Tag Archive for politeness

Kindness: An Endangered Species

I want to put a new species on the endangered species list. It’s not what you think, but I have considered the criteria. To become listed on the endangered species list, a species “must be determined to be endangered or threatened because of any of the following factors:

  • The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range;
  • Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes;
  • Disease or predation;
  • The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
  • Other natural or manmade factors affecting its survival.”

We have an endangered species that threatens to destroy our family ecosystem. What is the endangered species? Kindness. Wait, hear me out. Kindness meets the criteria.

  • Kindness is threatened in our society. It’s habitat is slowly being replaced by an environment filled with rude words, a lack of politeness, and the presence of hate groups in the media. The concept of kindness has been slandered as ineffective in helping one succeed in life (“it’s a dog eat dog world” after all) and the domain of the insincere trying to manipulate the naïve. I once pulled over to help a young lady whose car had broken down. She hid behind her car, afraid that my kindness was a ruse for some dreadful behavior. The habitat of kindness is threatened.
  • Some businesses have overutilized kindness for commercial reasons. They use kindness to win the client, make the sale, or appease the angry customer. In other words, kindness has become a tool, a means to selfish ends. This is not true everywhere; but it has proven true often enough to raise our suspicions when we experience kindness. Even the kind stranger is suspect in our eyes as we wait for him to become the beggar asking alms.
  • Kindness is threatened by the societal disease of busy-ness and stress also. We constantly remain on the move from one activity to another. Busy-ness leaves no time for kindness. Busy-ness leads to stress and stress threatens kindness.

That’s three of the five areas in which kindness meets the endangered species criteria, and you only need to meet one criterion to make the list. Perhaps you would make a case that kindness is threatened by existing regulatory mechanisms or other manmade factors as well.  But, already, kindness meets the criteria for an endangered species. When kindness becomes endangered, our families suffer. So, what can we do to save kindness? To stabilize the habitat and family ecosystem and empower it to support kindness? Let me make three suggestions.

  • Stop negative speech. This takes work. Stop venting for venting’s sake. Don’t talk about the negatives unless you are doing so to constructively seek an alternative. That means no criticizing without a compassionate solution. No eye rolling. No sighing in exasperation. No grumbling. No putting the other person down, whether talking to them or to someone else. Stop the negative. 
  • Look for the good. Mr. Rogers says to “look for the helpers.” Rabbi Harold Kushner adds, “If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the Soul.” So, in the words of Roy T. Bennett, “Discipline your mind to think positively; to see the good in every situation and look on the best side of every event.”  Then turn the good you see into kindness by verbally acknowledging it, praising it, lifting it up for all to see.
  • Model kindness. Do something kind every day. Hold a door open. Thank a checkout clerk. Give up your seat on the bus. Let the other driver merge. Help a child with homework. Do something kind every day. Kindness is catchy.  In fact, it’s so catchy it just might “go viral.”  But it can’t go viral until someone begins with an act of kindness. Why not start the kindness epidemic in your family today?

It’s Time…for #redeemingFacebook

I recently saw a friend’s post in which he suggested giving up Facebook for Lent. He was frustrated with the constant bickering, criticism, accusation, and harshness on Facebook. I don’t blame him. What we focus on becomes what we see. Focus on things that frustrate, anger, and divide… and you will see more things that frustrate, anger, and divide. And Facebook seems to have a real knack at bringing the negative into greater focus and seduce us into dwelling in the downward cycle of negativity. So, maybe my friend has a good idea. Give up Facebook. In fact, at least one study found that heavy Facebook users reported greater life satisfaction and positive emotions after only a week-long “vacation” from Facebook.

I wonder, though, if we might find an even better solution. Rather than give up Facebook, maybe we can begin #redeemingFacebook for a better end. Why not redeem Facebook to focus on kindness, goodness, and peace? That would change the focus of Facebook invite us to create an upward spiral in which to dwell. How would we redeem Facebook? Let me suggest a few ways.

