“When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.”
This quote by Abraham Joshua Heschel really rings true for me.
There is a humble and all too unassuming strength in kindness that we don’t always give enough recognition to.
But when it comes down to it, this is the biggest measure of someone’s character — not what they have, but what they do for others.
In big ways and small, kind-hearted folk do things for people without a second thought.
1) Give credit where it’s due
When we care for someone it’s pretty easy to be their cheerleader and celebrate their successes alongside them.
But here’s what makes someone extra kind-hearted:
They can even see and acknowledge positivity in people they don’t necessarily like.
That’s much harder.
They give credit where it is due and appreciate others’ hard work, efforts, and good points — even when they’re not their biggest fan.
2) Offer compliments freely
We’re always being told that actions speak louder than words.
Whilst that can be very true, it doesn’t mean that words aren’t important too.
We should never underestimate the significance of showing appreciation.
In fact, research has shown that recognition means more to employees’ motivation levels than money.
Kind-hearted people often say nice things to others without giving it a second thought. But that doesn’t mean we can’t all be more conscious about giving praise and feedback.
- Write letters of thanks
- Make an effort to give sincere compliments
- Tell people what you like about them
3) Show patience
My partner is the kindest man I know.
Of all the kindness he shows me, the thing I value and admire the most is his patience.
He never seems to lose his temper with me, even when I’m being a pain in the ass.
When I’m not getting something, he will happily explain it again to me, without frustration.
When I take ages to get ready, he sits and waits without grumbling.
I’ve long pondered the secret to his seemingly endless patience and here’s what I think…
He manages to embody the perfect mix of:
- Realistic expectations
It means when others are tempted to lose their cool, he is able to extend his kindness.
4) Share what they have
I confess, my sharing sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. Especially when it comes to claiming the last slice of pizza!
When we’ve got something good, it’s tempting to want to keep it for ourselves.
We may even fall into a scarcity mindset and believe that sharing will mean we end up going without.
But kind people have a cooperative and altruistic approach to giving and it serves them in so many ways in the long run.
Not only does generosity improve our relationships with others, but it’s been shown to make us happier too.
The act of giving releases oxytocin — the feel-good hormone.
That’s why research has highlighted how being of service could be one of the real secrets to happiness.
But as we’ll see next, there is a catch when it comes to giving.
5) Offer things without expectation
If we cannot give something unbegrudgingly it’s not really a gift, it becomes an obligation.
Kind-hearted people offer favors without expecting anything in return.
Otherwise, it’s more of a deal than a favor.
We set ourselves up for disappointment when we silently believe every good deed should be repaid to us in full.
As they say, kindness is its own reward.
6) Listen without judgment
Effective listening is a skill that is way harder than we’d like to think.
It demands far more than keeping quiet.
When it’s done right, it involves empathy, understanding, and plenty of attention.
Add non-judgment to the mix, and it gets even harder.
Because trying not to make assumptions or draw conclusions about what other people say and do is really challenging.
We all have a little internal voice that likes to make comments. The problem is it makes it so much harder to connect with each other when we feel judged.
One of the kindest things we can do is keep an open mind.
7) Give people the benefit of the doubt
Someone cuts you off in traffic.
- Give them the finger and rant and rave to yourself about what an inconsiderate asshole they are?
- Assume they’re clearly late for work and in a rush, so have mindlessly done something you yourself have been guilty of before?
If you’re anything like me, then your response may depend on the day and your particular mood at the time.
But option B is always the preferred approach of a kind-hearted person. They remember that they don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes of other people’s lives.
Rather than make negative assumptions, they try to assume the best about others.
That’s not just a kind strategy, it’s also a smart one. Because in doing so, they usually bring out the best in others too.
As we’ve just seen, one of the kindest acts we can bestow on others is simply to cut them some slack.
They say to err is human to forgive is divine for good reason.
What people may not understand about the forgiveness of kind people is this:
It’s not a weakness in them.
They’re not letting others walk over them. They are freeing everyone, including themselves, of the burden of the past.
It takes not only a whole lot of kindness to be able to get over wrongdoing, it also takes plenty of strength.
They not only accept the reality of what already is, but they also accept that nobody is perfect.
9) Provide support in times of trouble
That support may be practical — like money, resources, time, and assistance.
It could be emotional too, by providing a sympathetic ear along with some good advice.
Kind-hearted people are there for others without so much as a second thought.
When times get tough, it becomes a true measure of someone when you see how they step up to the plate for others.
Because as we’ll see next, kindness isn’t a passive thing. It demands taking action too.
10) Stick up for injustice
Here’s what people sometimes get wrong about kindness.
It’s not about always being liked. It doesn’t mean we should sit on the fence or try to keep the peace at all costs.
It’s something I see happening all too often in the spiritual world.
In the name of love for all, people think that means overlooking or opting out of any unpleasantness around them.
But kindness has a conscience.
That means doing the right thing by others. It means using your voice to speak up for those in need.
Kindness that is devoid of backbone turns into weakness.
11) Put themselves out for other’s sake
It’s a tricky balance. It’s important to be aware of our own needs and wants.
We also have a right to put those first.
But kindness to your fellow man also means being able to put aside selfishness.
The truth is that pleasing someone else isn’t always convenient.
I remember once a friend of mine offered to help me move house.
I told him, thanks, but it’s okay. I can’t imagine he would want to spend his Saturday lifting heavy boxes and shifting furniture.
He turned to me and said:
“No, I admit it’s not exactly fun to help you move, but that’s also what friends are for.”
He reminded me that true kindness often involves an element of sacrifice.
Kind-hearted people are prepared to inconvenience themselves in order to do right by someone.
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