Why Are We So Afraid of Kindness?
I had this legitimate "ah hah" moment recently. We're afraid of kindness.
In this case, I'm defining kindness as proactively connecting kindly with strangers. A few examples:
- Smiling and saying "good morning" to the person sitting next to you at the coffee shop
- Complimenting someone's outfit/dog/etc. while standing at a crosswalk or at the grocery store
- Commenting on a Facebook or Instagram post of someone you don't know very well
Why are we afraid of this? It's not because we don't have the thoughts. We've all stood next to someone in line and loved their shoes. We've all read a Facebook post of a very distant high school acquaintance and thought "oh my goodness, that vacation looks amazing!" We've all randomly thought of an old friend and thought we should reach out and say hi. But we don't do it. We don't pay the compliment. We don't post the comment. We don't make the call or send the text.
It's because at our core we're afraid of rejection. What if we compliment a stranger and they give us a weird look? What if we comment on that post and it gets ignored? What if we send that text and don't get a response? What if we look desperate/weird/pathetic/socially awkward?
I can't speak for you, but I can tell you those are all the thoughts that run through my head every time I proactively connect with a stranger or someone I don't know very well.
But now I want you to turn things around. How would you feel if a stranger in line at the coffee shop complimented you? How would you feel if you got a call/text/email out of nowhere from an old friend? How would you feel if you got a sweet comment on your Facebook or Instagram post from someone you barely know? Would you think they were pathetic or weird or awkward? I bet you wouldn't. In fact, I bet it would be one of the highlights of your day and you would think more highly of them in the process.
We're all starving for human connections today. Most people are rarely complimented or acknowledged in public by strangers. Many of us live in this bubble of staring-at-our-phones-don’t-talk-to-strangers-or-you’ll-seem-weird solitude even when we're surrounded by people.
As outgoing as I am, I'll find myself sometimes going days without connecting with people I don’t already know. I'll shower my close circle with love, compliments and encouragement, but I'll ignore everyone else. I'm not okay with this. I want to be more connected to the world and humanity beyond my close circle and it starts with me.
For 2 weeks, I'm going to do my own "feel good" challenge and connect with 2-3 people per day who I don't know. A smile and a nod, a compliment, even asking a question (sitting at a bar waiting for friends, ask the person next to me what red wine they’re drinking). This can be as simple as eye contact and a smile in the elevator. I'm going to keep notes (I use Google Keep app/site for notes) and reflect on the results. I've done this before and it's always a practice in magic and blowing my world wide open. I need it now more than ever.
Do this with me? Let me know how it goes. firstname.lastname@example.org