The Power of Kindness
This episode is about the human superpower of being kind for no reason, with people we don’t know, and moved by the selfless choice of turning kindness into one of our core values. We talk about the need for kindness to deal with the polarized world we live in, the effects of kindness on others and ourselves, and why answering with kindness, regardless of how chaotic things are around us, is always the best way out.
Rob Shallenberger: Welcome back to our friends, Becoming Your Best podcast listeners. This is your host, Rob Shallenberger and wherever you’re out in the world, thank you for joining us today on this podcast. And I want to talk about something today that applies to every single one of us, regardless of race, background, gender, religion, culture. This is a principle that transcends any of those things and will apply to every one of us. And that is kindness.
Now, think about this. This is really a climate in the world right now where anger, discord, incivility, these things are all times high, there’s such polarity in our world. And the great leaders of 2022 will be the ones who exemplify this characteristic —kindness. You can see this, right? You get on social media, the news; it just seems like kindness is only going to be shown by a few people at this point as all you hear about is all the negativity that seems to be in the forefront of the media. In fact, if you go to Fox News or CNN, or any other media outlet, 16 out of 17 news stories will be negative. So, it’s all over, these things that we’re being portrayed, and yet, there are still some amazing acts of kindness out there happening. And my hope in this podcast is to inspire us and motivate every one of us, including myself, to be a little more kind. There’s the old phrase that says, “But there for the grace of God, go I.” And so everybody’s going through different challenges that somebody may know nothing about, and how can we be a catalyst to help, to inspire, to lift? And you can be one of those leaders. Why? Because kindness is a choice, and each one of us can choose to be kind regardless of how chaotic and tumultuous the times might be. It doesn’t really matter what’s happening around us. There are times that I’ve lost my patience, there are times that I have not been kind. And I feel bad about that afterward. And so one of the things that I’m really committing to is treating people with dignity, with respect, and with kindness even when it may not merit it in a particular situation. So, let’s decide today to make kindness part of our 2022. So, let’s jump into this topic because this is one that I need to talk about for me as well. It’s something that I think we can all benefit from. It’s just so easy to get into our own respective worlds.
So, think of it from this perspective: It’s relatively easy to treat our friends kindly, but how about those who don’t give us any reason to do so? How about the person on the street who we don’t know, the homeless gentleman or the lady? How about a person who did not treat us with respect? Let me give you an example. When was the last time you spent 40 minutes to an hour waiting on hold with customer service, and then finally, they answer the phone, and either they don’t have an answer for you, they don’t treat you kindly, whatever – how do you feel? For a lot of us, kindness is tapped out by that point, and that’s actually when sometimes it’s most merited. Because what I found is that when we’re kind to others, there’s a peace that gets generated in our own hearts; we are uplifted; we stand a little taller. Yet if we’re not kind to someone, if we get angry or upset with someone, if we make a comment that’s not kind – how does that impact your mood for the rest of the day? I know for me, it has a big impact; for the rest of the day, I’m in a different mood. So that’s why this is such an important topic and podcast.
I love what Maya Angelou said, “People won’t remember what you said or what you did. What they’ll remember is how you made them feel.” Isn’t that true? So, I want you to think of this. When it comes to kindness, there’s this pretty cool analogy I saw years ago, and I actually haven’t done it, it just came to mind a few minutes ago. It’s one I want to show our kids and share with our team as well. So, feel free to try this, if you have a kitchen, you’re not driving, you can walk down and grab a spoon. You grab a spoon and hold it so that you’re facing it inwards towards yourself – in other words, the bold part of the spoon is facing towards your face – and look at your reflection. And one thing that you’ll notice is that your reflection is upside down. In other words, you’re seeing everything out of perspective when the spoon is facing ourselves. But if you take that spoon and you turn it around and face it outwards, the reflection you will see will be the correct and accurate reflection; it will be right side up. In other words, we see with the proper perspective as things truly are. And I thought there’s a good analogy right there in that spoon. If we’re constantly focused on ourselves and we’re not thinking about how to lift others with a kind comment, stretching out our hand to boost someone’s day or make it a little better; if we’re always just thinking about our own well being, we sometimes will see life out of perspective, not through the correct lens. And I’m not at all saying that it’s not important to have self-care. Anybody that’s listening to this podcast knows the importance of that personal role when we talk about our vision and our goals and pre-week planning. So, I’m not suggesting that taking care of ourselves is not important; to the contrary, it absolutely is. However, I think we all know the difference between really thinking about ourselves all day long, versus that spoon analogy of turning the spoon outwards and thinking about others as they’re walking by around us, or seeing others and thinking how can we help them? It’s a different mindset. And that’s when we start to really feel peace and joy in our lives, at least from my experience. And from all the people I’ve talked with, I’m not alone in feeling that way.
And yet, why is it sometimes easy to not be kind, knowing that? And so that’s why we’re having this conversation today. As a former fighter pilot, in the spirit of total transparency, I can tend to be direct and focused. I’m kind of like “Let’s get the job done” kind of guy. And on one hand, that can be a real virtue – when you’re running a business and things like that, that can be great. But on the other hand, you can unknowingly hurt people’s feelings. For example, it takes a conscious effort for me to step back and consider people’s feelings, asking how did that make them feel? And it is actually kind of funny, different personalities. My wife is very sensitive and tunes into other people’s needs and feelings. And so sometimes we’ll finish a conversation with someone, and my wife was there, and as we walk away, she’ll say, “You know, that kind of came across a little strong.” And I’ll be like, “Really?” From my perspective, it didn’t seem like that. But from the other person’s perspective, maybe they felt like I wasn’t being kind. And so this is really something that we need to be intentional about as humans, whether it’s serving someone in a bigger, larger capacity, or whether it’s just our tone of voice and being present and listening.
