You’ve heard it before. You need to be kinder. You need to put others before yourself. Even the media takes a break from bombarding you with fear-based stories to share a segment all about someone being extra kind.
It’s enough to make anyone scratch their head and wonder if they’ll ever measure up.
But what if it’s not about embodying the typical definition of kindness? What if what you need is to take a different approach?
I’ll tell you a story.
I hate telling people what they’re doing wrong.
Who am I to be the bearer of bad news? Who am I to even decide what is bad news in the first place? And then deliver it a person who probably does not want to hear it?
I was working at an internship once. And I was working with someone who was very fond of talking. This person was lovely and caring in many ways, but she also was quite the talker. I’m an ambivert; I don’t like to talk all the time. I like breaks in the action. I need to reflect and recharge.
I let this constant talking go on for a while. I would politely look up and let her interrupt my work whenever she had something she wanted to tell me. After a while, I realized I was getting nothing done due to all of the interruptions.
Eventually, I had had enough. I told her, using my best “I statements,” that I needed to get work done and that I worked best when I had several minutes of uninterrupted time.
She was surprised at first, but she got it. She realized what I was saying. And I think she realized that what came naturally for her and her work style was not my preference.
I would either put on my headphones or share with her that I was going to another office to focus.
And you know what happened? She wasn’t mad. She started to focus more too! And when I did feel like talking, there she was again. Except I was able to do it on my schedule.
I was able to be kind to myself by putting up a boundary. I risked sharing what I really needed from my coworker and gave her the benefit of deciding how to act with all of the information on the table.
It was the mature, helpful way to handle it, and we both got to talk through it as adults.