On Kindness

I hosted a workshop as part of The Sage Sisters programming this week. I invited Barika Porter with Successfulbloom LLC to do a presentation on aligning your values with your actions.

If you had told me before, “It’s important that your actions be based on your values,” I would have responded, “Of course.” But I have never taken the time to specifically identify what my values are. I’ve always just carried a vague notion of them. 

On Tuesday evening over Zoom (because all my programs are offered on Zoom right now, due to COVID) she walked us through the process of how to identify your values. She instructed us… “Think about a time when you felt good. What value of yours did it affirm?” And, “Think about a time when you felt bad. What value of yours did it challenge?”

I had never thought of my values being the triggers for why things felt either good or bad to me. 

She focused on the importance of making decisions about what you do in your life based on your own values, and not someone else’s. That was one of those “oh, duh” moments that at the same time felt very profound. Again, I had never used an exercise like this to consciously make a decision based on my values. 

There was much more to her presentation that I found valuable, but I’ll leave that to you to discover directly with her. 

As with any workshop I’ve attended or hosted, the magic is in what you do with it afterward. We learn a lot of information, perspectives, processes, tools, and techniques in the workshops I offer, with the idea that not everything will resonate with everyone, but what does can be life changing.

The morning after the workshop I woke up refreshed and excited to further explore and pinpoint what my values are. I downloaded Barika’s values assessment workbook (a companion tool to her workshop) and decided to google “values.” I found a list of 400, which seemed like enough for me to come up with a core list of 5. 

I jotted some down that I already knew (without needing a prompt) and then went through the list and started writing down the ones that reflected who I am and what’s important to me. 

To narrow down the list, the instructions were to circle the ones that seemed predominant after you created the list.

But when I got to “K” in the list and wrote down “kindness,” I immediately circled it. 

Whoa, what was that? Why did I do that? I mean, yeah, kindness is a cool word, but it’s not one I use very often or think much about. Huh.

As I was going through the list of 400 values, I realized that so much of our life experience and harmony and conflict with others can be linked back to our core values, which can often feel either parallel to, or in direct conflict to, others’ values. I wondered, if we could wear a badge with our list of values on it, would it change and improve how we communicate with one another? 

I finished going through the list and jotting down values and ended up with 38. Now it was time to narrow them down. 

I was curious about the already circled word, kindness. I took it through Barika’s question, “Think about a time when you felt bad. What value of yours did it challenge?” 

And it hit me. 

I get most upset when I feel people are being unkind – either to me or to others.

I believe that being kind, in any situation, is paramount. But I believe it is especially important when you find yourself in conflict with someone.

I believe that words matter. Tone also matters, which can get lost in emails and text messages, and is often interpreted, at least by me, based on the words and how they’re used. 

I have always found it important to take the time and make the effort to be kind, even when I am being honest and it might hurt. It’s often why I take the time to write a long note, instead of speaking with someone. Because when I do I can thoughtfully think about the other person and share those thoughts more easily and completely.

Here’s what I feel about embracing the value of kindness, and the gifts it offers:
It opens you.
It softens you, in a good way.
It makes you more approachable. 
It allows people to feel safe opening up to you. 
It allows you to be curious and less judgmental. 
It allows you to learn new ideas. 
It allows for more meaningful connections, and effective communication. 

When you intentionally speak kindly, it often includes acknowledging the good you see in the other person, which can often bring out the good in them.

It allows you to acknowledge that there may be more to your current knowledge and understanding. 

Kindness allows you to look beyond what is happening or being said and consider that there may be something (typically fear) going on with the other person that you know nothing about. Now I know to also ask myself, “What value might they have that is being challenged?”

Stopping, asking for clarification, reflecting, and responding (instead of reacting) is key.

We are living in extremely challenging times right now. The pandemic and politics have divided us more than we ever have been. Embracing kindness even when others can’t, can make a huge difference – to you, to your loved ones, to your community, and to the world. 

A word of kindness can go a long, long way. 

I have often thought of myself as too sensitive. Perhaps that’s how I truly feel inside, or perhaps it’s because others have told me that, especially when I was younger. But this exercise made me reflect differently. Honoring a core value of kindness puts an entirely new spin on that belief.

I narrowed my list of values to 6 and then grouped two together to make 5 – kindness, connection, open-mindedness, appreciation, and learning/growth (because I feel those two go hand-in-hand). I grouped the remaining 32 into 10 groups of similar values.

I’m grateful to have that list to refer back to when I’m feeling good, when I’m feeling bad, when I find myself in conflict. Some may rise to the top the more I use it, and depending on my life circumstances. 

I hope that referring to it will help me pause and respond with more thoughtfulness, and offer even more kindness. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on kindness. I’d also love to know what your values are, if you are willing to share. Comment below or reach out to me – I’d love to chat about it with you.

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2 comments
Jody Tompros says August 13, 2020

Really lovely.. I love that you tied it to values. Values help to define us. Kindness speaks volumes about the goodness of your soul. Maybe you can bring the workshop to Rowan Tree.

Reply
    Janet Sage says August 13, 2020

    Thank you, Jody. Yes, I’m going to recommend it!

    Reply
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