, and Jen was not only the only person who responded, she actually wrote the whole thing for me! I thought for sure I would have to scrap the project because of lack of participation, but she came through in true a day-saving kind of way. In these situations, a simple thank you just doesn’t feel like enough, so I stalked her a little to find out her favorite treats and surprised her with a small gesture of gratitude. Much like employee recognition, expressions of appreciation are not only nice, they also make recipients feel more willing to pitch in a little extra in the future.    

I reached out to friends. In these days of hyper-connectedness through social media, it’s easy to know what’s going on in everyone’s lives without even having to ask. This passive way of interacting with others isn’t really interacting at all. It’s just absorbing information without doing anything with it. Lame. I thought about how nice it is to hear from someone out of the blue and to get actual communication versus just a Facebook notification. I assumed others would enjoy this as well and got busy sending out private messages. My inbox filled quickly with responses, and I felt instant abundance. Much like listening to others, showing them you care has a pretty profound impact. I also found out more private details about their lives—the kind that discreet people don’t post in public spaces—and had a better understanding of the ways I could better support them as a friend. Bonus!  

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So, that was my week of kindness. The most significant outcome was that I became closer to all of my fellow humans, whether I knew them personally or not. It was so fulfilling, I may have to make it a regular practice. You should try it, too, and see what I mean—especially with your coworkers and team members. Like my experience, you’ll find you’ll build stronger relationships, increase loyalty, create a sense of belonging, and, ultimately develop a thriving culture. Yes, kindness can do all that!

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Allison is currently living out the elaborate fantasy she described to her now-former staff and colleagues in early 2001. With a hearty dose of courage and absolutely no plan of action, she abruptly left her middle-management job to become a writer—and today she is doing just that in her role as Baudville's Senior Content Writer. She's here to tell you everything she's learned in her 20-years+ professional life, plus a lot more. She's wordy like that!

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