Make it Count: How Being Nicer Makes a Huge Difference

Last week was rough. I just had a string of bad luck that ended in scratching the heck (excuse my French) out of my brand new, leased car’s bumper as well as that of a Mr. Joe’s, and fraud on my debit card (for like the fifth time this year! Get it together Bank of America!).

Anyways, already having had a stressful week where I swear it started to feel like the universe was trying to push me down to the ground, I got home from work on Thursday night excited to head to Starbucks and work on my motivational eBook series (writing makes me feel alive). I parked my car, and noticing it was a tight spot, decided to move it elsewhere so I wouldn’t get hit later on. I had no idea I was on top of car in front of me, and scraaaaaaaaaaaatch I went. Once re-parked, I got out and there it was – huge scratches all along the right side of my bumper. I guess this Florida girl is still having a little trouble with this parallel parking deal!

Now as you might recall from my post From STRESS to STRENGTH in 24 hours, this car is a stressor in and of itself because I had to lease it after my beloved 2006 Jetta went caput on me a few months ago. And now, I had defaced (OK, maybe defaced is a little exaggerated) the poor thing that I do not even own.  I was flustered and feeling defeated, and could not seem to spot the car I had hit, so I decided to just go to Starbucks to write and deal with it later.

When I returned home that night, I decided to peek around the street and see if I could more calmly point out the car. I remembered it was blue, and walked up and down the street until I thought I spotted it. I looked at the back, and there it was – a huge scratch on the back bumper of what also seemed to be a new car.

I was scared, but I went up to my apartment, dug out my little crate of random stationary cards and stickers (yes, I am that girl), and wrote this note, complete with sticker bouquet, and walked outside to place it on the car’s windshield.

Being Nicer Makes a Huge Difference

I imagined I’d get a very angry phone call, but I would want it done for me, so I did it anyway. I went to bed with a heavy mind, stressing about money more so than I do on any usual night (and that’s a lot). Two days passed, and there was no phone call. I thought maybe they had just let it go. Then yesterday I received a very nice voicemail from a Mr. Joe. He was incredibly appreciative of the card, thanked me for my honesty and asked that I please return his call to work it out.

When I called him back he was so understanding and said that card (because it wasn’t even just a piece of paper) was enough to make his day. I apologized again, and we decided on a plan of action.

So in light of hateful things like the recent outpouring of hate about an Indian-American Miss America, I urge you to be NICE, honest and collaborative. Because no matter what anyone says, I wholeheartedly believe being nicer makes a huge difference, and it really has done so in my life. If we could all just work to show each other a little more respect, love and kindness each day, imagine how much better off we could be. Take the time to connect with others. Put a little extra effort into your communication with folks. And don’t underestimate the power of a little stationary and sticker action – being just a little nicer and more creative about our interactions goes a long way my friends!

Sure I will have to spend money on fixing this gentleman’s car and that will undoubtedly stress me out, but I can sleep at night knowing I did the right thing, and we will get it done in a positive manner instead of through arguments and blame. Look at that. Just by being nicer, I was able to minimize his stress and my own.

Also, I realize I am lucky to even have a new car or a bank account to stress about. That is also something to keep in mind. When you’re having a bad time, take a minute to really put your problems in perspective. It really helps me simmer down, and I believe it can do the same for you.

And as I always like to say, let’s work together, not against each other. Just a little food for Monday thought.

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

8 Key Career Lessons Grounded in Positivity

Career Lessons Grounded in Positivity

Today, check out eight career lessons grounded in positivity that have helped me be more productive, more successful, and stay just a little more sane.

Career Lessons #1: Be nice, and get a lot more done.

I strongly dislike the phrase, “You are too nice.” In my experience, nice is good, nice is welcomed and nice is productive! Even if you love what you do for a living, work is stressful. No one is paying you to just have fun ALL the time. So why not maintain a positive attitude, play nice with others (even people you don’t exactly want to bestie-up with), and get more done?

