Analyzing why people do the things they do and how those things affect others is one of my favorite pastimes. I enjoy finding solutions.
Five Steps to Becoming a Kind Person
Anyone can do a kind deed here and there, but what does it take to become a kind person? In order to learn how to be kind, you have to learn the basics:
- Become a keen listener.
- Become a conscientious observer.
- Have a sympathetic and empathetic heart.
- Be generous and eager to lend a helping hand.
- Be sincere.
That all sounds pretty easy—and it is—but it takes practice to get good at it. In fact, it may even take some practice to develop your sincerity.
How to Handle Days When You Just Don't Feel "Nice"
First of all, don't knock yourself out trying to be nice all of the time. It's highly unlikely that any human being has ever accomplished that task. Everybody has bad days where they can't focus on anything other than what makes them feel indifferent, depressed, or angry. They also have great days where they can't focus on anything other than what makes them feel good, happy, or proud.
On the bad days, try to find ways to make yourself feel better, but remember: It's important not to be mean to anyone else, either. On those days, not being mean might be the kindest thing you can do. Keep to yourself if you have to.
In addition, if someone needs something from you while you're basking in your happiness, don't beat yourself up if you feel you weren't as attentive as you "should have" been. There's no rule that says you have to brush your happiness aside to be kind to others. Enjoy your moment and make up for it later with a kind gesture to accommodate whatever the person needed or to offer another solution or to talk about it.
After you get the basics down, being kind will become second nature to you—maybe even first.
1. Become a Keen Listener
For most people, hearing comes pretty easy; the listening part is where things tend to fall apart. Usually, when one person is speaking, the person they are speaking to is thinking about what they want to say. As a result, the listener may have caught a few key words of what the other person said and can usually piece together the gist of what it was about but they don't have a clear understanding for full participation in the conversation.
How to Listen Without Distractions
While you're having a conversation with someone, the best way to begin to overcome a habit of hearing but not listening is to listen as though you will be quizzed on what was said afterward. At first, this may feel uncomfortable to you. You may even feel like you're cheating somehow. Hang in there and those feelings will fade away. Eventually, listening with your full attention will add much more substance to the conversation and bring more meaning to your response. More importantly, it will become natural to you.
2. Become a Conscientious Observer
In order to help somebody feel better, or more comfortable, or when they need comforting, you need to be able to recognize the signs that they welcome your aid and you need to figure out in what way you can help. Look at the big picture. Paying attention to body language and facial expressions play an important role in helping us understand what we see on the surface and what lies beyond it. Most people have an innate ability to read other people by watching their body movements or by looking at the faces they make.
How to Become More Aware of How Someone Feels
However, many people block out the opportunity to acknowledge what they witness because they may be too busy; or, they may not want to face the truth; or, in the moment, they don't recognize the significance of the matter; or quite commonly, their inhibitions may keep them from reaching out.
Don't let fear stand in your way of doing the right thing. Own up to your instincts; and then, examine your reaction or inaction to them. Are there current outside influences that made you see what you seen in a person, situation, or thing? Or, does your vision have deeper roots that may or may not have relevance in the here and now? Why did you act or fail to act?
In essence, trust that your instincts are trying to tell you something but question what exactly it is that you need to take from them in order to have a more complete grasp on the reality of what is. Being aware of the intricate details of what you see and perceive will help you distinguish what it is you can do to make somebody's day a little bit brighter.
However, if an encounter appears to be dangerous, think of ways that you may help from afar. After you have conquered the art of looking inward, branch out and look for the good, the bad, and the ugly around you; and, when you find it, take action to make it better, more bearable, or beautiful.
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3. Have a Sympathetic and Empathetic Heart
Now that you've learned how to become a keen listener and a conscientious observer, it's time to get down to the heart of the matter. In order to feel sympathy or empathy for someone, you have to feel compassion. The difference between the two is that with empathy your compassion begins in your soul and goes beyond sorrow. You internalize the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of somebody else.
How to Put Yourself in Someone Else's Shoes
For example, you are being sympathetic when you see a homeless woman sitting in the cold with her child and you compassionately think, "How sad; she must be cold." You kindly offer her a cup of coffee and go about your day. However, when you see a homeless woman sitting in the cold with her child and you notice the despair in the mother's face.
You imagine what it must be like for them, and you imagine what this mother must be thinking, "I wish I had money to get a room for my child tonight," and you picture yourself sitting there freezing, all the while feeling the coldness in your bones and the harsh wind on your cheek hoping that your child doesn't become ill, even though, in actuality you're looking at them through the window of a warm car; then, you are empathizing with them.
You may even offer to put them up for the night or longer if need be. In order to be a kind person, you will have to have a good measure of both sympathy and empathy. However, no act of kindness is too small.
4. Be Generous and Eager to Lend a Helping Hand
The greatest gift you can give to somebody is your time. However, in this fast paced world, giving up your free time (if you have any) may feel more difficult than it would feel to hand over your checkbook. The good thing about being generous is that you don't have to have any money to do it.
While donations to charities are helpful and demonstrate the kindness of their patrons, many people can barely afford to get by. They may not be able to squeeze apple juice out of oranges, but they can wiggle some time out of their busy schedules to give help to those in need.
How to Become Better at Giving
Volunteering is an excellent way to learn the importance of generosity. If you don't have the means to get to volunteer sites, you could always offer to help the elderly in your area, or to help tutor kids at your local library.
Often, the volunteer gets more from the experience than what they give. More importantly, the recipients of your charity, usually, have a need met that otherwise may not have been and most of the time their gratefulness is written all over them.
5. Be Sincere
Look for the good, whether it be in a person, a thing, a situation or the solution. Find something that you can share that will lift the person's spirit. This is not to say that their spirit has to be down in the first place. They could be having a fine day and you may be able to lift their spirit even higher by bringing up something good that you see. Sometimes, when people share their troubles with you, they don't want advice, or solutions at that moment. They may only want to be heard, get it off their chest, or to be comforted.
How to Become More Real in Your Interactions With Others
It's important to listen with a keen ear, respond accordingly, decide or ask whether there is anything you could say or do to help. Honesty is key; however, there is no need to be brutally honest. Usually, you can avoid making hurtful comments by offering heartfelt suggestions or solutions or by getting involved to bring about the changes to eliminate the problem.
Don't forget that most people have an inborn sense when "something's not right." If you lie, they will feel it. Trust grows over time but when it's broken it takes a long time to rebuild. When you give wholeheartedly, your kindness has the potential to build their self-confidence, self-reliance, and overall respect and admiration in mankind.
Animals Need Kindness, Too!
Being kind to people while also being mean to animals disqualifies a person from being a kind person. Animals have feelings, too; and if you are not "an animal person" the kindest thing you could do is to leave them for people who will give them the love and care they deserve.
If you want to get a pet, read up on their characteristics and be sure they fit into your lifestyle beforehand. Fostering a pet before you adopt one reduces the risk of them being treated unkindly. If you decide having a pet is not for you, you simply, find it a better home or bring it back to the shelter. Instead of having a pet, you could donate to an animal shelter, if you have the means to do so. If you have pets, recognize that they have feelings and treat them with respect and care.
Reach Out and Make a Difference
Some people and animals experience little or no kindness in their lives. You can see it in their eyes and in the way they pull away from others. Whether person or animal, if you listen, you can hear it in their voices. Think about what it feels like to be them. Reach out and show them that you care. Let them know that kindness is not just a word.