And so to that point, what does kindness look like for you? Maybe it’s driving downtown and serving hot chocolate to the homeless. And not just serving hot chocolate, but getting to know their story, their background, that they’re humans. Maybe it’s donating money. Maybe it’s taking time to walk the floor of your business, and point out one positive thing that you see about each team member – walk the floor. Maybe it’s listening better to your partner or spouse so that they feel understood. Or maybe it’s just being present with our children, not constantly lecturing them, which is so easy to do sometimes, isn’t it? So, what does kindness mean for you?
Now I’m going to share with you a story. And for those that read our newsletter that goes out, this is from our newsletter just a few weeks ago, and it’s from a gentleman who was at the busy O’Hare Airport. And some of you may have heard this story. If not, it’s an awesome story. Even if you’ve heard it, it’s inspiring to hear it a second time. And it just goes to show that if we’re willing to open up our eyes and look – kind of like that spoon analogy – that it’s really not that hard to find opportunities to lift and serve others. So, imagine being in O’Hare Airport, and if you’ve ever been to any airport like O’Hare, you know how busy, crazy, and chaotic it can be. And generally, traveling doesn’t tend to bring out our best side. When planes get delayed or they’re late or you miss a flight, it doesn’t tend to bring out the very best in us. And so here’s the situation, O’Hare Airport, there was a big storm going on, so you had stranded passengers. And as you could imagine, people were impatient, they were hungry, they were irritable. I think most of us have been there at some point in our lives. Well among these people, there was a young pregnant mother who was standing in a long line at the airline counter and she had her toddler crying next to her, the floor was dirty. So I think you can visualize the scene there. And at the same time, to compound the situation, she was sick and tired. Clearly, she wanted to get home and it was at her wit’s end. Well, not able to bend over and pick up anything heavy because she was pregnant, she was pushing this crying child along with her foot as she was moving up in the line. So maybe you can visualize this now in your mind.
What would you do if you were in this situation and saw this lady? Well, most of the people around her did nothing. I’m sure they watched her and thought, “Oh, man, that’s tough, we’ve been there.” But nobody helped her. And to the contrary, there was even a handful of people who were visibly annoyed because of her crying child. Until one man decided to act. And with a smile of kindness on his face, this gentleman said, “You need help, let me help you.” And then without asking her— And you could say, maybe today you might get in trouble for this. But it appears this lady was in pretty dire straits and nobody else had offered a helping hand. And so he lifted the dirty, crying child from the floor, and held her warmly in his arms, and helped keep her calm. He then explained to the people in line the woman’s need for help, her situation, and then he escorted her to the front of the line and spoke with the ticketing agent to get her booked on that flight. He then found a comfortable seat for her, took her and her toddler over to the seat, got them seated down so they were comfortable. They talked for a few minutes, and then he went on his way.
Now, let me ask you this question: Do you think this mother will ever forget this act of kindness? What do you think was the impact on these total strangers when this gentleman approached and helped out this mother who was clearly in a predicament that some of us have been in it at some point in our lives? For those that were irritated or upset, could you imagine almost the pennant in the humble heart with which they had to watch that scene unfold, thinking “Why wasn’t that me that stepped in and helped?” So the idea is that there are opportunities for kindness all around us. Sometimes it’s just a matter of opening up our eyes and really being attuned to the people around us.
So my invitation this week is like this gentleman at the O’Hare Airport, who was attuned in enough to see when someone needed help. And even without them needing help, per se, how can we reach out and increase our kindness towards others this week? So, think about kindness. And I invite you to make this a focus throughout the remainder of your week. What are ways that you can be kind to those around you, in your home behind closed doors? How about the people on your team and within your organization? How about total strangers on the street? If someone needs to be let in, we let them in traffic; how will that feel differently to let them in and take the higher road even though maybe we’re going to be 10 seconds later to our destination? So, let’s keep this on the forefront of our mind as we go throughout the rest of today. Who could you text? Who could you compliment or thank? And who could you serve at some point today?
I’m going to finish with three quotes. I love these quotes. William Wordsworth said, “The best portion of a good person’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.” Isn’t that interesting? And Wendy Mass went on to say, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Boy, I think that’s a pretty safe assumption. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives. We put on a good show on the outside but we’re dealing with something on the inside. And so let’s just treat people as if they’re going through something challenging. And then I’ll finish with Maya Angelou’s quote one more time because it’s worth repeating. And that is that “People won’t remember what we said or what we did. What they’ll remember is how we made them feel.”
And so I hope this podcast has been introspective, not a long one, but hopefully a powerful one, in that, if we can turn our spoon outwards, if we can shift our lens and our focus to lifting others — this doesn’t have to be a monumental effort that takes hours; it can literally take seconds. I mean, how long does it take to give someone a compliment? Or send them a text telling them how much we appreciate them, how awesome they are. Going back to that quote from William Wordsworth is it doesn’t have to be these ‘Herculean effort’ type things, it’s the culmination of these little things that bring peace, happiness, and joy into our lives.
So, thank you for tuning into this podcast. I hope you have a wonderful day and a great rest of your week as you focus on kindness.
CEO, Becoming Your Best
Leading authority on leadership and execution, F-16 Fighter Pilot, and father