Mean People Suck: Don’t Let ‘Em Break You

Mean People SuckFor the last few days, I’ve been working on a blog post on a completely different topic, but that’s the thing about sharing motivational morsels; it always works best to attack the issues of the day. That’s why I’d like to have a quick chat (albeit a one-way one until someone chooses to comment), on the importance of working together and not against each other, and not allowing MEAN to break you. Quite simply, mean people suck, and I just won’t have it!

I see it all the time in the ol’ day-to-day action. People are so quick to point fingers and find someone to blame when a situation gets sticky, but I always urge myself to focus on results and solutions. I also stress the importance of communicating positively and fairly, regardless of how tough the cookie you have to serve might be. Regardless of the situation, always try to work together towards results, rather than against each other towards conflict. Mean people suck! Don’t be one.

Now I know it’s hard to hold on to your cool sometimes when people fling attitudes and snotty, little pointy fingers at you, but it is definitely something you should always woosah yourself through. Letting negativity or conflict bring you down to its level, what I’m referring to as the MEAN, only worsens the situation and spreads more negativity. Standing your NICE ground, on the other hand, usually helps to soften the situation, and well, quite honestly it gives folks, even the mean ones, a little more hope in humanity. And we could all use a little bit more of that, I think. Focus my friends. Mean people suck. Always choose to be nice instead!

And never let the MEAN break you, make you bitter, or dull your shine – mean people suck, but you don’t have to. At the end of the day, when I’ve walked away and calmed down from my own verge of breaking my NICE, I feel like I always win, have better relationships, garner more respect from others, and just feel healthier. Giving into the MEAN might temporarily feel like a victory, but in the end it is that MEAN that would have won once you gave into it and it’s evil little ways. Mean people suck, but I simply won’t let them change me.

So stay cool, be nice, spread kindness, let the mean-sicles be mean, and keep your heart and spirit healthy with all the NICE you can possibly muster. Because like my pal Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world,” and, “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

One more time just for good measure, shall we? Mean people suck!

Happy Tuesday!

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Kindness Counts: 9 Tips for a Kinder Existence

Kindness Counts

Every day, I pay attention. In fact, I probably pay more attention to every minute detail of my surroundings and social interactions than my brain and heart can really handle sometimes.  One thing that I catch myself paying extra, special, focused attention to is people’s attitudes. I notice when people are kind, even if just in tiny, little, minuscule ways, and it always, always, without fail, gives me a little boost, a little pep in my step, and a great big smile.

Then there are the times when I pick up on a more negative energy; attitudes that feel more like quick, sharp bee stings.  Sometimes it’s really subtle – a slightly irritated or condescending tone of voice, a less than pleasant look, or an off-putting gesture. I imagine people often don’t even realize they are being a little on the jerky side, or how their energy might affect others around them. But me? I notice. That’s just Sonia. I’m sensitive to people’s energy, and I pick up on that stuff. I think a lot of us do.

Enter the topic of kindness which I haven’t visited in a bit. I believe with everything I have that there is always a positive way to have a conversation, even when it involves a tough or controversial topic. I believe there is always a small gesture you can make to help someone feel more comfortable, always a positive way to tackle a situation, always a small way to be kind, and rarely a thoroughly good reason to be a dick. Yes, I said it.

In that vein, here are nine small, but meaningful ways to live a kinder existence.

Kindness Counts Tip #1: SMILE!

Whether it’s at a homeless person on the corner, your neighbor, the cashier at your grocery store, a fussy child, your co-worker, just SMILE! It’s free, it’s easy, and trust me, it makes a sizable difference. Most of us just want to be acknowledged, and there is no better way to acknowledge someone and their humanity, than through a great, big CHEESE.

Kindness Counts Tip #2: Show appreciation.

Take time to thank those who contribute to your life (made you laugh, did you a favor, offered advice), whether that’s  a mentor, a friend, a nurse, the bar tender at your favorite spot, an old professor, a family member, anyone. Maybe it’s just an actual “thank you” and a smile, maybe it’s a thank-you note, or a small treat. It might take you five minutes of energy, but it will give someone else a whole day’s worth of warmth.

Kindness Counts Tip #3: Respect others.

We are all different – complete with our quirks, our bad days, and our likes and dislikes. But we all contribute in our own very special way, and I believe we should respect what everyone has to offer. Never make people feel they are less than you. Never talk down to people. Never ignore them. Try to find a happy medium between what you bring to the table and what they bring, knowing neither is better than the other, just different, and equally as valuable.

Kindness Counts Tip #4: Listen.

