MoK: Casual Kindness

There are many ways to spread kindness into life. Most people remember the direct ways, like doing things for people or offering them a compliment, but there are also the indirect ways. Since people are experiencing what they’re thinking about, changing how someone thinks is to change how they feel.

Parents do this with their kids all the time. You’ve seen it. The kid is screaming about something, and then the parent introduces something new to bait the consciousness of the kid. Hopefully it’s not a threat or a gift, because if that happens too often that person will end up unhealthy. But if it’s an experience then it can be expansive.

So there’s the screaming kid at the grocery store, and the parent says, Do you want ride your bike this weekend with the adults, on the adult trails? And the kid starts thinking about that and they switch from anger to excited in no time. So why don’t we do that as adults? Adults actually argue with you to hold on to the idea that’s painful to them. Don’t try to change the subject on me! (Even though all the discussion in the world wouldn’t fix anything.)

You don’t want these efforts to feel forceful. It’s not some wedge of distraction you hammer into a conversation, but if you’re truly listening the way we all should–very intently and with no other purpose than listening–then you will find yourself struck with opportunities to turn the conversation toward something more enjoyable. It’s your nature. The trick will be getting out of its way.

If humans were designed to tune to negativity we never would have made it out of our first cave. We’d have been too scared. But instead we’re tuned for possibility. We see opportunities. So if you give someone an opportunity for positivity, well, that’s like bait to a fish. Eventually they’ll bite. And if you’re a patient fisherperson who doesn’t try to force the hook in, then you might find that you can succeed on your first try.

Today in the March of Kindness you want to listen carefully to the overall tone of a conversation. If it’s angry or sad or defeatist, listen intently and a natural response will occur to you that would pull the conversation toward something more pleasant and more productive. If you do it well people shouldn’t even notice that you did it.

That’s all that happy people do. When someone shoots them a ball of negativity, they gracefully give them back an easy play on a winning shot. You abandon the subject of their conversation and you focus instead on the tone only. You don’t argue any point, you simply offer a route to something more enjoyable.

You might have to offer it three times if they’re really upset, but eventually everyone would rather pedal their bike on a downslope. Just don’t listen with an agenda. Patiently listen and what to say or do will occur to you. Trust it. Your doubts are only made of thinking.

This is a very subtle form of kindness, and yet once you’re good at this it will be the one you’ll get to use the most. The sheer subtlety of it means it faces less resistance and it gets better results. So join the rest of us today and find some silver linings and help some others notice them too. Because in the end, we’re all in this life thing together.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Conscious Communication

966 Relax and Succeed - Don't promise when you're happyThis quote offers good advice for whenever you are conscious and can prevent these things from happening. But that’s only half of it. If you don’t do these things in each and every moment that doesn’t doom you. It just helps if take how you’re feeling into account when you look at the world. The glasses you wear will colour everything.

A useful counterpoint to this quote is the idea that the rest of us should all stay aware of the fact that not everyone will be able to do this all the time. Even the wisest people will spend some time in ego. A friend recently noted that staying balanced can be likened to walking. As we step forward in life our left foot ego might stray a bit into the past, and our right foot ego might stray a bit into the future, but your aim is try to keep your head pretty much centred on the path.

Do take your feelings into account when you’re presenting something, but also take the other person’s feelings into account when you’re listening to them. People often don’t mean what they say but their words will still usually capture how they feel about something. It’s best not to take that personally because they’re reacting to how they see things, not how you see them. No one owes you pleasant emotional responses, you can only encourage them or discourage them.

966 Relax and Succeed - I don't forgive people because I'm weakHappy people will tend to underestimate the challenges that might be associated with a task. Don’t be surprised. Angry people who’ve been deserted in the past will often push others away as a test. Again, no surprise. If someone’s profoundly sad then their assessment of their situation may not recognise all of their opportunities. And why would they at that time? These are all examples of ways where our state of mind colours our perspective and they can all happen in normal, healthy people. If anything, everyone’s expectations are way too high.

