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Posted by on Apr 12, 2011

Kindness

I’ve adopted a new practice I want to share with you, because it’s making a real difference in my own life, and maybe it could in yours, too.

You know the bumper sticker, “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless beauty?” The one some people sneer at? Well, the people who made and display that bumper sticker have something going on.

I’ve been doing this for a few weeks, and think I’ve hit it every day. (I was on the road and you know how blurry things get on the road.) I’ve been doing the acts of kindness part rather than senseless beauty; I’m still working on getting my arms around that latter part.

And I want to tell you, it changes things.

I was talking with a colleague about this practice and she asked what the impact was. I told her, after pausing to think about it for a minute, that it changes the space.

By this, I mean that it changes several things. This is ironically pretty selfish, but it changes me. At the best of times, I can be pretty demanding, critical, judgmental and negative. But doing something kind somehow pushes back on all that. It’s a kink in the armor.

It also may change others. You never know what the result will be when you pause to let someone in a hurry into the lane of traffic, or tell someone how much you enjoy working with him or her, or tell an employee that you really appreciate his or her help.

(I had to pay a traffic ticket last month, and used Virginia’s automated system to do so. I have to tell you, it’s a really great interface. When I talked to a human being to confirm everything had been received, I told her what a great system it was and that I had actually enjoyed using it. We had a laugh together, and I imagined what she must hear from other disgruntled traffic violators.)

And then, this is in the somewhat mystical department, it changes the space. Somehow, the air, the vibe, the climate is different. I can’t really explain it. The weather inside gets better. This may relate to mirror neurons, or limbic system resonance.

I was at a party last night talking to a friend who had been through some pretty bad team development experiences. Understandably, he seemed pretty skeptical about organization development efforts. I told him one premise I hold is that at the end of the day, people have to believe in and really own and behavior or change they want to make. You can’t really make anyone do anything – at least very well.

So in that vein, I offer this practice as a possibility for you to pursue. You decide if it makes sense. You decide what the results are. Give it a shot.

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