People want to be heard. Hell, people NEED to be heard. Even if you don’t agree, just listen. Give people a turn, and then talk. Give others the opportunity to let go of what weighs on their hearts and minds. Then when they have what they need, they’ll turn and listen to you. Don’t shun people out because what they are saying is not what you want to hear. Just listen.

Kindness Counts Tip #5: Apologize.

Hey, screw up much? Of course you do. We all do, and that’s A OK! Practice self-awareness. Realize when you’ve made a bad choice, offended someone, hurt some feelings, and apologize. People are pretty easy, folks. They just want to have their feelings validated. They don’t actually want to hold on to grudges. They just want to hear you’re sorry. Screw up, own up to it, apologize, and move on. Screw up, hold on to that pride like a kid to a chocolate bar, make the situation worse, and dwell. Easy choice, I’d say.

Kindness Counts Tip #6: Be honest.

Clearly, there is a place and a time for brutal honesty, and you can’t always go around telling everyone exactly how you feel. Plus, being honest doesn’t equate to being a jerk. Instead, just be as honest as you can as often as possible. Especially in situations where people are reaching out to you, asking you straight out how you feel, give them the answer they deserve, the honest one. Don’t beat around that old tired bush, just come out with it. Don’t lead folks on, or tell them what you think they want to hear. That ends up hurting a lot more in the long run, every time. And hey, some people might not like what you have to say, but in the end, they will always find a way to respect it.

Kindness Counts Tip #7: Build spirits up. Don’t tear them down.

Give compliments where compliments are due. Encourage people. Support them. Help them wherever and however you can. Again, SMILE! Don’t interrogate. Don’t search for flaws. Search for good qualities. See the good in people. Forgive. Give chances. Stay positive. Don’t hurl insults at every turn, even when they are hurled violently at you.

Kindness Counts Tip #8: Don’t let ‘em harden you.

OK. So you’re throwing out all the kindness you can muster, and you are still getting nasty attitudes, rude comments, and harsh dismissals. So what? If we give into that, we only perpetuate the ugly little cycle. Be nice even when others are not. Be the positive light in Negative Alley. Don’t let ‘em harden you. The right people will appreciate it, and the harder ones? Well, sooner or later, if you just keep pushin’ through kindness, you’ll strike a chord, and soften them right up! Negative or angry people are not bad people. They just need your kindness the most.

Kindness Counts Tip #9: Be humble.

No matter what you achieve in life, what faraway lands you might travel to, how great your possessions and accolades might be, stay humble. Always remember the path you took to get there. Remember the bad days when the good days come. Remember those who helped you along the way. Never start to think you’re better than anyone. Know that things can always change. Appreciate, love and share kindness. Don’t get cocky, and don’t you ever dare think you have nothing left to learn.

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Even the Hopeless Have Hope

Hope

This weekend was a true lesson in hope for me, and I want to share it with you. After all, anything that can strike a little hope in your heart seems especially fitting this week after the nauseating events that took place at the Boston Marathon yesterday afternoon.  So here it goes.

On Saturday, I spent a few hours (ended up feeling more like five minutes) volunteering with a church program called Youth Lounge. Please note that whether you believe in church or religion is not the point here at all, so regardless of your beliefs, I urge you to read on. Anyhoo, I had been searching for a volunteer opportunity for a while now, and this really seemed like the perfect fit. I felt that my positive energy and optimistic attitude could help uplift these young people and inspire a little hope in them. I never thought they would do the same and more for me.

Youth Lounge essentially provides a safe space for homeless and at-risk youth in Chicago’s Lakeview community. A majority of these teenagers and young adults identify as LGBTQ, 90 percent of them are people of color and a little over half of them are homeless. Youth Lounge is put on by Broadway United Methodist Church volunteers twice a month on the second and fourth Saturdays, and provides a home cooked meal, activities and a loving environment for these struggling youth.

This particular Saturday was my first time volunteering with the group, and as a hyper emotional person, I was afraid. I was afraid to unintentionally make it about me. I was afraid to make these kids feel as though I felt sorry for them or looked down on them in any way. And as they started walking in the door, many of them with luggage and bags in tote, the tears began to well up in my eyes. I took deep breathes, and kept telling myself, you have to smile, this is not about you, they need your HAPPY.

Little by little, I completely forgot about my tears, and began to be inspired by them. Here they were, so young, many with no place to live, no safe environment to trust, and yet they were so luminous. Many of them knew each other and ran to one another in warm embraces. Many also made jokes and were happy to see the volunteers they already knew. Suddenly, they were not victims in my eyes. They were just kids and despite their situations, they seemed joyful and full of life. They seemed to be oozing with HOPE.

