The Dalai Lama suggests that kindness is his religion. This article will teach you how to make it yours.
All relationships are challenging, especially intimate relationships. To have a healthy relationship with another person it involves reciprocity based on shared values like respect, integrity, accountability, responsibility and authenticity. Human beings are basically herd animals that require connection through social engagement in order to thrive. Without connection, their emotional health and mental wellbeing can take a hit
Some statistics suggest the following:
- People living in community live longer
- Married couples tend to suffer less from ill health such as cardiovascular diseases compared to divorced ones or single people
- According to John Gottman, originator of the Gottman Method (couples therapy), kindness is the key to a creative, healthy, stable and happy marriage
- Life is challenging and if we are not equipped to deal with what life throws at us, it’s difficult to have healthy and loving relationships with just about anyone
Ram Dass, another great psychologist and spiritual teacher, teaches that: “no matter what the circumstances we find ourselves in we need to keep our heart open at all costs. I think many of us would probably find ourselves agreeing with this sentiment, and yet, in our shared humanity find it almost impossible to do so when we find ourselves hurt, angry, sad or even ashamed.
Kindness requires two vital ingredients: empathy and compassion
With this information in mind, here are some ingredients to have creative long-lasting relationships with both loved ones and people you come into contact with, from family members to complete strangers.
In a world that perpetually invites us to have an opinion about something and voice it (social media), the art or truly listening is fast becoming a long lost art. Yet, I believe this is first and foremost the basis to having healthy relationships with all sentient beings. I often suggest, “Listen until it hurts and even when it hurts – listen some more because you will hear things you have never heard before!”.
A simple but useful anacronym for listening is: L.O.V.E.
Stands for Learning and learning is the freeway to understanding and gaining clarity to respond appropriately and of course kindly. If you’re shouting you’re not learning – and you’re definitely not listening.
Stands for being Objective. It’s impossible to see ‘’the bigger picture” unless you remain objective. Gaining a sense of perspective changes everything.
Stands for Verifying so that we can gain clarity. Without clarity everything is open to miss communication. And this is often where problems emerge.
Stands for Empathise – no matter what keep your heart open and make sure that every word that comes out of your mouth is kind, heartfelt and compassionate.
It’s not about winning. It’s about listening. The goal is to remain connected which is important for our emotional wellbeing. So the next time you find yourself about to fly off the handle, ask yourself, are you seeking connection? If so, is there a better way find it? If not, you might need to explore other ways of getting a more effective result.
2. Clear communication
Reacting to what someone is saying before they have even finished there sentence is very common because often we feel misrepresented, misunderstood and judged! If that’s the case it’s obvious that our response is to defend, justify or make excuses for ourselves. We react by making unkind passive aggressive or aggressive comments. Note, I am not even using the word angry here. When we take things personally, there is a trend to become defensive and attack. Doing that is far from productive and healing. In most cases, how we defend ourselves from perceived attack is by attacking back.
A perceived attack can often start like this:
“Why don’t you”
“That’s really bad”
“What’s wrong with you?”
You cannot fight fire with fire. We need to learn to start our conversations with clearer communication, “I feel…. I’d like…. I want… I need”, and be clear about getting your point across with kindness. If you find yourself becoming offended or another word for that, triggered, it might be that after reflection, you may have to express an emotional need. A combination of feelings might appear, such as anger, sadness, fear, shame or hurt. Designing your own way to clearly communicate what made you feel a certain way without injuring another person will only help build your own self esteem as well as nurture stronger and more dynamic relationships. Remember, it’s okay to ask for an emotional need to be met such as feeling respected, valued, appreciated, understood, cared for, etc.
Example: “I feel sad and hurt when you did …x…y…z… and I would like you to value and respect me by …x….y…z…. I am aware that sometimes I also fail to value, respect and care for you in the way that you like but, in this circumstance, that’s what I need from you right now.”
My experience is that it will get a far better result than ‘You always’ or ‘You never’… Marshal Rosenberg’s material on non-violent communication teaches you exactly that. Telling a person what they think or feel invalidates their experience and is often the biggest red flag to a bull. The reason they may feel charged or disrespected by that Is because you cannot think another person’s thoughts or feelings for them.
