Happiness and kindness?
Kindness is often seen as a nice-to-have quality – something soft and childish. Depending on your environment, it can even be interpreted as a sign of weakness. And yet, if you consider what you’d look for in a relationship, intimate or otherwise, kindness seems like such an obvious answer. Put it another way – would you want to build a relationship with someone who lacked the trait?
The thought of the role that such an important trait plays in our lives, piqued my curiosity, so I did some digging!
If you review the key traits that women and men look for in relationships, qualities like attractiveness, confidence, humour, faithfulness, passion, and reliability all rate highly. But kindness is rarely mentioned.
It’s a surprising revelation. If you spend any time reading the kinds of studies and articles that cover these kind of topics, you’d know that kindness is the single best predictor of happiness in a relationship.
So why don’t people consciously realise as much?
Can we always be kind?
Social media can make for an interesting measure of human nature. Look into kindness and you’ll find countless quotes, graffiti messages and memes referencing its power and extraordinary effects. Written by everyone from scholars, researchers, spiritual leaders and the average Jane – many of us strive for kindness.
One quote that really resonated with me was, unsurprisingly, from the Dalai Lama.
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
Inspiring, isn’t it? But just how practical is it on a day-to-day basis? How easy is it to be kind when your boss is yelling at you for something that’s not your fault? When someone drives into the back of your car (a common occurrence for the Dubai natives in the audience!)? When you are absolute exhausted, running late and someone is rude to you? When your kids are fighting?
Don’t be a mirror
Looking back on my younger self, I’d probably have to describe myself as a mirror. Kind to kind people and less so with those that weren’t. I’m sure we can all relate to people that ‘bring out a side of you’ that perhaps you don’t like. Most of us have justified our actions by telling ourselves that ‘they started it’ or ‘I was sticking up for myself’.
It’s common to blame others for our actions instead of realising we have full control over how we respond.
“We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.” Epictetus
Observe your words
One thing I have noticed over the last few years is just how my words and actions have a much greater impact on my own mood than that of others. If I lose my temper or respond by mirroring negativity, even if I felt I was in the right (which I often do!), I would be left feeling unsettled, upset and anxious.
I made a conscious decision to test out the advice of so many, to observe the impact that I had on myself. When I wanted to defend myself, I would hold back and try to understand the person in front of me.
I’d ask myself what the kindest way to respond would be, or try to understand how I’d want to have someone respond to me if the roles were reversed.
For me, these two questions and the time to pause were transformational. I found that I could put my ego on a shelf and instead search for an outcome that would benefit both parties rather than just me or my pride. Perhaps most importantly, I discovered that I was more comfortable with no needing to be right.
Of course, there must be a balance. That doesn’t mean we become artificially nice, fake or fail to stand up for ourselves – being kind to ourselves is just as important! Instead, we need to become more mindful.
Begin to realise the impact of your responses, both on others and on you. Instead of leaving yourself with a feeling of frustration, guilt, irritation, or anger, The alternative isn’t so bad – you’ll get to leave those situations feeling calm, knowing that you behaved in the kindest way available to you. Because, as someone once said – it is always possible.
About Fiona Barron
Fiona is a happiness advocate who is on a mission to spread positivity through simple evidence based practices, weekly blogs and community events. Through a combination of research, scientific journals and anecdotal experience, she invites you to join her as she pieces together the jigsaw of how to become your best self.