Saturday, February 6, 2016

5 Simple Ways to Be Kind

Kindness is a universal source of joy. But how often do we forget to think of others, or justify actions that tear others down? We have so much power to bring joy to others and strengthen the people in our lives, especially those who mean the most to us. I believe kindness is the key to that power, so here are 5 simple ways I’m learning to be more kind:

1. Learn people’s names and use them.

Obviously, you don’t need to learn the name of someone you’ve known for years, but you might be surprised how much power there is in using it. Ask, “Mike, how are you doing?” instead of just, “How are you?”, and suddenly that question feels much more personal and serious, instead of aloof and meaningless. You can even do this with someone you’ve just met a few seconds ago: “Karen, I’m so glad we met,” instead of, “Nice to meet you.”

My mom suggested I try this back when I was in middle school (worst awkward phase ever), and since then, I’ve been amazed over and over at the effect a simple hello, paired with a name, can have on a person. Remembering names isn’t always easy, but consciously using someone’s name is a simple and powerful form of kindness.

2. Ask questions and listen.

The truth about the aforementioned awkward phase is that, sometimes, I feel like I never really outgrew it. But I can’t be the only person in the world who feels rude when I can’t think of anything to say in a social setting. I’m learning that one of the best ways to show kindness, especially when your mind goes blank, is to ask questions. 

It takes some practice to learn how to ask good questions, but it’s also a great way to avoid talking about yourself, and it's helpful when you find yourself in a debate. Rather than trying to prove your point or getting defensive, start asking questions, and you'll likely get a different perspective.

Asking questions works wonderfully in families and all kinds of relationships, too. Ask your boss about her (or his) biggest challenges, your coworkers about their previous jobs, your siblings about their summer plans, your parents about their latest volunteer efforts, your kids about their friends, and, if you’re married, find out what’s on your spouse’s mind. Then listen with an open heart.

3. Smile.
There's not much to say here: a little smile goes a long way. I mean, don’t stare at people with a goofy grin on your face (I might be guilty of this at times), but do acknowledge them with a simple smile. What if every time you greeted your spouse, your coworker, your neighbor--or even complete strangers--you smiled? The simple habit of smiling could quite possibly change someone’s whole world--and your world, too.

4. Point out the positive.

So you don’t like how someone dresses, or talks, or votes, or eats, or worships, or doesn’t, or whatever... Maybe you just flat-out don’t like someone. Maybe someone--even someone close to you--has been unkind to you. There are a million reasons not to be kind, and it’s easy, but it takes real courage and strength to look for the best in others, and even more to point it out. To be willing to look beyond a person’s outward appearance and faults is the essence of kindness.

5. Remember details.

Have you ever felt like you’re having the same conversation with the same person over and over? Try this: the next time you talk to someone, take note of just one or two details and tuck those away in your brain. Then, the next time you see that person, go to that “mental file folder” and ask a question about something you remember from your last conversation. Again, this isn’t just for acquaintances--friends, siblings, parents, your spouse--everyone likes to be remembered. This is probably the hardest one for me on the list, since I can be a little scatter-brained sometimes, but the point is to think of others instead of myself, which is to put kindness into action.

Last Thoughts: Christ on Kindness

Most of the time, people will return kindness for kindness. However, there have been many times in my life (like yours, I’m sure) that, sadly, that's not been the case. I’ve even been taken advantage of before (again, like you I’m sure), and as Christ taught, that can happen when you’re trying to be kind. I’ve been comforted many times by His words here:

“But I say unto, That ye resist not evil (or, being treated badly); but whosoever shall smite thee on on they right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away...Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” And as He taught earlier in His Sermon, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice (!) and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven.” (KJV Matt 5:39-44, Matt 5:11-12).

In other words, true kindness is put to the test in the worst circumstances. “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans (tax-collectors for Herod or Rome, considered the lowest of the low in that day) the same?” (Matt 5:46) We can certainly stand up for ourselves, but at the same time, we can never err too far on the side of kindness, even if it means being bullied or taken advantage of from time to time, because the reward for kindness is greater than any harm others can bring to us.

Showing kindness can be simple, but it takes courage. There are many times in my life when I wish I'd been kinder and more considerate. But when it seems impossible, I go back to this list, and I always find some way to be kind. I’ve seen simple kindness work miracles (like that college roommate who tried to beat me up once...), and even when it doesn’t change my circumstances, it always changes me for the better. I hope, in the same way, this list helps you find ways to make your own world a little better and kinder.


  1. Awesome ideas! I use the "ask questions" always. And, I tell any teenage boy I know, "DO NOT ramble on about yourself when you are trying to get to know a girl. I know you are nervous, and that is the first thing that comes to mind. Instead, THINK OF A QUESTION to ask her before you start talking, athen conversation will continue after you LISTEN to her answer." Seriously, questions are the best. If you can get someone talking about themselves, then they feel noticed and appreciated, and there is always something from what they say that you can continue on in your conversation. I had a companion on my mission who was naturally very introverted, and meeting new people was draining to her...but, I noticed she had a go-to question. "So, have you lived here long?" So easy. You could ask anybody that question, and you'd either hear a bit about where they lived before this, or that they were born and raised here...either way, people like to tell about where they're from, and it was an easy to ask a follow-up question to whatever answer they gave. People usually reciprocate and ask you the same question--BAM a conversation is going! :)

    1. Thanks, Amy! You are so good at being interested in other people--I should've picked up on your strategy years ago!