- Ricka Robb Kohnstamm
Why work to cultivate kindness when it is easier to snap?
As humans, we are wired for kindness. We are drawn to people who friendly, generous and affectionate. If you are like me, you know what generosity feels like and you know it's a good way to be.
And you also know from experience that it's very easy to "snap" when under pressure, as most of us are during the current pandemic. Snap at the small child who squeaks for the hundredth time this hour, snap at the coworker who asks mundane questions on the Zoom meeting, snap at the partner who doesn't wipe up the bathroom counters.
What if I caught myself before the "snap" and refocused that energy on cultivating kindness?
Cultivating kindness begins with noticing the "hook" before my reactive mind locks me into something I will regret - a sharp word, an eye roll, a raised voice. Those actions cause harm to others and to myself.
And once I do that, I give myself a pause to allow my nervous system to calm down... a pause can look like three breaths or it can look like pulling myself out of the room for a walk around the block or it can look like taking three days to sit with my own feelings.
While I am pausing, I get curious about the hook. The hook is a reminder that I have needs that are not being met. It is my job to identify them (and no one else's job to mind read), and I often do that by reading over my "needs" list. I feel an intuitive thump in my body when I hit on the right words.
Ah... that feels better. Now that I understand my own needs better, I can choose to respond with kindness by focusing on what really matters instead of snapping.
Responding to hooks with kindness is a practice that requires gentle grace with ourselves and others.
With increased practice of cultivating kindness comes an opportunity for me to re-align my behavior - perhaps easing anxiety for the squeaking child by responding with a hug, providing a respectful listening ear to the confused coworker, and relieving unnecessary pressure for the unaware partner.
Why does it matter if I actively cultivate kindness? Cultivating kindness affects my happiness, as well as the happiness of those around me.
When I choose to cultivate kindness, it helps determine my actions. And actions, aligned with values, supports optimal health.