I love this story from actor and human rights activist, Angelina Jolie, who did an interview for People Magazine’s Kindness Issue back in 2021.
Jolie said that while she was visiting the Syrian border, she was struck by the kindness of the people who were suffering the devastation of war.
“This little girl came up to me and offered me some biscuits that she had in her pocket,” Jolie said in the interview.
“Knowing what she’d come from, knowing what was heading into, knowing everything she experienced, yet in that moment she wasn’t thinking of herself or everything she had lost.”
Jolie continues: “She wasn’t sitting with self-pity. She just saw me—I must have looked tired and she just walked over and thought to be kind. That’s what makes human beings so wonderful.”
Being kind to one another in everyday life, and expecting nothing in return, is one of the most beautiful parts of the human experience.
Not sure if you’re being as kind as you could be in your day-to-day life?
Here are five phrases—especially if used authentically and regularly—that indicate that you’re an innately kind person.
1) “I just wanted to check in and see how you’re doing”
I purposely didn’t use the phrase “I’m here if you need to talk.”
Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against that phrase. I think it’s very kind but only if you really mean it.
I think most people say “I’m here if you need to talk,” as a kind of surface-level kindness that they have no intention of following through on. Or they do, but it’s in the moment.
Charlie from Psyche says that when he suddenly lost his best friend, many of his friends and acquaintances said the same thing: “I’m here if you need to talk.”
He says that while this phrase certainly sounds kind, really it is the bare minimum.
“If you know someone you genuinely care about who is going through some tough times, do more than just saying you’re there if they need to talk,” he says.
“The problem with it..is that you’re putting the ball back in their court to put themselves out there to ask you to talk.”
I recently came across this story of friendship and kindness about one of my favorite all-time actors: the legendary old Hollywood actor James Dean. I think this story exemplifies what “I’m here if you need to talk” really means as opposed to the casual way we tend to use the phrase when someone is hurting.
James Dean and fellow actor Eartha Kitt were very close friends. He had seen her on stage in a performance and was in absolute awe of how she moved and he asked her to teach him how she was able to be so graceful.
Kitt took Dean to a ballet studio where he learned to incorporate the art of dance into his acting.
The two friends became close. Dean didn’t trust a lot of people in Hollywood but he trusted Kitt and he opened up to her. He confided his problems and he bared his soul to her.
He was said to have called her in the middle of the night many times when something was especially troubling to him. Things like how he didn’t like being treated like a “piece of flesh” in the business and how he felt used. He was losing his love for acting and it was difficult for him.
Kitt never hung up on him. She never got annoyed and told him to call another time because she was sleeping. It’s safe to say that she probably checked in on him regularly. When he died, Kitt never really got over losing him.
The moral of the story is that if you tell someone who is going through a rough time that you’re there to talk if they need it, really mean it.
Better yet, don’t put them in the position of having to reach out. Instead say, “Is it okay if I check in on you?”
Then, when you do, you give them your undivided attention. And you’re truly there for them.
I think this is one of the kindest things you can say and do for someone.
2) “We’ll figure it out”
Ann Litts from Medium says these four words hold much more value, kindness, and compassion for her than those “three little words” the world is often obsessed over (especially this time of year).
“For when someone tells you that they’ll be there for you in this way—it acknowledges the imperfections of life, love, and relationships,” Litts says.
It’s in part, because they’re starting the sentence with the word “We,” not “I”.
“They let you know that you are part of their team. It is a promise to stand with you against the storms that gather on the horizon.”
The word “we”’makes it about both of you. “They will feel what you feel, they will listen to your truth, they will help find solutions. They are on the same side of whatever is coming at you.”
They’re telling you that you aren’t alone with your burden. They have your back and that is one of the most comforting things in the world.
3) “Your feelings are valid”
I think saying “Your feelings are valid” to someone when they’re upset about something is better than saying something like “Things will get better,” or “This too shall pass,” for example.
Those statements might sound good in theory but they rarely do much to actually help the person feel better, says Laura Click from Medium.
Even though they “sound” kind, “they rarely do much to help the other person feel better. Instead, it often minimizes the other person’s pain and does little to connect with how he or she is feeling.”
I know this to be true. Shortly after my father died, someone said “This too shall pass” to me, and all it did was make me angry. So much so that I let this person have it in even though they meant well.
Maybe I went overboard but I couldn’t help it. I just found the words so empty of feeling and pretty damn callous. “What shall pass?” I thought. “The grief?” No it won’t. The pain and the void will be with me for as long as I live.
I just found the comment insensitive, especially since they didn’t know what it’s like to lose a parent.
In retrospect, maybe she meant that the grief would lessen in its intensity. But I was in no frame of mind at the time to take any solace in that.
I think true kindness is more considerate and involves a deeper meaning and sense of forethought.
Saying “Your feelings are valid” is more actionable in my opinion. There is kindness in saying that someone has the right to feel how they feel. Even saying “I’m sorry you’re going through this,” or “I’m sorry for your loss,” is more thoughtful.
4) “I admire you because…”
I think this phrase is one of the kindest things you can say to someone.
“Sometimes your loved ones need a nudge and nod to remind them of their greatness,” says Kristin McCarthy, M.Ed. from Love To Know.
“Let them know that no matter the outcome, you are proud of their spirit and drive, and that you believe they can do anything.”
But make sure you tell them why you admire them rather than just saying you’re proud of them.
Because I think saying you’re proud of someone can be too generic, even patronizing.
Saying something specific is more meaningful, says this associate professor and Quora user.
“For example, I’m so glad you got accepted to your desired university…It’s okay to be generous with acknowledging another person as long as it’s specific and clear [why you admire them].”
When you say something specific, it shows that you put sincere thought into it and is therefore more meaningful.
You don’t have to say it every day for it to stick with them.
5) “Thank you for all that you do”
Everyone wants to feel appreciated. While telling someone that you’re grateful to have them in your life is lovely, sometimes a more specific kindness can be an appreciation for all that they do.
It shows that what they’re doing isn’t going unnoticed or being taken for granted.
Gratitude is important both for the person sharing it, and the person being thanked, says the team at Simply Noted.
“It strengthens relationships. Showering friends with gratitude lets you know how much you appreciate their friendship [for example] and all that they do for you. It’s also a way of returning the kindness and thoughtfulness they share with you.”
Appreciating when someone makes your life happier and easier is a wonderful thing, and acknowledging it keeps the positive energy flowing.
After all, in today’s world it’s very easy to take the people closest to us for granted, says the staff at Simply Noted.
“We get busy with [life]…and before we know it, months have gone by without letting the people who matter the most to us know how much we appreciate them.”
Appreciation and gratitude should be a much more regular thing.
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