Some people may think that kindness is overrated. I’ve been pondering this over the past week based on a couple of recent experiences.
You know how it feels when the service is slow in a restaurant and you want to show your frustration to your server (when in fact it may have nothing to do with the server—perhaps the kitchen is short staffed or they got deluged with orders). Or maybe you’re just mad about something or someone has let you down.
I get those feelings sometimes, especially when I am in traffic and I get frustrated at the pace that others are changing lanes, etc. Being kind isn’t always a natural reaction.
But during the last week, I had the most curious experiences. Two different people commented “thank you for being kind” to me after we were interacting during a time of frustration. Let me explain.
Experience #1: I get my prescription glasses at a special shop in Santa Monica about 40 miles from my home. I know it may seem a bit crazy to select new frames at a shop so far from my house, but I have found that not only are the designs unique, but the quality of my prescription and the fit are superb. So, you can imagine my frustration on Saturday when I went to pick up both my new regular specs and sunglasses and found that both frames were wrong. I was a bit put out that they had confirmed to me that both pairs were ready, so after lunch with a friend, I strolled into the shop completely prepared to walk out with my new, super cool-looking glasses. Wrong! It turned out that the person who had written up the order had written down an incorrect color for both frames. That person was not in the shop on the day I returned to try on each pair. However, the person who was helping me was extremely apologetic. She kept saying over and over again how sorry she was, and that she knew how much of an inconvenience it was for me. She and her colleague spent about 20 minutes helping me reselect the correct colors and rewriting the order. They offered to ship my new glasses to me so I would not have to drive up to Santa Monica again.
I guess her kindness and empathetic way of handling the situation caused me to dial down any frustration I had. I found myself being a lot more patient than usual. And after we completed the paperwork, and I thanked them, the clerk said to me, “Thank you for being kind.” (Wow—that really made me feel good that she perceived I was kind, instead of frustrated and impatient!)
Experience #2: I have been doing a remodeling project at my mom’s house for the past year. It felt like it a never-ending project with lots of hiccups, delays and issues. In the middle of our project, the construction company was sold, so I had to deal with new owners and a variety of workers. But the original project supervisor, Eddie, was a really nice guy. He would go the extra mile when there was an issue in my mom’s living area, and would respond quickly and always said “hello” to her when he arrived. He’s from Israel, and in 2018 I invited him and his daughter to our family Hanukkah dinner, as I thought they would enjoy the tradition celebration.
But after the company was sold in June, he was let go and I had to work with another supervisor. Just last week, we finally got the project completed, but there was still a lockbox (with a house key) at my mom’s house, and no matter who I called, no one seemed to have the code to remove it. And then I remembered Eddie.
So yesterday I texted him and asked if he could help. I also asked how he was doing and how his daughter was doing. His reply was, “It was my lockbox, I’ll come remove it tomorrow. It was a pleasure meeting you, your family and your amazing mom. Thank you for being so kind to me.”
There was that phrase again: “Thank you for being kind.”
What I’ve learned is that it really doesn’t take much time to inquire about someone personally and ask how they are doing before we jump into business or the agenda at hand. But many times we are in such a rush or are feeling such pressure, that we tend to skip that step.
How would it make you feel, if after an interaction with someone where you had to solve a problem or deal with a real issue, they commented to you, “Thank you for being kind”? Or, if you’re at work and have to deal with tough situations, how would you feel if the feedback you heard was, “She is tough and firm, and pretty demanding, but she handles things in a kind way.” If I was applying for a position at a company and asked about the company values and culture, and heard that even tough situations are handled with kindness, it would make me want to work there.
It doesn’t take a lot to show kindness. It could be a smile. It could be a kind word. It could mean taking a few extra moments to make sure there are no misunderstandings and to thank the person.
In this day of rush-rush-rush, I think taking a moment and showing kindness to others is well worth it.