Kindness Spoken Here

In places where multiple cultures are prevalent, or if it’s a frequent vacation destination, it is not unusual to see signs that say si parla Italiano, se habla Espanol, or even English spoken here. It is a welcome sign when you are in a place that does not speak your language. You know this is a place where you will be understood.

This had me thinking. What if in every household, workplace and commercial location, there was a sign posted, Kindness Spoken Here. Here, we watch, listen, care and respond with kindness, concern and respect.

Imagine how things would be different.

I travel during many weeks every year, so many weeks that Southwest Airlines and Marriott really like me. But it’s not the reward points that I review at the end of each trip, it’s the behaviors of those around me. In all of my trips speaking to groups, organizations, parents and CEOs, I routinely have the opportunity to witness how we interact and communicate with each other. Most of us are moving through life on a mission – head down and pushing ahead or looking at a phone walking in a way that would not pass a sobriety test. We are unaware of others, bumping into them, racing to beat them to a line, ensuring that we get what we want before assessing or responding to what they want. Rarely do we watch for the places to help others, let alone even acknowledge them. If one of the most important things we can do in life is to notice, encourage and support the greatness in others, it can’t happen if we aren’t aware of and committed to kindness in our interactions. Kindness is the key to the door to connection and relationship.

How do you develop the Kindness Spoken Here mindset? Here are three ideas.

  1. Don’t be cheap with a smile. This is the best and most inexpensive value builder on the planet. When you smile, you positively affect the moods of others. It is called emotional contagion. When you smile, you subconsciously invite others to join you in a positive and supportive emotion. As you smile and receive one back, you are also benefited from your action. And another benefit: it has the power to relax or undo a negative emotion in someone else.
  2. Don’t be cheap with a greeting or kind word. After a simple smile, offer a kind word. Express interest in them by asking how they are, how their day is, or, my favorite, what is the best thing that has happened to you today? Silent smiles are good, but smiles accompanied by a kind greeting are better. Connecting through actions and words improves the quality of connection with others, whether friends or strangers.
  3. Don’t be cheap with a simple act of kindness. Hold the door for someone. Let someone in ahead of you in traffic. Help someone with a bag, box or suitcase. Chat with them while waiting in whatever line you find yourself in. Express an interest in the lives of others and you will notice how similar we all are: looking to do our best in world that moves fast and can be impersonal.

With a focus on kindness, it’s more likely that you will see the greatness surface in others. As they respond, you are changed for good.

Take Action
Post Kindness Spoken Here at your home, office, car or school. Use the sign as a reminder to always watch and focus on how you speak, connect and interact with others. Lead with kindness.

This week, make a commitment to smile more, use kind and supportive words (instead of critical words), and do things to help others. It will be appreciated and will be paid forward. Great things always start small and catch on because they are great. Kindness can start small and grow into a family, company, school, town or even country that leaves others and ourselves better.

Speak the language of kindness and you will change yourself and your world.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How Your Memories of Childhood Can Improve Your Future

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How to Not Let Your Family Make You Crazy During the Holidays

The holidays are supposed to be a happy time, a time when friends and family come together to celebrate. Celebrate each other. Celebrate life. Celebrate love. It’s a time to create new memories and celebrate old ones. 

But everyone knows family events can quickly lead to challenges. It’s so commonplace that it has been the focal point of a variety of movies, TV shows and even SNL skits. The well-intentioned aunt who keeps asking why you’re single. The uncle who indulges a little too much and brings up hot button issues as conversation over dinner. The religious or political zealot who uses the holiday to grandstand or overshare their beliefs. The relative who drops their kids in another room and departs hastily with some excuse as to why the kids are now someone else’s problem. 

It can be easy to let this behavior get the best of you, to feel angry or feel like a victim. But remember: you have the ability to choose your response, to intentionally decide how your next moment will be.

