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

Connect More & Remember You’re ALIVE

On Saturday, I went to an Ivy Queen and La India concert. For those of you who have no clue who they are, they are reggaeton and salsa artists, one of which, La India, I grew up listening to. I even remember singing one of her songs, Me Canse De Ser la Otra (please excuse the majorly cheesy 90’s video), at a high school talent show decked out in a little purple dress and way too much makeup for a 17 year-old. I probably should have known I had a little bit of diva in me at that very moment.

But anyway, I’ve been wanting to make it a point to go to more concerts and live music events, since I felt I couldn’t afford it for a long time, and what makes you feel more alive than music, right? So the night started off slow. There were about 10 different opening acts, and my friend and I were beginning to get a little restless for the main performers to come out. But when they finally did, it was so worth it. When Ivy Queen came onto the stage, she was high-spirited and talked a lot about love, humanity and equality. Two of my favorite things she said were (I might not have the quotes exactly right here):

“Hay veces que una blanquita se enamora de un negrito, y le quieren hacer la vida cuadritos.”

Translation: “There’s times when a white girl falls in love with a black boy, and they want to tear her life into shreds.”

“Love doesn’t have a race. Love doesn’t have a color. Love doesn’t have a gender. Porque somos todos seres humanos (because we are all human beings).”

And at that moment, I felt connected. I felt connected to her words, her identity and her Spanglish. 🙂 I felt alive and suddenly very aware of what it’s really all about. Our lives get so busy, so full of to-do lists, appointments, and hurdles that sometimes we forget to just live, to be present in the moment, to connect with ourselves and others. We forget to remember that whether all of us admit to the corn (corny-ness) or not, we’re all searching for the very same thing. We are all searching for love, for acceptance, for understanding, and for our place and purpose in the world.

So I stood there, singing and dancing my little heart out, and really being very conscious at that moment that I am alive, I know and love who I am, life is good, and I am privileged to be here (thinking of my friend’s all too young cousin who recently passed away in a car accident). It’s important to not let these moments pass you by. Breathe in their air, and take in their life. Moments don’t have to be out of this world to be meaningful. You just have to be awake and aware enough to enjoy them.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is just my little slice of corn for the day. What makes you feel alive? What makes you feel connected?

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