My mother was a nurse for over 50 years. From the perspective of the patients she cared for, she could be either angel or tormentor, depending on their pain tolerance or mental state.
It wasn’t easy work. Some nights she’d come home so mentally exhausted, all she could do was cook up a batch of popcorn at midnight and watch Johnny Carson, then Tom Snyder, then go to bed well after the TV stations went off the air for the night.
Patients would demand things from her that she was unable to provide like increased doses of medication or for the doctor to come to the hospital in that instant. They’d get testy and angry with her for a policy she was powerless to change.
I asked her how she managed through all that.
“I kill them with kindness” was her standard response.
Jokingly, I created a signature line for her email account and put “Author of the upcoming book ‘Kill ‘Em With Kindness'” and people actually thought she was writing it. That made her chuckle, then she’d explain that her creative daughter was always thinking of crazy things to write.
Her kind nature changed situations from turbulent to calm and it transformed difficult people into calmer, more understanding souls. Because she worked and lived in the same town, it was a common occurrence to bump into former patients at the post office, grocery shopping, at the gas station, or walking through a shopping center.
She’d whisper in my ear, “I took care of that guy in the hospital.”
Then I’d look at her. “And?” I’d ask.
“Once I killed him with kindness, he was tolerable.”
We smiled and went on our way.
My mother’s mantra of kindness won her many fans. She was constantly receiving cards, flowers, chocolates, quilts, cookies and handmade gifts from the families of patients she cared for. The notes would always speak of her patience, dedication and most of all her kindness.
I like to think that her bedside manner was a big part in her patients’ recovery, and a part of the legacy she left behind.
One day, she told me her secret.
“When you look at someone, imagine they have a sign on their forehead that says ‘I’m important!’, and treat them that way.”
She made me laugh when she shared such simplistic advice, because at that time in my life I was looking for complicated solutions to understanding the deep meaning of everything.
As I grew older, and especially after I started my business, I found myself relying on her advice. I noticed how I felt when I’d go to business events and people would look past me and not care who I was or anything about me. I vowed not to be that way. I’d make it a point to say something kind to people. When it came to marketing and selling, I found myself being as appreciative and kind as I could and not coming down hard as if my job was to punish people into working with me.
Fact of the matter is, I’ve been criticized by a couple of colleagues for being “too nice.”
Isn’t that interesting? To me, that’s like criticizing fresh air for being too breathable.
Kindness counts when you walk into a room and don’t dismiss someone because they’re a “nobody”.
Kindness counts when a person just starting out asks you a question, like “What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone like me?”, and you actually take a moment to address them.
Kindness counts when the group you’re around goes on a gossip rampage and you choose not to participate.
Kindness counts when you refer prospective clients to someone else because you know deep inside they’re not the best fit for you and a much better fit for your colleague.
Kindness counts when you speak to your audience with intelligence, respect, and honor. Your audience can be a target market, a social media following, blog readers, a room full of people… they’re listening and following your every word so make them matter.
Kindness counts when you are kind to yourself, watching out for the signs of burning yourself out or not taking enough breaks.
Kindness counts when you’re honest with yourself and the people around you.
Yes, I am a firm believer in the power of kindness. I believe it has the power to transform our lives and the lives of those around us because it reminds us all of what my mom believed every day of her life: imagine each person with a sign on their head that says “I’m important!”
Find a way to be kind today.