the Infinite Monkey speaks: on kindness
Random brilliance from across the blogosphere…
Reach out, try a little kindness and brighten someone’s life every day. And you will soon realize how special a little focused attention can make you feel.
Friendship Is A Two-Way Street
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How true that is! When we are kind to others, we reap great emotional rewards. The benefit is as much ours as theirs, and I think sometimes much more. And I believe the benefits are cumulative.
But why should I be nice to them when they don’t do anything especially nice to me? (playing devil’s advocate)
I think because what we feel multiplies, and I think it multiplies exponentially. Anger and resentment, annoyance, whatever it is has a tendency to grow inside us. But so does joy, acceptance, love, compassion. We choose our emotions. Maybe the anger is more organic. It may come more naturally to ignore or resent or be rude back to a rude person. But we can choose to redirect that emotion to something more positive, like amusement or compassion, or pity for that person who is, after all, missing out on a great deal of joy in their life. (And so am I by allowing myself to be negatively drawn in by a rude person.) Eventually, with enough practice, it becomes more natural for us to feel and respond with those positive emotions.
So, it’s basically what Michael said: being kind to others also has a personal benefit to us. I know it’s possible to change yourself into a person who sees things – people, situations – in a less negative light. And I think people who see the world that way are happier. Not that they don’t see everything, or don’t recognize the bad. I think they certainly recognize a rude person, but I don’t think they care as much. Or perhaps more accurately, it doesn’t get the same emotional rise out of them, maybe they are not as emotionally invested in that interaction as I might be. They may simply brush it off, whereas I might internalize and dwell on it as some kind of personal affront. I think they don’t respond emotionally the same way I do (anger, irritation), because they are not as full of those emotions as I am. Both our cups runneth over, but they aren’t filled with the same stuff.
I think showing kindness to people who are not kind to us is a way of filling our cups with better stuff.
And I think I finally articulated what I meant by my resolution to “be a nicer person”. Because what I really want is something for myself. I want to be more positive, forgiving, accepting, etc. Am I a bad person since I want those things because it will make me a happier person in the long run?
You want a less stressful life, nothing wrong with that. Making others happy by being with a positive, forgiving person is a bonus.
Recently, I had a coworker do something that was rude and it really hurt my feelings. She apologized, kinda sorta, the next day via email. After this happened I remembered a few other things she has done and realized, she’s not nice! I really want to scratch her off my list and not have much to do with her again. That means no more asking about her little girl, no more telling her I like her new shoes, etc. After all, she isn’t nice to me!
But, this isn’t what I want from ME! I can’t change her, but I don’t have to let her change me. I remembered a trick, probably from that book about being nice that I can’t remember the title of, to try thinking of people who are causing you a problem as someone’s daughter or son. I started thinking of this woman’s mother and her mother could be at home thinking, “Mahitabell can be rude and unmannerly sometimes. I hope people forgive her or she won’t have any friends…” It helps! I know my children have shortcomings and I hope people cut them some slack, just like I hope people cut me some slack!
Doing this lets me separate her non-niceness from me, making it not my problem anymore. Poor girl, she’s not nice! But I can be. And then the stress melts away…
I love your real life example. That’s just the kind of interaction that is likely to get us off track of where we want to be – a normal everyday thing. Because it’s “normal” crap we deal with quite regularly, it is so easy to not pay attention to how we are handling it. I love your trick, and what you did is similar to what I try to do (not always successfully). I try to see that it is their loss. That person may never have the level of self-awareness you have, so she may never have the level of intimacy in relationships that you will have. Among other things she lacks.
I think you should distance yourself from truly toxic people. But just poor manners or general rudeness, I don’t know. I think you did the best thing by taking the high road and still being kind to her. I think her kind of behavior eventually kills the interest in sharing her life by asking about her kids and other personal stuff. And I don’t think it necessary to fake being a friend or interested. But it is never bad to be kind and generally friendly and respond to rudeness with kindness. Like you said, you just keep thinking kind thoughts toward her and not take it personally, and soon enough it doesn’t bother you any more.
Great example and a great lesson from you on how to handle it.
Jumping right in to this conversation (if I may!), there is also a Buddhist teaching of seeing difficult people as being your greatest teachers. Sometimes this really helps me, if I take the opportunity when someone is rude or hurts my feelings, to wonder what the greater lesson is in the encounter, and it’s a chance for me to act differently than I normally would. It’s not always easy, but it does help. I like Suburbia’s idea, too.
I like that approach,too. And you’re so right, it’s not easy. Life comes at us so fast and it’s not like we can pause it and say, “Now how should I handle this?” The best we can do is our best, and to be aware of what we want for ourselves, what we are doing now and what we can do better next time. At least we are trying.