Do your best to take your own feelings into account when you speak but, since there’s one of you and lots of everyone else, it helps a lot more if you can also listen to everyone else speak and take their state of mind into account too. Then their words seem less personal and about you. Rather than managing what they say you’re responding to how they said it. You stop seeing the words as just about the literal content and you start seeing the conversation as a shared experience that both you and the other person are independently having. This is where men and women often really get stuck because men are inclined to see conversation as data whereas women often see it as an emotional exchange.

If you can live with this awareness you can create a safe environment for your fellow human beings to feel their natural feelings. My best friend can be mad at her mother, she’ll call me and she can literally ask me if I’ll stand in for her mom and get some hell; or maybe she’ll ask me to join her in being angry about her Mom; or sometimes she just wants to be grumpy for a while. Whatever it is; no problem. I love her. She does the same from me. So her and I literally state it to each other if necessary: Here’s how you can help me. This emotion won’t last. Please be with me or share it with me until it passes.

966 Relax and Succeed - What is loveAs soon as someone gives you permission or the right or even better–the freedom to feel your human feelings, you feel safe. And if the feelings are negative you don’t feel as much of an urge to continue pedalling them with your thoughts. In effect the other person has already said, “if your behaviour can’t be good right now I’m okay with that for a while because I care about you. I can last through some angry language if that’s what will help you feel better.” It’s hard to stay in a dark place when someone is that openly loving.

My friend and I can never stay in a negative state for very long. We just lose all our negative energy. You can have this happen in your home too. Stop focusing on everyone living up to their word and being precise about their commitments and instead use communication to manage the energy in the room. If someone’s pinging then everyone else absorb. If someone’s in distress be fully present. There’s always a helpful response even if it’s concerned silence. The question is, in real time, will you ignore the words so that you can actually hear the meaning?

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

peace. s

Another Life

Today we’ll work on your awareness, your focus and your listening. Raising your awareness will get you out of your head and taking more into account. Increasing your focus will keep your attention off you and on someone else, and by doing both of those other things you will be able to listen much better and thereby take in far more actionable information.

883 Relax and Succeed - A wise man can learn moreFor your awareness we’ll get you to choose one specific co-worker or classmate or other person you see regularly. Someone you have opinions about, good or bad. Rather than think of yourself you’ll think about them for the day. So you have to understand them. This might lead to observations or questions, but again–it’s all focusing on them not you, so it’s all helpful.

For focus you just want to make sure that you really do consider that person’s life instead of your own. Instead of complaining about your office chair, wonder how uncomfortable someone heavier or taller than you manages to sit on the same one. Think about how others treat the person, think about their food choices, their schedule, their budget, their family commitments or lack of friends or whatever–them not you.

For listening, if you’ve managed to do the first two things then you’re clear-headed enough that you might just pick up details you’ve never noticed before. Maybe they use a lot of nautical references and it turns out they’ve always wanted to live on a boat again, the way they grew up. Or maybe you hear them talking about a dream they have that you’ve never noticed before. In short, pay attention.

883 Relax and Succeed - Be kind for everyone you meetYou should be able to talk to a person you see regularly and yet still notice something entirely new. If you can’t then you’re still talking to yourself about them–that’s not the same thing as simply taking them in. You’re interacting with your judgmental thoughts about them and not with the actual person. This is what egos do. This is the thing we want to prevent you from doing.

Stop filtering the world through your own personal thinking. Have a perspective but don’t take it so seriously. If you can do that then you have flexibility in all sorts of aspects of life. You can see your opinion as just an opinion rather than the way it is.

“The way it is” is always open to interpretation. Maintain that flexibility and you will always find yourself in a position to create a positive mindset. If you believe what you’re seeing is how it is then you’re doomed to live inside your ego, inside your judgments, inside your limited perceptions. Instead, throw the doors and windows open wide and be with the world with a silent, non-judgmental mind. What it will reveal to you from that perspective will explain to you why so many people are able to love life, and why you can too.

Listen. Feel fortunate. Get out of your head. Study the challenges of another soul. Quiet your mind by listening. This is the path to inner peace. This is the path to understanding.

Enjoy.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.