AMES, Iowa – Another day, another act of incivility, anger or violence. Ever-pervasive attitudes of self-centeredness and disregard for others seem to symbolize our times. But what if we could flip the script from callousness to kindness? That is one way to make a difference at the grassroots level, says Cheryl Clark, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
If you need an extra incentive, Nov. 13 is World Kindness Day, according to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. The internationally recognized nonprofit provides free online resources to educators and others to encourage acts of kindness across the globe.
“Simply be kind,” said Clark, who specializes in family life issues. “Remember the old adage of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. This can help us more fully appreciate the unique and diverse aspects of our world.”
The Center for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity at the University of Missouri suggests that people seek first to understand. For example:
- Read a book about a different person, culture, country or experience.
- Listen to local, regional, international or a different genre of music.
- Explore your heritage, family history and personal cultural worldview.
- Visit a local cultural center.
- Interact with people from different backgrounds and cultures by becoming a language partner.
- Challenge yourself to learn 10 new words in another language.
For more ideas from the center, visit diversity.missouri.edu.
“Another critical component to kindness is how we speak to and about each other. Being respectful of self and others in our words and actions is living kindness,” Clark said.
Clark offers the following techniques to build an atmosphere of respect:
- Listen to others actively and intentionally.
- Speak from personal experience and use “I” statements.
- Withhold judgment and ask genuine questions for understanding.
- Check your biases and assumptions.
- Seek to understand your own communication and conflict style.
“Finally, take good care of yourself. This may seem to be at odds with ‘making the world a better place.’ However, we must care for ourselves in order to have the stamina, energy and desire to live kindness. Get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, connect with friends or family, and engage in spiritual practices,” Clark said.
“If you find yourself overwhelmed with the negativity, seek professional help. A counselor can help you in a trusting, non-judgmental setting. Call Iowa Concern at 800-447-1985 for help,” Clark said.
ISU Extension and Outreach’s Iowa Concern hotline provides access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics. With a toll-free phone number, live chat capabilities and a website, Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week at no charge.
“All About Stress: Taking Charge (PM1660 A)” is available for free download from the Extension Store. The publication offers tips for coping with stress, managing stress and building resources to help.
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