The Top Three Ways to Show Kindness (Even When It Doesn’t Come Naturally)

Do you notice how you feel when someone shows you kindness?

Do you notice how you feel when you show kindness to someone else?

How about when you see someone being kind?

Whether you are the giver, receiver, or observer, kindness simply has a way of making us feel better. Research shows that “even the act of imagining compassion and kindness” creates a positive effect in our brains.

With so many opportunities for kindness to be given, received, and even imagined, it seems that kindness would be the experience of many. Yet, as much as kindness matters, as leaders who are human, hard days and difficult decisions might create barriers to showing kindness to others and, oftentimes, ourselves. How often has stress dictated responses you wish you could go back and change the next day or even moments later? The good news is that because kindness is such a powerful expression, it is never too late to be kind. There is always a time and place for it.

Years ago, I was at a networking event. There was a man standing off to the side, not talking with anyone. I went over to him and started a conversation, learning that his brother had died the day before and that he had come to the event because he was lonely and sad. He needed to be around people. Though he may not have known it at the time, he needed kindness.

After the event, I got his address and mailed him a sympathy card. It was a simple act for me but tremendously powerful for this man because of how it made him feel. Expressing kindness is a great way to show someone that they matter. He reached out to me a week later to express his thanks and how much it moved him to think he could meet someone new and that they would care so deeply about him and what he was going through. About six months later, he reached out because he wanted to connect me to someone he thought I would enjoy meeting. That person and I became good friends, and she was instrumental in my professional success. Again, there is always a time and place for kindness.

But let’s get back to those hard days and difficult decisions for a moment. Leaders have a lot to navigate in the workplace, and being kind may be the last thing we are thinking about. Though some leaders may appear naturally kind, remember that kindness is intentional. It is an active choice. It is deliberate. Choosing to be kind, then, is done on purpose. Sure, some leaders may have an inclination toward kindness, but they are still making the choice to put those kind thoughts and tendencies into action. So, no matter our experience, we can intentionally choose to be kind.

Consider this statement again: Choosing to be kind is done on purpose. What does that mean to you? What does it look like? As a leader, how does this understanding change how you interact with others and, more specifically, your direct reports?

When we are kind, we tell the receiver, whether the receiver is another person or us, that they matter. They are worth our taking the time and energy to overcome barriers or stop whatever we may be doing that is unkind. Imagine what practicing this type of intentionality would do for you as a leader as well as for your team. 

If you find it challenging to imagine this, I invite you to think about the last time someone was kind to you. What actions did they take? How did their kindness make you feel? Hold that feeling in your mind. Now, think about how their kindness was a choice they made on purpose because you mattered to them that much. How does that make you feel? You have the ability to share this same gift with others at any time and on any day.

Here are three things you might do to share the gift of kindness:

  1. Start with yourself. As I always say, a leader must lead themselves first. The same philosophy applies to kindness. When we are kind to ourselves, we feel better, and when we feel better, we treat others better. What do you need to do to be kind to yourself today?
  2. Listen generously. A few weeks ago, I shared my article about what it means to be a generous listener and the positive results being a generous listener can bring to leaders and their teams. Kindness is listening generously.
  3. Experiment. Try kindness out. It doesn’t have to be a big act of kindness. Holding open the elevator, buying someone a coffee, asking someone about their day, or walking across the room to start a conversation are all small acts of kindness that show someone you are thinking about them and that they matter. So, get out there, experiment, and have fun with it. And don’t forget to notice how being kind makes you and others feel.

As you go on about your day, looking for ways to choose to be kind on purpose, I will leave you with one final thought, kindness is powerful in many ways, including having a ripple effect. When we show kindness, others show it as well. Kindness begets kindness. So, remember this. Next time you choose to be kind to one person, realize the impact you are making for many.

If you would like to learn more tools, resources, and strategies to become a more effective leader, please reach out. We help leaders of Fortune 500 companies and national organizations better understand the actions they can take that work best for themselves, their teams, and their organizations. Contact us to learn more about our executive coaching opportunities and Leadership Evolution Program at [email protected]. We will talk soon.