One thing I have found from always striving to maintain my cool and smile at work, even when others are getting a little edgy with me, is that I just get more done. Plain and simple. People are more likely to help me, to answer my questions, and to put my requests before those of others. Plus, the workday is just a lot more pleasant with a smile on your face, and around people who are not afraid you’re going to bite their noses off for every little thing. No one likes a crabster at work, even the crabsters themselves!

And no, being nice doesn’t mean being a push-over. It just means putting a little extra effort into understanding the stresses of others in different roles, being receptive to questions and to mistakes (you make ‘em too!), and always being willing to talk through any issues to ultimately accomplish your goals.

Career Lessons #2: Find intrinsic motivation.

You can’t always wait for accolades, compliments, smiling faces, and lots of dough to motivate you to do a good job. Besides, these things are not part of the everyday. On most days, you just have to look inside yourself to stay motivated and produce good quality work.

One thing that has always worked for me is that regardless of outside stressors (outside of myself), I refuse to put my name on bad work if I can help it. So when the goin’ gets tough, I motivate myself with the thought of producing high quality work, not because someone is going to come by and start clapping for me or hand me a wad of cash, but just because that’s the way I roll. It makes me feel good and it gives me purpose. Plus, it is something I can control.

Career Lessons #3: Be helpful.

Please never, ever say to someone, “That is not my job.” Say it to yourself, with your inside voice if you like, but never utter those words. Job descriptions are never going to be 100 percent comprehensive, and hey, stuff comes up, so relax, roll up your sleeves, and always be willing to help. Besides just being good Samaritan-like to do so, this also helps your co-workers and managers build trust in you. And when you need a little hand, others will be more likely to be there and give you what you need.

Career Lessons #4:  Be a rock star problem solver.

I don’t care what anyone says. Whether you have five years of experience, 10 or 25, no one knows everything, especially in a world where things are constantly changing and evolving. Don’t worry so much about having all of the answers, and just practice being a rock star problem solver.

Don’t have the answer to that email right now? Not really sure how to attack that huge project your boss just emailed to you? Heck, maybe you don’t even know what she/he is talking about. That’s OK. Kindly express that you’re not sure, and say you will do a little digging and provide an update soon. Then, go. Research, ask, and think. You’re a smart cookie. You’ll figure it out.

Made a mistake? That’s OK too. Focus on rectifying it instead of drowning in self-pity and making excuses. I have noticed time and time again that everyone understands we make mistakes, but no one likes a terminal attitude. Unless you are conducting surgery, there is usually a way to make a situation better, fix a mistake and find a better way. Take a minute to feel bad, and then get to fixin’!

Career Lessons #5: Find a good balance between salary and passion.

Unfortunately, passion alone doesn’t pay the bills, and salary alone doesn’t buy happiness or feed your soul.  When thinking about what career to go into or change over to, or what job to take, try and find a good balance between passion and salary. Don’ take a salary you can’t live on to do something you love, and don’t take a job you hate just because it pays a lot.

Take me for example. I am a writer to the very depths of my little heart. It’s what I have loved to do since I was a kid. It is what drives me, excites me and fulfills me. So I chose a career in marketing which allows me to write but doesn’t leave me livin’ the starving artist life. For a girl who already comes from poverty, that is just not cute ya’ll. This way, I make a good living at something I enjoy, and still get to do what I absolutely LOVE most days. Sometimes, when I’m stressed about money, I think I should have been a pharmacist or a lawyer, and make more money, but then where would my HAPPY be? It’s not worth it. Just find a balance.

Career Lessons #6: Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Don’t do something wrong just because you’re afraid to ask questions. Again, none of us know everything. Plus, we all have different ways of learning and absorbing information. I know it can be hard especially if you tend to be a little shy like me (hard to believe, right?!), but suck it up, and ask. When the job gets done the right way the first time, everyone will be glad you did.

Career Lessons #7: Show a little personality.