To do this in a way that is productive to you and those around you, answer these questions:

  1. How do I want this event to be? Consider the quote “Begin with the end in mind.” After leaving your family function, how do you want to feel? What memories do you want to create? Though you can’t control the entire event (or everyone’s moods), you have complete control over your own moods, emotions and actions. Consider how you want the event to be to you and make it your intention to make that outcome happen. You can feel this even if others don’t.
  2. What are my triggers? You know yourself and you know your family. Ask yourself if there is anything – behaviors, topics, etc. – that would make you angry, upset or frustrated. Know what those triggers are and prepare yourself to create a productive response to those triggers. Avoid reacting. Be self-managed. If you know your uncle aggravates you, what topics do you have prepared to redirect a conversation, or how will you make more time in the kitchen or some other area where you can stay away from the overly critical aunt? Plan ahead.
  3. Where is my line? At some point, even the greatest preparation might not be enough. And that’s ok! Everyone is unique; it’s part of what makes this world so great. But it can also introduce challenges and may result in some people butting heads. Ask yourself at what point can you no longer ignore, tolerate or try to diffuse a situation. At what point does the situation become toxic for you and any relationships in play? Identify your line and know how you will respond when that line is approached or crossed. Sometimes, it’s as easy as leaving. Sometimes, it requires a little more grace. Prepare yourself for what that could look like and have a plan when it arrives. This way you can stay calm and carry out your plan to keep yourself sane and mentally well.

Take Action
Spend some time getting to know yourself – your strengths, triggers and blind spots. Being aware of them creates the opportunity to better manage them (you can’t manage what you don’t see or know). This will help you more calmly and successfully navigate family functions. The calmer, saner and happier you are will allow you to enjoy the holidays and maybe even inspire others to do the same.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Don’t Panic (Until it’s Time to Panic)

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Holiday Tips: How to Deal with Your Toughest Critics (i.e. Your Family)

Are you eagerly awaiting your family holiday event? Or are you dreading being stuck in the same room with “those people” for an extended period of time?

If the latter, you may find yourself bringing this unproductive mindset and emotion to every aspect of your life. Whether it’s work, your personal life or relationships, feeling anxious or frustrated can introduce a level of unintended hostility around the holiday season.

We put together a few tips to help you stay calm and enjoy the season, regardless of what family members (or other relationships) may do to test or challenge you.

1. Acknowledge you can’t control everything. You certainly can’t control a group of unique people, especially a group that, despite coming from the same background, have unique life experiences that have made each of them exactly who they are today. We aren’t supposed to be the same – imagine how boring that would be. And others aren’t for you to control; they get to be who they are. Instead, accepting each person is who they are allows you start to see value in their differences. The brother who knows a lot about investing. The sister who is running marathons. The cousin who has a different political perspective. The critical aunt that is actually just trying to helpful. Don’t try to control it – step back and try to see the value in others. When you do this, this same group of challenging people can become a group of remarkable people.

2. Change the topic. So, you tried to see your family as remarkable people and it isn’t working. They still argue and can be critical. One of the best ways to interrupt a negative exchange or interaction is simply to change the topic. People love to talk about themselves, so this can be a very well-timed strategy to ask great Aunt Polly about that time she met Uncle Paul. And if you ask an open question that requires more than a one-word response, it can create the space for a productive conversation that everyone can enjoy. Consider having some questions prepared that you can use to keep things more enjoyable.

3. You can leave. Okay, you tried to see the value in others. Then you used some redirecting topics to change the conversation. Nothing seemed to work. So remember: you have the ability to physically remove yourself if things start crossing a line, or, if you’re hosting, you can ask someone to leave. Spend some time with yourself to identify your triggers and where your line is. Keep your energy up, even if your line is crossed. After all, getting angry or feeling victimized can only lead to unproductive outcomes.

I think holidays were invented to bring us together – and to celebrate each other. Putting a group of people in the same room who come packaged with unique abilities, interests, beliefs and experiences, regardless of the reason, will not always work out. Though you can’t control them, you can manage yourself.

Remember: you choose who you want to be and how you want to show up to the moments of your life. Develop your techniques to help others get along. Celebrate when it happens. Have a plan when it doesn’t.

