Rules for kindness

Yeah, there needs to be a set of rules. Or at least a set of suggestions. This isn’t one of those vague, passive-aggressive posts that are so popular on social media right now. It’s just that I’ve observed several situations lately where simple kindness could have spared people hurt feelings, second thoughts about their self-worth, and basic humiliation.

I’m not saying I hit it out of the park all the time — nor do I think people should be smiling robot punching bags for others. I just think there are ways to communicate disagreement or amusement without trashing someone else’s belief system or reality. It really is about balance. Aren’t many things in life?

I try to live by these rules. I hope it’s why, in part, a few people think I’m basically a nice person. Feel free to add to the list.

  1. Empathy counts. Put yourself in the other person’s place before you speak.
  2. Look at people when they talk to you; if you can’t be genuinely interested in what they have to say, pretend for a few minutes. Nothing lasts forever.
  3. Never laugh at someone’s dreams, no matter how silly you think they are. For good or ill, people’s feelings are real to them. If you’ve ever shared something very personal and special, only to be greeted with baffled looks and incredulous laughter, you know what I mean.
  4. Resist the temptation to always give advice. Eight times out of ten, it’s not your job. and not what the other person is seeking.
  5. Speak to others as you’d have them speak to you. If it’s not with kindness and *gasp!* occasional deference, they’re hanging with the wrong people.
  6. Do nice things for others without expecting repayment or recognition.
  7. Resist the temptation to be “that guy” — the one whose job it is to pick apart every comment or find fault in every opinion. Don’t get me wrong: you’re entitled. But it makes you look like a jerk.
  8. Learn how to disagree or question without malice. No one has to be a “yes man,” or pretend to agree when he doesn’t. But there’s a way, and there’s a way, feel me? Remember: words can hit harder than any fist.
  9. Actually listen — not just wait your turn to speak. Let stuff sink in before you react.
  10. This is the hardest one for me: When someone hurts you, don’t react like a wounded animal. Striking back is usually our first defense, and most often the least wise. Don’t repay aggression with aggression. If the aggressor doesn’t have a sparring partner, there’s no point in continuing the barrage. If he does continue, it’s your job to remove yourself from the situation. Life’s too short to constantly be in the position of defending yourself. (That gets old really fast, believe me.) If you choose it, that’s fine, but no one should be backed into that corner against his will.

Those are my ten. Any to add?

5 thoughts on “Rules for kindness

  1. David

    Love the Post! Love the Post!

    I have lived my 65 years thus far, employing these three rules regarding what I say and when:
    1. Is it True? Never speak a lie.
    2. Is it necessary to say? Use some discretion.
    3. Will it hurt somebody? Mean spirited people have few real friends.

    I have found that all three of these “rules” need to work in unison…lot of true things do not necessarily need to be said.

    Love the post Ms. Fink!!!!

  2. RD

    Tremendous post! All of your posts are good but you really hit this one out of the park. You should share it widely — maybe post the link to it on Facebook and Twitter. Your post is so complete that I have nothing to add.

  3. Ross

    Great, comprehensive list. As an aside, #6 is great. When you stop doing things with expectations of a ‘thank you’ it’s totally liberating.

  4. PKPudlin

    As usual, I’m fashionably late but wanted to add my 2-cents’ worth:
    I understand that in Japan, it is considered rude to answer a question or make a comment without a pause of at least 10 seconds’ time. (My apologies to any Japanese readers if my understanding is not correct.) It means you have not taken sufficient time to consider what has been asked/said and formulate an answer, or (worse!) that you haven’t even been listening. I have noticed that here in the US, we prefer the rapid-fire conversations, but most of our time is spent thinking about what we are going to say, rather than listening to what the other person is saying. No wonder Americans are seen as spoiled and narcissistic! This leads me to wondering how many dire or unwanted situations and misunderstandings might be avoided if we adopted a habit along these lines.

    OK, I’m going back into lurker-mode.

  5. Rat Fink Post author

    I love you all! Don’t lurk! Thanks for the comments — as you know, they mean a lot. I was sad when I wrote this post, but I feel better now. It only takes a tiny bit of kindness to go a long, long way, ja?


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