Take some time to scope out your surroundings, and the personalities of your managers and co-workers, but don’t be so afraid to show a little personality. We spend a lot of our lives at work, so why spend it putting up a front? Save your energy for the actual work, please. Of course, you always have to gauge what is appropriate and what isn’t in your particular professional environment, but don’t think you have to be such a robot all the time. I’m fairly certain companies realize you’re human. It’s OK to tell a tasteful joke, add a little professional flare to your attire, and just be you. And if your environment doesn’t allow you to be even a shadow of your actual self, I’d venture to say you are in the wrong profession or the wrong company. Just a little bite for thought.

Career Lessons #8: Fake it ’till you make it.

Finally, always remember to fake it ‘till you make it baby! It’s taken me a while to really see myself outside of the career-less world I come from. Throughout this learning process, I’ve really had to muster the confidence, self-motivation and strength to believe that I belong here in this corporate world just like any other, more privileged individual. I’ve had to constantly remind myself that the education I was fortunate enough to receive and work my booty off for means I will never be stuck in the bonds of what could have very easily been. So no matter what your particular obstacles are, believe in yourself, push through the doubt, and make it happen!

And remember, a little positivity always goes a long, long way.

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

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

Championing the Lost Art of Kindness

I’ve always been a huge believer in and champion of KINDNESS. I wholeheartedly believe you can get so much more done when you are kind to people, and when you consider the humanity in any situation, whether it’s business, personal or fun.  Negativity and a mean spirit, on the other hand, seems to me like the easiest and fastest way to kill productivity, motivation, creativity, imagination, and slowly but surely, your soul.

When I observe people being negative towards each other in order to make a point, or accomplish a goal, and trying to get results through fear and intimidation, it quite literally sickens me. We all have our moments, but if we just took the initiative to be kind whenever possible, and leave negativity as an absolute last resort, we’d be much further along.

Although my life hasn’t been easy, well whose has really, I know that I have opened many doors for myself and maintained those doors open, through kindness. I pride myself on being a person people know they can work with fruitfully; talk to about anything without fear of negative or nasty feedback, and who always remains flexible. I’ve also always respected and cherished people who function in the same fashion. Any other way just doesn’t make sense to me. It never has, and it never will.

For me, I know exactly where this need for nice comes from, too. It comes from growing up in an environment of emotional abuse, of managing expectations through fear and of rampant disrespect. It was an environment of little positive results, and it is the reason I strive to be kind towards anyone who will cooperate. It is the reason I would be utterly ashamed to have anyone think of me as anything less than pleasant. Plus, it just makes it easier to get things accomplished, feel good about who I am, and often feel those good vibrations – yes, I went there.

When you are kind, people extend themselves out to you. People support you, and even begin to champion kindness themselves, causing a rippling effect on others. People are sometimes shocked by it, and I hear a lot of, “Wow, you’re so nice,” but they always welcome it. It is sad to think people will often find it strange when you are kind. It’s because we need more of it.

And, all those times in my life I’ve heard I should stop being so nice, because people will take advantage of me, and trust me, they have plenty of times, I get frustrated with myself for a second. But then I come to and I realize that I refuse to allow others to convince me into being something that I do no respect, something I never want to be. So what if being too nice gets me hurt? At the end of the day, I can look in a mirror, and like and respect myself. I can be proud that I will never make someone feel the rejection and pain I was made to feel growing up.

It really isn’t that hard folks. There are so many opportunities to be kind in small, but meaningful ways throughout your day. Smile at a stranger, let someone pass you in traffic, give a dollar to someone on the street who needs it more than you do (it can happen to anyone), give a compliment, offer to help when no one has asked you to.

The fact is that negativity breeds negativity and hatred. Life is already so incredibly complex. Why make it even more difficult with unnecessary cruelty? As I always say, be nice, it’s good for the soul. 🙂

So how will you take steps to practice and protect the lost art of kindness this week? I challenge you to find just one way to champion kind by Friday, and share it with me. I have every confidence that you can!

And if you need a little inspiration for kind, check these out:  

Sonia, Word Share Junkie