Take Action
What is it about the holiday season you love the most? You dislike the most? These are important questions to answer before attending any holiday function as they can open your eyes to triggers that you may have overlooked. Prepare yourself for any holiday function by having a plan for them and a plan for yourself. Having a plan is key to making the most of every holiday.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Expect the Unexpected to Make Life Better

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Being Thankful

I can vividly remember one Thanksgiving when my rather large extended family went around the table before dinner was served and each person was asked to share one thing they were thankful for. Some were thoughtful and touching, others were practical. I remember this particular year because I was caught off guard. I listened to my family members all share touching and thoughtful expressions of thankfulness and I nervously waited for my turn. Despite the vivid memory, I truly can’t remember what I shared that I was thankful for, but being about 8 years old at the time, I’m pretty sure I said some standard response of “my family” or “soccer,” or I repeated what a previous family member shared.

Regardless of my 8-year-old memory, the point is that we took a moment to stop and notice what was working in our lives instead of what wasn’t working. This is the formula for gratitude. Or is it?

The tradition of taking a moment to share a reason to be grateful has been evolving into month-long events for families to recognize and celebrate. Some families have adopted an at-the-dinner-table nightly routine. Others have created Thankful Pumpkins, where they write down something they’re thankful for on a pumpkin every day through the month of November, then prominently feature the pumpkin as the centerpiece on Thanksgiving Day. And others have used Thankful Jars or Gratitude Jars, where every family member writes down one thing they are thankful for each day and puts it in a jar to be read aloud – as a family – on New Year’s Day.

What I’m seeing is that today’s world, which is so seemingly self- and world-unaware, has moments of great awareness. Moments of enlightenment. Moments when they are so truly tuned in that they can see and appreciate the up and the downs (because the downs help us appreciate the ups) in each of life’s little moments.

And I’m increasingly seeing this in younger kids. In fact, my 3-year-old’s preschool class created “Thanksgiving trees” this year. Each student was encouraged to draw something they were thankful for, thus introducing the awareness and understanding of being thankful (granted, one student featured spiders on his Thanksgiving tree, but the conversations are being had…).

So this Thanksgiving, don’t just take a moment to reflect on what you’re thankful for today. Challenge yourself to adopt this attitude of gratitude every day throughout every year. Just think of how you would change – how you think, feel and act – when you focus more on what is good and right in life instead of what isn’t. And should that be something you do every day?

Take Action
Make some time to truly tune in to your surroundings on Thanksgiving. Where are you? Who are you with? Is someone missing that you wish could be there? How did the food taste? What extra effort went into bringing you all together? What emotions and feelings does this view of the day help you experience?

Now take a deep breath. It’s easier to acknowledge what you’re thankful for than it is to say “thank you,” so close your eyes and say “thank you.” Say it out aloud or in your head. But say it to the universe. To your family and friends. To yourself.

Then ask how you will bring that attitude of gratitude to everything you do, to learn to see and appreciate the good in every moment. You and those in your life will be changed by it.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Life’s Little Gifts

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Maybe We Just Aren’t a Kind People

By Jay Forte

Why is it we pull together when confronted with a catastrophe? Remember how we felt after 9/11. We cared about each other. We loved each other. We helped each other. We didn’t see our differences; we saw our similarities. We wanted to hear each other’s stories and cared enough about what they were going through to really listen and to try to help. We were united.

Now look at us. We see each other as enemies. We can’t listen to people who don’t share our perspectives. In fact, we demean, criticize and hurt those who don’t share our beliefs. We lose family and friends over a variety of hot button issues, like equal rights, free speech, racism, the environment and a variety of other things that fill the news.

I can’t remember a time when we have had so little regard for each other. We are so focused on having what we want that we forget we share the country with others. This realization could incite a range of emotions, but for me, it’s disappointment.

I’m disappointed with the churches that support and condone hatred and disrespect of anyone. I’m disappointed with anyone in a political office who disrespects any part of our population. I’m disappointed with anyone who thinks some of us are more valuable or more important and treats others poorly as a result. I’m disappointed with people who don’t have room in their heart for those who are suffering, homeless or in pain just because they don’t look like, act like or live like we do.

This behavior is seemingly so apparent that it makes me wonder: maybe we just aren’t a kind people.

But, we weren’t born hateful and judgmental. We learned it. So, if we can learn it, could we also relearn how to be kind?