The afternoon began with several musical performances after which the kids all sat down to brightly decorated tables for a warm, home cooked meal prepared by some of the volunteers. They all gathered with their friends, chatted and laughed as the volunteers came by to take their orders and serve them. Some kids seemed very comfortable being served and others seemed almost shocked at the niceness and attention being offered to them. One particular youth could hardly look me in the eyes as I asked him what he wanted to drink and thanked me quietly almost five times.

Dinner time went by so quickly. I forgot about all of my feelings, and suddenly I just felt so focused on giving them what they needed. Soon it was time for the beauty parlor activity. Before the youth had arrived, I had helped set up a little nail spa in the back of the room. Their names were all put in a hat, and several were chosen to receive a manicure. Although my shift was over, I decided to stay a little longer and help do nails. I love getting my nails done, and did it on my own for many years when I couldn’t afford to get them done. I still get a great sense of progress and relaxation when I go have them done, and I couldn’t wait to offer the youth a little pampering and sense of being special.

I had two gentlemen “clients,” and they were so excited to be pampered. They both chose to have their nails polished in addition to the manicure, and I was happy to help them express themselves. One of them told me all about his foster mom as I did his nails, and the other told me about his struggle with drug abuse and having to fight just to be himself in public. He had been to rehab and told me all about how he’s doing much better now.  I was so glad to hear it. They both laughed and joked with me, opened up to me, and taught me more about hope and resilience than I had ever expected them to.  They had fighter spirits, and despite everything they had been through, they seemed to appreciate life and find ways to smile.

I learned so much from these kids in just a few hours. I learned that you can have nearly nothing and still have a huge smile on your face. I learned that there is always something to look forward to in life if you choose to see it that way. I was also reminded that even though I have my own childhood and adolescent noise, I am so, so lucky. I always had a roof over my head and food to eat, and my parents, despite their many imperfections, never abandoned or disowned me. I was reminded that there is hope all around me, all around us, even from unexpected sources. And most importantly, I was reminded that if those who we would expect to be hopeless can find a way to have hope in their lives and in their hearts, those of us who have been more fortunate can certainly find a way to be more hopeful and optimistic each day.

My thoughts, prayers, hope and heart go out to these beautiful young people, to all those affected by the events in Boston, and to all of you out there searching for a better day. I urge you, as I always do, to pay attention. Hope is all around us, and ready to help us make it through just about anything. At least that’s my hope. 

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Motivation Contagion

Image

The other day I was sifting through Psychology Today when I came across an article entitled Motivation is Contagious, and I thought, yes!  Motivation contagion; that’s where it’s at. When I surround myself with positive attitudes, smiling faces, life enthusiasts and believers, I feel alive and exhilarated. On the other hand, when I find myself surrounded by the opposite of all that positive deliciosity, my body tenses up and I want to scream. Blame it on the daddy issues, or what have you, but I just can’t, and why should I?

I’ve worked so hard to bring the happy, hopeful, laughter-filled Sonia to life – the one I always knew lay under the environmental oppression – that I simply refuse to let anyone or anything get in the way of that, and I’m burning to help you get there too. The more I come across others on this same path to light – as I increase my social media efforts, research optimism and positivity, and increase my general attention to all of life’s little motivators – the more excited I get to keep going with this blog, keep pushing through with my book (man, it’s a lot harder of a process than I thought!) and keep spreading my corn.

Sure, there are people who don’t get it, but then there are all of those wonderfully wonderful emails, text messages and social media comments I’ve received throughout the last two years or so of this journey towards healing and living light, letting me know I’ve made a difference in someone’s day or life. Those are the comments that remind me that there is a need out there for a whole lot of motivation contagion, and I am well equipped to fill this need in anyone who will listen.

So when you’re feeling high on life, when you find a way or reason to believe better is possible, or when you just have a good day, I urge you to share, share and then share a little more. Don’t worry about folks who will find it annoying or try and throw a negative at your positive. Push through that because it is those people that need your HAPPY the most. And when someone says or does something nasty to you, breathe, take a step back, and think about whether you want to give power to negativity or whether you want to let positive take the score.  Because like I heard somewhere a few weeks ago, when you treat people with love and respect, they react and they rise to the occasion (or something like that, but you catch my drift :)).