  • We could begin #redeemingFacebook for kindness. Rather than posting items that showcase actions and words that frustrate or anger us, post items that showcase kindness and compassion.  See someone do a kind deed…post it. Have an especially attentive waitress…post it. Engage in a “random act of kindness”…post your experience. Post items that tell of people sharing, helping, loving, and encouraging.
  • We could start #redeemingFacebook for the acknowledgement of good in the world. For instance, post stories that focus on the “helpers” in times of crisis rather than the perpetrators. Post stories acknowledging the efforts of those striving to serve others in kindness. Post pictures of  beautiful places. Post descriptions of beautiful actions. Post a positive statement about your community or school. Post items praising efforts at improving difficult situation.  
  • Begin #redeemingFacebook for the pursuit of peace. Rather than making posts about controversial, divisive topics, create posts that showcase people coming together in service. Acknowledge those who reach across lines that divide us and intentionally come together in serving one another.  
  • Start #redeemingFacebook for civil, respectful discussions about things over which disagree. We will always find plenty to disagree about. However, we could begin #redeemingFacebook by keeping our posts civil. No name-calling. No accusations. No demeaning one group. Instead, make  posts that communicate a desire to understand a different opinion. Use posts to find and acknowledge the good in one another, even those with whom you disagree. Work hard to discover the positive intent in those who think differently than you.     

Robin S. Sharma is credited with saying: “What you focus on grows, what you think about expands, and what you dwell upon determines your destiny.” What do we want to determine our destiny and the destiny of our children: divisiveness, anger, and hate or kindness, goodness, and peace?  Imagine if the most common posts on Facebook were about kindness, peace, and goodness and the negative posts were the exception, drowned out among all the positive posts of kindness, goodness, and peace. I don’t know if it can happen, but we can begin by #redeemingFacebook. I’m going to do my part. Let’s start a #redeemingFacebook campaign. Will you join me in #redeemingFacebook?

My Intelligence Went Adrift in the Sea of Her Eyes

A couple years ago, during my daughter’s sophomore year in college, we went to a high school football game together. She saw a young college age man wearing a sweatshirt from the college she attended. Excited to meet someone who attended the same college as her, she walked up to him and said, “Hey, I go to that college too!” The young man smiled, eyes wide.  She said, “What’s your major?” His arms began to move in motions indicative of speech and he opened his mouth as though to speak, but the words did not flow. After a very brief moment, sounds began to emanate from his moving lips as he stuttered, “Huh…well…I…huh…oh man,” his hand landed on the top of his head, “I can’t remember my major!” He looked hopelessly to his friend and then said, “I gotta go.”  I just smiled.  He did return later and had a more intelligible conversation with my daughter. He was a nice young man…very intelligent actually. He just “got lost in her eyes.” When she “ambushed him” that way his intelligence went adrift in her eyes.

Watching this brief interaction brought two things to my mind. One, I recalled the scene from Inside Out. You can check it out here. Two, it reminded me of a study completed in 2009 in which people interacted with attractive members of the opposite sex before completing cognitive tests (What Sexy People Do To Your Intelligence). Both males and females performed worse on the cognitive tests in the presence of an attractive member of the opposite sex. But males exhibited a stronger drop in ability than women. Why? The authors of the study believed that it had to do with “impression management.” It seems that trying to make a positive impression on another person sucks up enough brain power that our cognitive skills, our intelligence, is weakened. (That must be why I can’t speak intelligently when my wife walks into the room…oh, come one guys…give me a break. I’m trying to earn some brownie points here if my wife happens to read my blog!) My daughter knows about these studies since I talk about them (she would say I talk about them too much). She had compassion for the guy. She was patient and didn’t make a deal out of it.  In other words, she treated him with respect and honor. Teaching our children to respond to others with respect and honor is an important part of equipping them for the world…and making the world a better place. Let’s teach our children these values early.  Let’s give the values of honor and respect a central place in our families and in our training of children. We can still enjoy the intelligence that goes adrift in the sea of beautiful eyes, but we can also admire the compassion, patience, honor, and respect we witness in return.

Do You Parent Like a Manager or a Consultant?

