How people treat other people is a direct reflection of how they feel about themselves.
By nature, I am a happy, optimistic, idealistic person. I have always been one to look on the bright side and see the good in people (unless you treat me unjustly). My usual philosophy in life is that you’re never too important to be kind to people. Something I instill in my kids daily.
Recently, though, my philosophy began to fade when I ran into two young women in the parking garage where I park every day for work.
As I approached floor 3 in the now almost full garage, I noticed two women standing and talking outside their cars as if they were preparing to exit the garage. I rolled down my window and kindly asked if either of them were getting ready to leave. Without saying a word they gave me a glare that instantly indicated anger or frustration, looked away and continued their conversation without even acknowledging me.
Amidst my own anger and frustration, I rolled up my window, continued to the 5th floor of the garage and finally found a prime parking spot. While walking to the office, my mind was flooded with thoughts of not understanding how other people could be so mean, rude, or offensive toward strangers, friends or even family. I took it personally that these women affronted me or were curt with me, believing they were truly out to get me for something I’d done.
For the remainder of my day, I constantly thought negative things, such as “nobody likes you,” “who would want to be your friend?” and “you are not worthy.” For some bizarre reason, I created a toxic environment inside my own head, and it wasn’t based in reality.
I knew I had to change my outlook, so I pushed myself to see the good in myself and the reasons why I’m likable; as a result, I began to see the good in others again too.
There is no excuse for rudeness, offensive behavior, or being unkind to other individual’s period! I know I am not perfect and admit 100% that I have been incredibly discourteous to people somewhere in the course of my life, but this one moment in the parking garage gave me a new perspective on other people I come across who are less than kind.
When someone is rude for no reason, especially a stranger, it’s rarely a personal assault, even if you accidentally did something to irritate them. People aren’t mean for the sport of it, or because they are against you; people are mean to cope. When you find that people are being rude to you in your everyday life, they are really being mean to themselves.
You don’t have to tolerate it when others are not nice, but it’s not something to take personally. You don’t have to internalize the meanness as a fault of your own. You can simply recognize that the person being rude is struggling with their own problems, and needs a way to cope with them. You cannot control the actions and behaviors of others, only your personal reactions to them.
It’s not an easy process, and for many, it may require months of time. However, you can begin your journey back to kindness by being kinder to yourself. Listen closely to your destructive, self-critical thoughts.
See from the other person’s perspective.
The practice of perspective-taking is a technique that we can use to increase empathy and kindness toward others. The aim of this technique is to imagine ourselves experiencing a situation from another person’s perspective. How would you feel if you were them? What thoughts would you have? How would you act if you were in their shoes? By answering these questions, we can gain a deeper understanding of why people act the way they do. Perspective-taking helps us step out of our narrow mind and see the world through the lens of another conscious being. And by understanding people better we learn to interact with them better, be nicer to them, and even forgive them when they do things we normally wouldn’t understand.
Practice kindness in small doses.
Kindness starts as a thought but ends as an action. Acting kindly toward others is the only real way to let people know we care about them and their happiness. Without action, kindness just lives in our minds but never touches the real world. Being kind to others doesn’t have to be complex or fancy. Sometimes the simplest acts of kindness are seen as the most sincere, such as holding the door, helping with directions, saying “please” and “thank you,” or even just a smile. Start there and then build to acts of kindness that take a little more effort.
Pause when you get angry or frustrated.
An important part of being a kind person is knowing how to control our anger and frustration. It’s natural for us to occasionally be upset with other people; however, we should try our best to channel these emotions in constructive ways, not lash out, yell, insult, be aggressive or ignore like the garage ladies did towards me that day. Take a short pause and reflect on your thoughts and feelings before acting on them. Often by creating a “pause” between our thoughts and actions, we can re-evaluate what we’re doing in the moment and change our direction if we find ourselves wanting to do something stupid or destructive. So when someone pisses you off and you want to yell at them, take a mental “step back” – breathe a few deep breaths – and then focus back on the situation with a clear mind.
If you happen to be one of the two women who were standing in the garage that day when I kindly asked if you were leaving and you are reading this blog or who may be a person that has recently been unkind, it may be time for some self-reflection. In the end — the most important thing to remember, whether you are receiving or giving unkindness, is that you are inherently good, and deserve to be loved, no matter what you or someone else tells you or makes you believe.