Our country is an experiment. Could people who look different, believe different things and live in different ways learn to see what is great in each other, collaborate with each other and find a way to peacefully live with each other? Could we show the rest of the world that we don’t always agree but we commit to solving our issues fairly and respectfully? Could we show the world that when we are kind, caring and respectful of each other, we unite to do remarkable things both at home and in the world?

I believe we can.

If we are mindful enough, we can learn to shift from seeing what is different with others to seeing what makes them remarkable (because there are remarkable attributes in all of us). And as such, they deserve our respect, care and support.

Our founding fathers’ intention in creating a country committed to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness wasn’t about who could have the most stuff, so we could feel more important than others. It was the belief that we must work together to build a culture that allowed everyone to self-realize, to cultivate their potential so they could deliver that potential back to our world. This is how things improve. This is the formula to be our best to make things better for all of us in our country.

And if we can do this within our borders, we could learn to do it and teach others to do it with everyone on the planet.

The result? A kinder and more mindful world where everyone has a life that matters. We all live under the same big sky. Whatever life sends, we have the collective genius to handle it. But to do this, we need everyone. We need everyone to contribute their ideas, support and remarkable abilities. Life is big and complicated, but we have what we need to handle it wisely and well. To do this, we will have to learn – or relearn – how to be kind.

Take Action

Check in on yourself. Are you kind, caring and respectful to everyone? If so, bravo! If not, check in on whatever beliefs you have that give you permission to behave otherwise. Kindness encourages relationships; being unkind discourages them. Relationships drive trust, and trust drives the ability to work together and solve life’s challenges. Maybe it is time for a belief adjustment.

 

Consider reading Your Personal Board of Directors

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The Post-it Note as a Mindfulness Tool

By Jay Forte

Everyone is talking about mindfulness, but we can’t truly gain the benefits of being mindful unless we’re clear on what it is. So, let’s start with a couple of quick definitions:

  • Awareness means paying attention on purpose, in the current moment, without judgment. In other words, awareness means paying attention, intentionally tuning in to be present to gather the information that is in front of you.
  • Mindfulness, in my definition, means using that information to seek out, create and act in a way that can make your next moment more effective.

Awareness provides the information; mindfulness uses it to be better or to make better decisions.

A couple of examples.

Let’s say you have to talk to your son about something that happened at school. When you are aware of his body language and emotions, you can then better assess what and how to respond, leading to a more successful outcome. By being aware, and using that awareness, you can choose on purpose what and how to respond. Without this awareness, you could mindlessly react and miss the opportunity to accurately assess the challenge and work with him to come up with a solution that works.

Let’s say you are in a meeting with your team. When you stop and notice who is contributing and who isn’t, you’re tapping into an awareness that creates the ability for you to be mindful – to intentionally bring in the more introverted members of your team with a focused question or invitation to contribute. If you are unaware of who contributes because you are plowing through your agenda, you will miss the opportunity to activate the thinking of your more timid employees.

See, the challenge we all have is that we spend most of our time in our habits, doing what we always do and unaware we are doing it. To become more present and aware, we have to interrupt our habits to be able to gather the information in this moment, to mindfully use it to make our next moment better.

Enter the Post-it note.

A well-placed Post-it note with an important message for you can act as a great interruption to pull you out of habit mode. The Post-it note might say, “pay attention,” or “stop multitasking,” or “ask questions,” or “everyone contributes,” or even “go walk around and talk to your employees.”

You create the message you need to be reminded of and where to place it to be sure it gets your attention to interrupt your habits. This encourages you to be more aware, more mindful and more intentional in your actions.

Because your brain is powerful, it will soon look right past your Post-it note. So change out the colors regularly or move your note reminders to different locations, all within view. The benefit is that you will create an awareness and mindfulness tool to help you tune in, pay better attention and choose more wisely because you have given yourself the ability to see and consider what you regularly miss.

Take Action

Start today. Leave Post-it notes in areas that will get your attention, with messages that will remind you and encourage you to be more aware, so you can be more mindful. Where are you going to put your first three Post-it notes?

 

Consider reading The Way to a Great Life? Tune In, Reflect, Then Respond

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