Think back a moment. All the way back to when you were a small child. When we were heard to say something that was hurtful, we probably heard our Mom tell us f you can‚ say something nice or don’t say anything at all.‚ Yes, Mom was/is a great life coach! And as is often the case, she was right for many reasons.

When we say something hurtful, mean or vicious we are directing it at someone but it reflects directly on us. The person we are criticizing may or not be there in person, but the impression is usually a lasting one. The impression that we are unkind and sometimes even petty. Why? Because what we say is always about us, not the person we are talking about.

Simple coaching lesson here, everything I say is about me, nothing I say is about you. What does that mean? If I compliment you on the beautiful yard you have landscaped its true that I’m trying to convey my appreciation of your talents. It’s really about how I feel and my point of view. Who knew? Yes, it’s true that I want you to feel good, appreciated and respected, but again, that is about what I want, isn’t it? If you do feel good, appreciated and respected then I, in turn, feel good because I brought that about. My comments are about me, not you.

By the same token, if I criticize you, tell you that your yard is untidy and makes the neighborhood look shoddy, what and who do you think this is really about? It would appear on the surface, that it’s about you and that‚ is certainly what you will feel like, but if you step back and think about it, in reality, I am telling you that your yard bothers me and that I feel like I am being damaged. But by being harsh and possibly even cruel I have hurt you and made a distinct impression that I am a very unpleasant person. Is anything positive accomplished in this manner? I think not.

Let’s take a moment and think about it. If it turns out that everything I say is in reality about me and is indeed a reflection of me, I need to make some choices here. What did Mom tell me? How can I put it into action? Kindness. It’s just that easy, isn’t it? It’s easy to be kind when we want to convey something positive, such as complimenting the neighbor on their lovely landscaping. But, is there a kind way to deal with the neighbor that lets their yard become an eye-sore? I think so.

It begins with a smile. I absolutely guarantee you that anything you have to say to me I will hear more easily if you smile when you say it. Find something to compliment. So you think the neighbors’ yard is a disaster and it makes you a bit crazy because you can see the weeds oozing into your yard. There’s a good chance that going over and yelling is only going to result in a shouting match or possibly a black eye. Try going over with a smile and a friendly comment or two. You break the ice and offer kindness. As you chat with this neighbor you may find that you have more in common than you know.

Who knows what is going on in this person’s life? It’s possible that there are reasons for the oozing weeds, maybe they are overwhelmed with work, someone may be ill in their house, and they simply may not know or care about the weeds. We had a neighbor who grew their own bumper crop of dandelions, ugh. I made myself crazy about it because I was so proud of my weed-free yard. It turned out that they really didn’t have the first clue what to do about the weeds and they weren’t very bothered by them. On top of that, they were just too busy to deal with them in any case. As we chatted over a few friendly visits I invited her to my yard, she would comment on the flowers or play area for the kids. These were my opportunities to say how grateful I was that we didn’t have a lot of prickly weeds in the areas the kids played, that mulch controlled weeds in the flowers easily, etc. In short, instead of criticizing her yard I shared my thoughts and efforts about my yard. We had a wonderful conversation about what was important to each of us, and it was all very friendly. Their yard never became weed-free. But she tried to keep them manageable and I always made a point of telling her how nice her yard looked. She felt good, I was happier.

Our kids, partners, even our pets all respond to kindness much easier then harshness. Screaming and yelling at a 6-year-old little boy to stop bouncing on the couch will probably only result in him crying and starting to bounce again in a few minutes. Giving him a pillow on the floor and asking him to bounce on it instead and applauding his efforts is more likely to keep his sanity and mine. Shouting at my dog for barking at the leaves in the yard will only result in him running away from me and barking at me. Diverting his attention with a happy voice and giving him something else to do is much more likely to result in us both being happier and a bit less frustrated. I’m sure you get the idea. Take a deep breath, smile and remember that everything you say is truly a reflection of you. Try kindness.

Kindness feels good. It’s really that simple. When I am kind to you, I feel good and there’s a good chance you do too. So listen to the life coach here, be nice to someone today. It works.

Wishing you a day of practicing kindness, I know it will make you feel fabulous and  I’m sure those around you will notice and appreciate your efforts.