Are you more like a manager or consultant in your parenting? Think about it. A manager is responsible for controlling the activities, dealings, and education of another person. A consultant provides expert advice and guidance. Which describes your parenting style more accurately: manager or consultant? Do you feel responsible for controlling your children’s activities, dealings, and education? Do you believe busy children stay out of trouble and so arrange their schedules to allow them to remain actively involved in multiple adult-organized activities? Are you building their resume today for college and life? Do you oversee your children’s homework, nagging them to complete it? Do you monitor their grades on the school site, making sure they hand in their homework and do well on each test? Do you constantly remind and cajole them to do their chores or to assure they do the chore properly? You’re likely a manager.

A manager gets exhausted. They have constant pressure worrying about whether the one they manage (their child) will do the job right. They constantly double check, micromanage, oversee. It is exhausting. Constantly looking over their children’s shoulder becomes a “pain in the neck.” And, their children get irritated. They begin to slack off. They don’t get to make choices and feel micromanaged so they give up. They lose motivation. They don’t truly experience the consequences of their actions. Instead, they focus on their parents’ actions, blaming the consequences on their parent who “must not be doing enough.” The children even begin to feel helpless in many areas…except video games. In video games they engage a fantasy world in which they have total control over their own destiny. If they mess up, the consequence is swift and they continue the game having learned their lesson. Unfortunately, this sense of control and learning does not generalize into the real world of home, friends, and school where they remain unmotivated and non-committal.

On the other hand, do you allow free time? Do you encourage them to choose their activity when they complain of boredom? Do you allow them to make choices like which clothes to wear (within respectable boundaries), when to complete homework, what extracurricular activities they want to engage in? Do you trust them to complete their homework and do well in school while making yourself available for questions? Do you encourage your children to become involved in the household chores by giving them important tasks and then trusting them to complete those tasks? Do you find ways to give them choices around tasks and chores?   Do you calmly discuss your children’s thoughts about various tasks and then let them make a choice? Do you let your children suffer the consequences of their bad choices, like the bad grade for incomplete homework or the loss of privilege for household chores left undone? You’re likely a consultant.

A consultant is often tired as well, but rarely exhausted. They worry less and receive greater cooperation from the person they manage (their children). Their children learn to make choices and manage their own sense of boredom. They learn to entertain themselves. They find activities of interest and become self-driven in pursuing those areas of interest. They learn the consequences of their choices. They learn from their mistakes. In the process, they learn to trust the consultant (you, their parent) and seek you out more often for advice. Your relationship grows. Your influence grows. Your children become more cooperative and self-motivated as they gain a sense of control over their own lives. They mature and become more independent through your consultation. They even develop a sense of direction and goals for their lives as they find interests that motivate them to learn.

Whether you parented more like a manager or consultant yesterday, you can choose your parenting style from this day forward. Which will you choose?

Dona Nobis Pacem: Grant Us Peace

My wife, my daughter, and I went to a choral concert presented by the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh entitled PEACE.  We heard several composers’ choral renditions of Dona Nobis Pacem: Grant Us Peace. We also heard various testimonies and readings from three people who have invested their lives in various avenues of promoting peace within our communities. The whole experience was beautiful, inspiring, and peaceful. Then we left the concert setting and returned to the world of confusion, animosity, and conflict.

Peace seems so distant in our immediate environment of division, antagonism, and hostility. Everywhere we turn dissonant, hateful chatter rises up and floods over the banks of polite boundaries and congenial discourse. Fear and anxiety, resentment and hostility are infecting the lives of our children. Peace seems, at times, a distant dream. But, as we listened attentively to the various renditions of Dona Nobis Pacem and contemplated the readings offered, I realized peace is not so distant after all. Peace is very near. It begins with a God of peace who “is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist….” Peace is our original design. Peace destroyed was restored through the sacrifice of One Man who “is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall” (Paul—Ephesians 2:15). The One who sacrificed for our peace has “proclaimed peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near” (Paul—Ephesians 2:17). Since we have been given peace it is very near to us. We need only open it, pursue it, and promote it (Romans 14:19; Hebrews 12:14).

