Everybody is going through something, right? That is one of the many things I’ve realized over the past year. I worked so hard at making others think my life was perfect, but at the same time I suffered from a disturbing amount of self-pity because “no one could possibly know what it was like to be me.” God, I shudder to even think of that sad place I was in for so long. Putting the self-pity aside, it’s true that you don’t know what it’s like to be me, but I also don’t know what it’s like to be you. I don’t know what you’re going through or dealing with at the moment. Instead of being completely self-absorbed in my own problems, now I look around and recognize that I’m surrounded by people dealing with their own shit, no matter how major or minor it may be. It’s their shit. Their moods and actions are affected by it, so instead of taking things personally, I can actually give them a break.
“Everybody is going through something…”
In the past, when I would hold the door for a stranger, if they didn’t say “thank you,” I let out a “you’re welcome” loud enough to surely get their attention. Why? I shouldn’t do something nice expecting something in return. But more importantly, I have no clue what that person is thinking about. Maybe they just lost their job, had a family member pass away, or are suffering from serious anxiety. Or, we all know what it feels like to smile while passing another person on the street, only to be met with a dirty look in return. “Wow, what a dick” is how I used to think, but that person may not have even seen me, or could be having an awful day. I had to change the way I was thinking. It’s not all about me! Not to mention, smiling in someone’s direction or holding the door for them just may be the nicest thing to happen to a person some days, surely I can give them that without needing something in return.
These may be trivial events, but when you add them up over the course of a day, week or month, they can have an effect on you, and someone else. The barista taking too long to make your coffee or the waiter that got your order wrong, give them a break and assure them it’s okay. The elderly man walking to his car with groceries and the woman whose baby just spilled all over the floor, help them out. Instead of walking in the other direction, your frustrating co-worker looking tired and unhappy could use a smile and a “how are you?”
“Instead of being completely self-absorbed in my own problems, now I look around and recognize that I’m surrounded by people dealing with their own shit”
That brings me to social media. Getting negative comments sucks, nobody likes it. I don’t get a lot of them, but when I do, they tend to stick with me more than the positive comments. They always feel unnecessary, unkind, and almost personal. Lately, I heard some valuable advice from Gary Vaynerchuk, he’s a great follow on social media. He talked about the negative, sometimes nasty comments he periodically receives on social media and wondered out loud what the people on the other end of those comments had going on in their lives. Surely, if they’re throwing negativity in someone else’s direction, they’re probably dealing with their own shit. Instead of firing back at them with more negativity, Gary V. responds with kindness, and sometimes asks questions to start a conversation. More times than not, he and the commenter end up finding common ground, realize it was a misunderstanding, or it leads to an apology. Regardless, it puts an end to the negativity and turns things positive. I recently started doing the same with negative comments I receive and have experienced the same result as Gary V. It works and it feels awesome!
I don’t know what the person on the other end of those comments is going through, just like the person who fails to say “thank you” to me or smile back at me. But rather than treat negativity with more negativity, why not kill ‘em with kindness? It’s working for me.