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Kindness: It can be contagious

The Lasting Effects of Kindness

A while back, while working in the ER, I treated an intoxicated, homeless man. He had been placed in a red gown, which identifies patients who are seriously mentally ill. While speaking to him, he shared with me that he was from Seattle and years earlier his parents had kicked him out the house after a failed attempt to, “pray the gay away.” I shook my head and told him I knew exactly what he needed and went off to get him a few slices of pizza that we had ordered for the staff.

Throughout the afternoon, I talked to him several times. He apologized for being drunk and wasting my time. I responded that he was my best patient of the day, and if I had to endure what he endured, I would be far more drunk and not just sometimes, but all the time. I told him, and meant it, that I was impressed with how well he was handling all the challenges life had placed on his shoulders.

As an emergency room physician, I regularly encounter patients in every kind of distress — drunk, dirty, bleeding and belligerent. But, I strive to see each of my patients as simply human and treat all those who come through our emergency department doors with loving-kindness, compassion and empathy, regardless of what condition they may be in.

I share this story in more depth in my upcoming book “The Real Man Plan.

Kindness Matters!

We all come from different backgrounds and have faced varying degrees of problems and opportunities in our lives. But one thing we all have in common — we’ve traveled a hard road at times.

When things get tough, it feels good when we’re treated warmly and with compassion. Kind and encouraging words can go a long way in helping us get over those inevitable bumps in the road.

Self-leaders demonstrate kindness when they treat everyone within their sphere of influence in the same way, regardless of position or rank or relationship. It doesn’t matter if they’re talking with the top-ranking executives or the newest trainee, they never “pull rank,” but treat everyone with kindness and respect. In doing so, they earn the respect of those they lead.

Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end. -Scott Adams

Loving-kindness, whether it comes naturally or is something you have to work on, may be the most important trait of all for the self-leader. Leaders don’t evaluate others based on their race, color, appearance, religion, politics, sexual orientation, gender identity or other factors.

8 Ways to Practice Kindness Toward Yourself and Others

  1. Look at examples of people going out of their way to be kind or compassionate and try to emulate them. No one in history has ever been “too kind.”
  2. Practice empathy. As Atticus Finch said in To Kill a Mockingbird, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
  3. Make eye contact and smile at people you encounter each day with whom you wouldn’t normally engage. If you consciously try to lift someone’s spirit, you’ll likely lift yours as well.
  4. Show that you care. Remember things people tell you. Ask how that concert was, how someone’s ill mother is doing, or how their child’s soccer game went.
  5. Show gratitude by writing a handwritten note for someone who’s done something kind for you.
  6. Give kudos. When you receive good service at a restaurant, or someone’s doing a great job at work, tell them, and let their supervisor know, too.
  7. Give a compliment. It can be uplifting for both giver and recipient. Making someone smile is such a fantastic feeling.
  8. Don’t neglect you. The self-leader develops a positive self-image and takes care of himself or herself physically, mentally and spiritually.

Life is so much more rewarding and fulfilling when your first and only instinct is to be kind to others. Being kind is not something that needs prodding or a logical analysis, it is simply treating everyone you meet, no matter their lot in life, with respect and compassion.

The look on someone’s face when they are treated gently, particularly when they are not used to it, is priceless and amazing.