Just as a little example, this morning, I let a car pass me on the highway on my way to work, and the guy proceeded to give me an enthusiastic thumbs up through his rearview mirror. It made me smile, it put me in an even better mood than jamming to Coolio’s Fantastic Voyage (classic!!) on the 90s station already had me, and I’m still thinking about it now.  It was a small gesture, but motivation contagion is best accomplished by small gestures that add up and snowball into bigger ones.  Plus, here’s a little secret, the more you make an effort to motivate others, the more you end up reinforcing the HAPPY and motivating yourself!

How will you spread your best today?

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Two Corners, One Message

A few days ago, en route to the gym, I was stopped at a red light and happened to look to my right. There I saw a corn-a-licious, heartwarming scene. It was what seemed to be a father and his young daughter, playing on the corner with their bags stacked on the sidewalk as they waited for a bus.  The little girl was behind him, hands in his pockets, as the man pretended he was looking for her. He kept turning and turning, flailing his arms in the air as if he was puzzled by where she might have gone. The little girl giggled and giggled, jumping around behind him, enjoying the delicious silliness of it all.

I watched and smiled, just enjoying the pureness and love in that moment. I never really had that sort of relationship with my father, and I felt happy for that little girl for her possession of that moment. The simple scene gave me comfort, hope and a warm, cuddly feeling. And I think we know by now, that I feed on these warm fuzzies like mice on cheese.

Then yesterday, I left work a little early because I wasn’t feeling well. I was stopped at a red light again, and also looked to the right (I guess this is my direction of choice). This time I saw a completely different scene on another, very different corner. There was a young man in a bright red sweater sitting on the sidewalk, surrounded by policemen, whirling around, looking very confused, scared and out of control. It was obvious he was pretty drugged up as the cops tried to control the situation and question him.

At that moment, I remembered the other, more pleasant corner scene I had seen a few days back, and suddenly felt a strange, but strong connection between the two. That little girl was seeking love, laughter and understanding from her father in the same way that the young man was searching for it from those cops.

Many of us would see a scene like that and automatically think lowly of that person, judge him, and ridicule him. But who knows what brought that young man to his current plight. Who knows what love or comfort he has been denied in his life, what trauma he might have experienced, and how scared he must be in order to act out in that way, and find himself on a street corner pleading for understanding.

So, I think I know what you’re thinking. That’s a lovely story Sonia, but what is your point? My point is about connection, kindness and understanding – things I believe we can all make an effort to exercise more often. I’ve already talked a lot about this in different ways.

It’s the idea that we are all essentially fighting the same battle and looking for the same comfort, that we should try and be more understanding of each other and less judgmental, and that we should extend our hands and hearts whenever we can. This doesn’t mean we should make excuses for people, give them way too many chances, or let them hurt us. But I do think we could stand to give a few chances away, because when you constantly tell someone they are nothing, they will start to believe it, and they will never think they are worth change. Plus, kindness doesn’t only help those you offer it to. Believe it or not, it can help quiet your own anxieties, and make your everyday richer, and more connected.

I really hope that little girl knows and appreciates what she has, and I hope that young man was offered the help he needs. I also hope that, in some small way, he knows someone out there is rooting for him. And I know. I’m so corny, you can hardly stand it. But it’s good for you. I promise!

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Savor the Good in Every Day

Today has been a rough day, a stressful day. Meetings galore, rampant confusion and pressure up the wazoo. Through it all, I’ve kept traveling in my head back to this morning. I pulled over to the side of the road to get off and drop my rent check in the big blue box. The snow was piled up on the corner by the mailbox. As I carefully made my way through the fresh heap, trying to ensure I didn’t slip and fall on my ass, because let me tell you, that’s pretty likely if you know me (clumsy Florida girl here), I heard a stranger’s voice call out to me with enthusiasm.

“Do you just need to drop that in the mailbox? Let me help you!” she said as she reached out her hand to me. “Yes! Thank you!” I said as I accepted her offer and handed off the envelope. “Sure!” she exclaimed. Then we exchanged a friendly wave, and off we were.

It was such a small thing, really. But it took me by surprise. It always does. A stranger sees an opportunity to help in a small but meaningful way, and she goes for it. These are the things I like to focus on. All the good that exists in the world amongst all the cruddy every day stuff we all deal with. It renews my faith in humanity, every time. It makes a difference. Shoot, it is now hours later, and I’m still finding comfort in that two second exchange.

Even when you think it won’t matter, reach out your hand. Help a stranger if you see that you are able. It will make a bigger impact than you think. It will offer them warmth and hope. And , in doing so, remind yourself the many small ways in which we can all help each other more, and make this thing called life just a little easier.

Savor the good in every day. It’s alive and well all around you if you just take a second to look up and accept it.

Sonia, Word Share Junkie