It's been a tough few years. So many things have happened that have resulted in people becoming 'disconnected' from each other. The need for social distancing and avoiding close contact 'disconnected' people physically during the pandemic. Polarizing political and social issues 'disconnected' many people socially from family members and friends. And one of the results of all this disconnection? Fear. Fear of getting physically ill from being in close proximity with others, and fear of being treated unkindly by people with differing opinions and positions. And, in a vicious circle, the result of that fear? Further 'disconnection'. At work, at home and in society, people and groups who once worked together, socialized together and lived together have been physically and socially pulled apart by fear.
Many of the disconnects seem insurmountable. Debates rage on the internet and within companies about returning to in-person work. Some people are comfortable and want to, thinking that it will create more connection. Others, who previously felt unaccepted and disconnected in in-person work settings, don't want to. They now feel more comfortable and accepted working virtually. And what about families and friends who have suffered disconnections around different political and social issues? Now that many people feel safer and more comfortable resuming in-person holiday gatherings, is it possible for those rifts and disconnects to be repaired? And if it is possible, how can it be accomplished?
The answer? Kindness.
The reason that kindness is the answer, is that kindness eliminates fear and increases the trust that is necessary for connection to occur. Kindness is, by definition,“an action (or set of actions) connecting a person's internal feelings of empathy and compassion to others that is undertaken with the purpose of generating a positive effect and outcome for another" (p. 7 The Kind Leader), forces us out of our self-centeredness, and out of our thoughts about how different others are than we are. Kindness focuses us on looking for similarities between us and the other so that we can be empathetic, “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”, and see things from their perspective. Then, when we turn our feelings of compassion (the desire to alleviate someone’s suffering) into action and help someone, we create a connection...and the connection that we create eliminates fear and creates trust, on both sides.
So, if people in your organization (or your family or community) are feeling fearful and disconnected, if there is a lack of trust, and if people aren’t getting along, here's how you can use kindness to repair those disconnects:
1. Think Kindly: Actively look for similarities, not differences, between you and the other person or group. Any point of connection will do! For example: This person works at my organization like I do...or this person has a family and so do I. This person likes dogs and so do I! Practice looking for similarities and points of connection every day!
2. Speak Kindly: Find, and stick to, topics that are non-confrontational and everyone can speak about easily. Go out of your way to point out when you agree! Agree not to talk about things that you don't agree with (politics, religion, etc.). Designate words and phrases that are off-limits in your conversations. Agree to be "agreeable" instead of "disagreeable".
3. Act Kindly: Deliberately do an act of kindness for someone who you don't have the same views as! Help a co-worker with a piece of work they are doing. Bring your neighbor a plant or produce from your garden. Take a cup to the dishwasher. The truth is, you don't have to like someone, or agree with their views, to be kind to them.
Disconnection, and the fear that causes it and results from it, isn't an insurmountable problem. It's a problem that can be solved by everyday people doing small acts of kindness. And that's great for organizations and for communities! You don’t need to implement a program, it’s totally free, and anyone...and everyone (including you) can get started right now! No need to wait!
So my question for you is: What act of kindness will you do to create connection today?
Are you a leader in an organization that has a lot of 'disconnection'? Not sure how to get reconnected? Then please reach out! Here at KindLeadership.org, we are always happy to help with Kindness Coaching for individuals, teams or entire organizations. We'd love to help you and yours get 'reconnected' through kindness and Kind Leadership!