I got a new shirt several months ago. One morning while I was getting ready for the day, I put on my new shirt. My daughter was getting ready for school at the same time. She came out of her bathroom and saw me in my new shirt for the first time. Apparently she liked it because she said, “New shirt? Ooh, I see you, Dad!” I don’t remember hearing that expression too many times before, but it made me feel good and I’ve thought about it since.
Am I Invisible?
I’ve mentioned before that we lived in China for a couple years . . . along with 1.3 billion other people! That’s a lot of people. And, we saw a lot of mom’s carrying babies during that time. My wife loves children (and elderly people, we saw a lot of them, too). One of the first Chinese phrases she wanted to learn was how to say “What a cute baby!” She said that to as many moms as she could. At first she said it just because it was true. But, when she noticed the reaction of the moms, she had another reason to make that comment. Every time she said that to a mom, it was like the mom was amazed that this lady had noticed her child, and she seemed so appreciative.
Suzi (my wife) began to wonder if all those moms felt invisible in the huge throngs of people that were always present. When you looked out over a crowd there it was a homogeneous looking sea of black haired people pressed together. Calling out a mom by saying she had a cute baby seemed to make her feel like she wasn’t invisible, like she mattered. Suzi was on a mission to make sure moms knew they mattered. It was like she was saying, “I see you.”
Light ’em Up
A healthcare client of mine employed a hospitality customer service technique called the 10-5 rule. Ever heard of it? It says that if you are approaching a guest in the corridor or outside the business and they are 10 feet away from you, make eye contact and offer a warm smile to acknowledge the guest. If they come within 5 feet, a sincere greeting should accompany the smile.
Try that and watch what happens. I’ve seen, time and again, people approaching me who had on shall we say “resting business face” light up like a child watching the fireworks at Disney World when I greeted them with a simple “hello.” It’s amazing how a simple but sincere greeting can transform a person’s countenance.
What’s It All About?
These are examples of simple acts of kindness. A brief but powerful definition of Kindness is “giving attention, appreciation, and encouragement.”
Giving attention is simply saying, “I see you” to someone who may feel invisible. Notice the people around you. Take a moment to acknowledge them. Hold the door for someone. Smile and say, “hello.” Offer to help someone who is struggling.
Appreciation means “to enjoy the good qualities of someone or something.” It also means “a full understanding of a situation.” Either meaning works for kindness. It’s telling the Chinese mom her baby is cute. It’s saying, “What a delicious meal!” Or, “Good job. Your report was spot on.” It could be, “I realize what a difficult situation this must be for you.” It could even be as simple as, “Thank you.” Don’t you like to be appreciated?
I was recently talking with a client who mentioned what a good job one of his subordinates was doing. The person was three levels lower in their hierarchy. I ran into that person later the same day and told him what is boss had said. He was so grateful to hear that. He must have thanked me three or four times.
Encouragement means, “the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.” It also means, “persuasion to do or to continue something.” Finally, it means, “the act of trying to stimulate the development of an activity, state, or belief.” You can see how any of these uses of Encouragement would be an act of kindness for someone who needed hope or needed to press on or to believe in a better tomorrow.
There are a million reasons to be kind. Here are two. First, you could save a life. There are many stories about how an act of kindness saved someone. Check out this one for example. The lyrics to this song show how our words have the power to hurt or to Speak Life into someone. Our words and actions are powerful. Use them for good.
A second reason to be kind is that kindness is a boomerang. When you put it out there, it often finds its way back to you through someone else. This reason may sound a bit selfish but in reality, the boomerang effect of kindness often involves a multiplication effect as well. The kindness not only returns to you, but it also gets payed forward by the person to whom you showed it. So go ahead and be selfish.
We never know what the people around us at work, in the neighborhood, at the store, may be facing at any given time. Your one act or word of kindness could make all the difference in the world to them. Find someone and show them some kindness today!