Don’t act your anger out. This does not mean you can’t be assertive with your views and feelings in a healthy way. As I said in the title, be as angry as you want to be but express it with kindness.Express your feelings and your needs without expressing yourself through aggression or the more subtle passive aggressive comments. It’s unproductive and has consequences which usually lead to heightened conflict. Anger is a great way of setting a clear, healthy boundary of being able to express your needs in a respectful way, and it actually encourages connection rather than distance and mistrust.
Rules for being assertive:
Be clear – in your thoughts, feelings and actions and don’t give mixed messages
Be authentic – as you already know, honesty is often the best policy
Be fair – act with integrity, accountability and take responsibility for your actions and behaviour
Never forget to show your gratitude for the things that people do for you. Never take for granted the generosity of others. Always say thank you. Be grateful for the small things and the big things that others do for you. Everyone likes to be acknowledged for the efforts they make and the time and energy they spend in caring and supporting you. Taking others for granted is more ammunition for them to act out towards you.
It’s been scientifically proven that gratitude increases our happiness quotient. Try it and be amazed.
Let go of expectations
In my book Beating Anger the 6th Rule of Anger Management is – Let go of expectations. Author John Lee put it so brilliantly, ‘expectations are unrealised resentments waiting to happen’.
By lowering your expectations of yourself and others you will find yourself being more relaxed and comfortable in your own body. The problem occurs when the bar we set for ourselves is so high that we cannot reach it. This creates frustration with ourselves and if we then expect others to reach the same bar, that creates even more frustration and discontent. Lower the bar and let go of all the expectations you have of yourself, others and the world. You will be much happier and kinder to yourself and others. Keep in mind if you want or need something, you have to express it because people are not mind readers and neither as you.
If you recognise that you are being a control freak it’s important that you learn to create space for others to breathe and make their own decisions and express themselves without the fear of reprisal. Being controlling happens to be a coping strategy and a defence mechanism to avoid feeling vulnerable and unsafe. Learn to stop manipulating others to get your own way by emotional blackmailing, gas lighting or taking the moral high ground. Create space for others to love you without being controlled by you.
This is often where couples become stuck, learning to be in integrity with yourself supports the health of any relationship. Often we feel we have to give up on ourselves to meet the need of the other or for the greater good of the relationship. Be clear about your yes and your no, set healthy boundaries for yourself and make yourself a priority. Don’t be afraid to indulge in self-care. If we believe that others are forcing us to behave according to their value or belief system, then we will end up resentful, possibly depressed and very unhappy. Be true to yourself. Radical authenticity begets radical authenticity. Being honest with each other without being unkind or even hurtful makes for a long and lasting relationship.
Living in the here and now and not in the past or the future allows you to pay attention to what’s happening around you. Paying attention to how others feel, think and experience themselves and you increases the vibrancy and intensity in the relationship. I often suggest when having dinner to switch off all devices. Make an effort to have genuine conversations and make eye contact. As I have suggested earlier on, we are all hardwired to connect and when we don’t, this leads to stress and disharmony.
Vulnerability is where our strength lies
Vulnerability is not a weakness nor is it something to be ashamed of. We tend to be at our most emotionally healthy when we are open and honest about our needs, feelings and insecurities. You will be amazed how people you are close to will respond to you being vulnerable. It will bring you closer and more connected. Our fear is that when we are vulnerable or show weakness we will be rejected. That might have happened when you were a child or even a teenager. It’s not true as a mature adult or at least, the difference is, that as a mature adult you can actually take care of yourself. The fear of rejection from a child’s point of view is terrifying because you rely on your needs being met by your primary carers. Acknowledging the difference can be transformative.
As adults, the more vulnerable you are, the more you give those close to you the permission to be vulnerable with you.
Sharing our traumas and wounds with loved ones allows them to love you on a much deeper level.
Stay committed to exploring your edges and take risks to step out of your comfort zone. Every time you do your evolution becomes less challenging and more empowering. Nourish yourself and your relationship(s) by embracing kindness, and be sure to include yourself in the process. Use every opportunity as a life lesson, be it your fears, your arguments, or your passions for life. Use every challenge and success to deepen your experiences with others. Above all remind yourself to be kind every single day to the people you love and others around you. Just like the Dalai Lama says, turn it into a religion. If we were all able to do that on this planet, it would be a better place for all of us.
To discover more, why not experience one of our anger and stress management courses? They have been life changing for so many. Take a look at some of our testimonials – here are the links.
Please note: I have adapted this article from something that I had read previously and rewritten it for people with anger management issues.