A few weeks ago I wrote a post on ways to practice kindness towards ourselves. It is true that you can’t be kind to someone else until you learn to be kind to yourself. In developing meaningful relationships it is important to have a strong sense of self and self-love. Operating from that place allows kindness to flow authentically and unendingly from you and spread to those in your life. In my experience practicing authentic kindness towards others deeply strengthens my relationships and makes me feel connected and supported. A beautiful side affect of sending love and affection to those around us is that we ultimately benefit as well. Here are some suggestions to channel your love and spread it to those in your world:
- Listen wholeheartedly to what they have to say. For the past few years I have been retraining myself to listen. You might think that listening is natural and doesn’t need to be practiced, but listening is not an easy task. The problem is that many of us think of a response to say as we are listening. When we do this we aren’t listening, we are thinking. The kind of response each of us is inclined towards may be different. Some people like to reassure the person or relate their own experience to what the person just said. Others might pose a solution to what the person said (even if there wasn’t necessarily a problem stated). One method I have found helpful to begin truly listening is to begin my conversations with no agenda. The other is to embrace the idea that perhaps the best thing I might offer to a conversation is a space to speak and nothing else. If you begin listening to your loved ones in this way I think you will find they are full of more insights and beauty than you ever imagined possible. I have a friend who likes to say “When you listen you hear something new, when you speak you hear only what you already know.”
- Tell them something you love or admire about them. I think it must be so obvious to those in my life that I respect and find them to be incredible human beings, but unless I remind them how should they know? Our ability to use language distinguishes humans from other animals, try to use this to spread love and peace in your world. If you struggle with sharing your affection verbally with your friends and loved ones, try picking five people this week who you would like to say something nice to. Write down their names on a piece of paper and write for ten minutes about why you admire them. You don’t have to tell them everything you wrote, but pick one thing and make it a goal to tell each of them that thing by the end of the week. Bonus points if you pick someone you normally have a difficult time interacting with.
- Do them a favor without them having to ask. This is one that I notice many people appreciate the most. I personally struggle to remember to practice this action. The favor doesn’t have to be big, it is just anticipating the day-to-day needs and tendencies of those in our lives. One of my housemates really loves to have a clean kitchen. When I really want to make her day I make sure to do all of the dishes, wipe down the counters and make the kitchen super clean before she gets home. I know it makes her feel relaxed and appreciated when I do this small action. When I was in university I had the hardest time keeping track of pens and I would often have to ask my neighbors in class to borrow a pen or pencil. One day I sat down in class and my neighbor gave me a package of five pens. This could have been seen as a slight, but actually they intended to make my day a little better. And it worked. Imagine someone in your life, ideally someone you interact with on a day-to-day basis. Consider one thing that person frequently expresses appreciation for or consistently needs. One day this week provide that for them.
- Give them a hug. I don’t think this needs a lot of explanation. Hugs are awesome. Hugs are comforting. We should all try to hug more. I am giving you a virtual hug right now.
- Do something together. Go for a walk. Go on an errand date. Eat dinner together. Have a Facetime chat. Do work together. Our time is valuable; it is a truly non-renewable resource. When we choose to invest our time with our loved ones it easy to for them to see that we value our relationship with them. Think of someone in your life who you care for but rarely spend time with. Contact them right now and schedule a time this week to spend together.
- Give them a surprise. There are many holidays where we are reminded to appreciate our loved one but giving them something on an otherwise normal day is even more fun in my opinion. I am a big fan of writing good old fashioned snail-mail to my friends and loved ones. Often, I include something I admire about them in the letter. Other amazing ideas: giving flowers to someone, sending a funny online article you know they would enjoy, sharing a book with them you think they would like, or buying them a small coffee, chocolate, or other token. The surprise doesn’t have to be a physical item, just something that shows you don’t need a special event to share your affection with them.
- Be honest. Ensuring that our relationships are healthy and balanced is the ultimate form of kindness. It might seem like tolerating relationships that have turned toxic or putting on a smile when we are unhappy is kind, but really it is just deceitful. You can not be authentically kind towards someone if you are secretly insulting them or dreading your time together. Take a moment to consider if you are fostering any relationships that no longer serve you or the other person as it used to. Have you become dishonest in this relationship? This might mean that it is time to end your relationship or reestablish boundaries. Do not use this as an excuse to be hurtful towards someone else. Let any action you take come only from a place of deeply authentic love and kindness. Being intentional and honest in all of our relationships is the ultimate form of kindness to our selves and those in our life.
What are some ways you give or receive kindness with your loved ones? Let me know in the comments below.
Love and light,