In all reality, pursuing and promoting peace are integral aspects of our daily life. We can pursue peace by sharing polite words with those you meet. We promote peace by listening, really listening, to understand those who speak. We pursue peace by opening doors for others, literally and figuratively. We promote peace in patiently merging into the various streams of life with others and generously allowing others to merge into those same streams of life. We encourage peace by offering words that build up instead of words that tear down, words that bless instead of words that curse.  We promote peace when we lift one another up, even those who disagree with you, rather than shaming and ridiculing. We nurture peace when we forgive those who have offended and apologize to those you offend.

Truly, peace is closer than we think…but it takes the investment of our words and actions. Begin the peace investment in your home as you treat your spouse, your children, and your parents with honor and dignity, decency and grace. As we do, our families will become the catalyst for peace in our communities. Yes, peace is closer than we think. “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” Dona Nobis Pacem: Grant Us Peace.

Has This Contagion Infected Your Home?

A contagion may have infected your home. It spreads faster than the flu and the common cold put together. Wearing a mask, washing your hands, and getting vaccines remain ineffective against it. This contagion can spread through your family causing misery, pain, and heartache at a speed that’s nothing to sneeze at. Researchers at the University of Florida (_______ Spreads Like a Disease) identified this contagion in a series of three studies.

  • In one study this contagion was caught after being in close proximity to someone who exhibited the symptoms. Once infected, the infected person’s thought life was impacted with the negative associates that led to ill-mannered and impolite behaviors.
  • In a second study, simply witnessing the symptoms of this contagion led to actual infection! The infected person began to interpret other people’s behaviors in a negative light and then respond to people based on those misinterpretations. Uncivilized and insolent behaviors increased as did harsh words and snide, cynical comments.
  • In a third study those interacting with the carrier became infected and, once infected, willingly sought revenge by withholding resources from the original carrier. Even more disturbing, the infected were capable of infecting others for up to a week after a single contact with the disease!

You can understand my concern. A contagion caught by simply witnessing the symptoms, lasts a full week, and effects how we think and act toward others is terrible. It’s practically a mini-zombie virus.

What exactly is this contagion? Rudeness. Rudeness has become epidemic. Twitter feuds, Facebook rants, and on-line opinion broadcasting are all symptomatic of a rudeness contagion spreading faster than the flu. Worse yet, rude behavior has found its way into our homes and our family relationships. Children are rude to parents and parents to children. Spouses spout off with rudeness toward one another. All the while, the epidemic spreads…and worsens…and destroys family relationships. But, there is a cure! We can stop this epidemic before it spreads any further. And you can insulate yourself from its insidious effects with the same intervention. That intervention comes in four parts.

  1. Be polite to one another. Say “thank you” and “you’re welcome.” Hold a door open for someone else. Think about your spouse and children first. Show them consideration.
  2. Engage in daily acts of kindness. As well as showing one another politeness, be kind. Do a chore for another family member. Offer to help. Let your spouse or child choose the activity. Bring home a special treat. Show a little kindness every day.
  3. It seems simple, but a smile can change the world. Smiling helps reduce stress (Smile for a Happier Family). It puts other people at ease. Smile.
  4. Make eye contact. A study from the University of Haifa showed that simply maintaining eye contact reduced mean behavior and rudeness (Eye Contact Quells Online Hostility). Look at the one another, especially when you speak.

The cure sounds so simple…but powerful. I’m starting right now. Will you join me?

Family Lessons in an Expensive Cup of Joe

What can the price of a cup of joe teach us about family? Last year (2016), CUPS Coffee & Tea in Roanoke, VA, taught a great lesson that applies to families and the Family Bank of Honor. (Read about the coffee shop here).  The owner “felt the need to help solve all the injustices of the world” and decided to start close to home by encouraging polite manners and connection. So, he put up a sign outside his coffee shop, a menu with prices associated with how a person orders their coffee. If someone simply ordered “one small coffee” the charges was $5.  However, if they politely placed their order with a “one small coffee, please” the cost was reduced to $3.  But, you could get the same cup of coffee for a mere $ 1.75 if you connected before placing a polite order: “Hello, I’d like one small coffee please.”  His sign went viral in a matter of days.

