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Psychology: How to be Kind in the Real World

Recently, I wrote an article entitled, “Intention During Your Practice – Be Kind. Move in Kind,” in which I described an intention that can prove meaningful during your yoga practice. I also suggested toward the end of the piece that we can bring that intention into our every day lives and see how it feels. So, let’s get into it. Let’s explore how to be kind and how to work with kindness as we live our lives and most challengingly, as we’re faced with others who may not have the same intention, who may not be acting and speaking with kindness.

First and foremost, the intention, “Be Kind. Move in Kind.” begins with our internal world and our experience of ourselves and those around us. We may notice a self-judgment come up in our minds about ourselves or someone else and that can be our cue to remember the words, “Be Kind.” We may find ourselves annoyed with another’s remarks or actions and feel compelled to lash out or act in such a way that might express our displeasure or annoyance, like the roll of the eye, yelling back or storming out of the room. It is here that the intention, “Move in Kind.” helps us ground into compassion and kindness.

So, what do we do when someone says something that hurts our feelings, leaves us feeling disrespected or even worse, emotionally or physically violated? “Be Kind. Move in Kind.” holds true even in these situations, but it may not look as you expect. When someone hurts your feelings, the first step of “Be Kind” is to have compassion for yourself for being hurt. This is very different from shutting down or becoming angry or enraged at the other person. First and foremost, you deserve kindness and compassion from yourself to yourself. Taking a moment to feel compassion for yourself is a critical step in ultimately standing up for yourself. It allows you to recognize that you’ve been hurt, leaving the mind calm and able to consider what you need to do to feel emotionally and physically safe, to “Move in Kind.” If something happened that left you feeling physically unsafe this means recognizing your fear and removing yourself from the situation as quickly and safely as possible. This may even include calling the police if you need physical protection. All of these options are kind. You are protecting yourself and you’re even protecting the other person from doing more harm, which also is an act of kindness.

What happens next in an emotionally charged or verbally aggressive situation? How do you use the intention of “Be Kind. Move in Kind.” with someone who just hurt you in such a way? Once you have compassion for yourself for being hurt you now have a choice to make and that is how to respond to the situation. How do you “Move in Kind,” how do you respond with kindness? You do so by engaging the compassion and kindness you directed toward yourself and you share it with the other person. You tell them how you were impacted by their harsh words, that you were hurt and that you wish they could’ve expressed their thoughts in a kinder way. If they have hurt feelings of their own, it's their responsibility to articulate that to you respectfully.

The critical detail here is to recognize that being kind does not mean ignoring your feelings and thinking only about the feelings of another. It means seeing your own heart, your own mind and sharing your authentic experience with those around you. If they adjust their unnecessarily aggressive speech and express their thoughts in a more respectful way, then great; you can now have a frank and appropriately boundaried conversation. If they double down and continue to be aggressive with you verbally, you can again, be kind to yourself, have compassion for any hurt feelings that may arise and tell them that they are hurting your feelings and that you would like them to speak to you respectfully. If they once again respond with aggression, “Move in Kind” may mean that you remove yourself from the situation. You can continue to “Be Kind” even as you do this by explaining that your feelings have been hurt too many times and that you need to walk away since they cannot contain their aggression. You can continue to “Be kind” by offering them a chance to continue the discussion at any time assuming they can do so respectfully. You can even note that you attempted to engage with them kindly while having compassion for yourself and remembering your right to be treated with respect.

As mentioned above, if a situation is physically aggressive or emotionally intimidating and you feel scared, engaging verbally may not be appropriate and kindness may mean getting yourself to safety and away from the other person. You may need to reach out for help by calling the police, a trusted friend or a family member. Sometimes, what we assume to be kindness, like being nice to others, is not kindness at all when we disregard our own feelings of fear and awareness of danger. Take care of yourself. Only then can you healthily and appropriately take care of others.

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