I think he had a great idea. “Solving the injustices of the world” begins at home.  We can contribute by encouraging polite manners and connection within the family and with those our family meets.  Each time we make a connection with a family member, we invest in the Family Bank of Honor.  Each time with make a polite statement, we invest in the Family Bank of Honor (Learn more about the Family Bank of Honor).  The more we invest in the Family Bank on Honor, the stronger and more intimate our family bond. And the stronger our family bond, the greater the potential impact on the world (Hot Sauce Vs. the Power of Relationship).

Just like that coffee shop owner, encourage your family to practice polite manners and a little connection…and change the world!

The Happiness of Quadrupling Your Salary

Imagine getting called into your boss’s office the moment you walk into work. Hesitantly, you enter her office and sit down. Butterflies flit about in your stomach as your boss, with a very serious look in her eyes, leans forward to say, “I am so pleased with your work that I decided to quadruple your salary.” Relief chases away the butterflies from your stomach and joy spreads a smile across your face. Can you imagine the happiness you’d feel?  Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Sadly, it will probably never happen.  But, what would you say if I told you another way to increase your happiness the same amount as quadrupling your income? Putman, a professor of public policy at Harvard University, knows a way.  He quantifies how marriage can impact happiness. “The strongest predictors of happiness by far are our social relationships” and “marriage can cause an increase in happiness equal to a quadrupling salary.” (Read more here.) Isn’t that amazing? Marriage can cause an increase in happiness equal to quadrupling your salary.  I agree… with one caveat. Happiness is not increased by any old marriage. Only healthy marriages increase happiness; unhealthy marriages, on the other hand, rob couples of happiness. So, if you want a marriage that increases happiness as much as quadrupling your income, build a healthy marriage. To help you do that, here are ten simple ways to build a healthy marriage.

  1. Greet each morning with a positive and loving statement like “Good morning. I love you.”
  2. Share a kiss any time you part during the day.
  3. Share a hug and a kiss each time you reunite. Make it an intentional 10-second oxytocin hug at least on time each day.
  4. Express gratitude for your spouse every day. Thank them for something they did, compliment something about their appearance, share a character trait you admire, etc. You get the idea. Express gratitude for your spouse every day.
  5. Look at your partner and listen when they talk to you. Put down the newspaper, get off the cell phone, look away from the TV, and look at your spouse. Let them know you understand.
  6. Do one nice thing for your spouse every day. Take out the garbage. Wash the dishes. Make the bed. Wash the car. Clean the kitty litter. Anything. Just do something nice!
  7. Remain polite toward your spouse, even when you’re angry or tired. Remember to use words like “please” and “thank you.” Hold the door open. Let your spouse go first.
  8. Touch…in and out of the bedroom.
  9. Celebrate the good moments of each day together. Take a moment at the end of each day to recall the good and joyous moments of the day.
  10. Ask your spouse what else you could do to make them feel more secure in your relationships, what you can do to show them how much you love them.

I’m sorry I can’t manage to quadruple your salary, but you’ll find the same increase in happiness by increasing the quality of your marriage. Give those 10 tips a try and enjoy the increase in happiness.

The Paradox of Happy Families

It seems paradoxical, even counterintuitive but it’s true; happiness is fleeting when we pursue it. The more we try to make ourselves happy, the more it eludes us. Paradoxically, we find ourselves happy when we forget about ourselves and reach out to help another. In Handother words, to truly experience happiness a person has to plant seeds of service in the soil of kindness and fertilize it with generosity. Research even has a name for the good feelings that come from helping others. They call it a “helper’s high.” Those who do things for other people experience the euphoria of the “helper’s high” due to a release of endorphins. Helping others also increases a person’s sense of self-worth, which enhances happiness as well. So, to grow a happy family, sow seeds of kindness and plant starter plants of helpfulness, fertilize with generosity, and water it daily with polite hospitality. Still confused about how to grow happiness in your family by giving to others? Try these four ideas to get started.

  • Model kindness within your family. Give your spouse and children words of kindness and encouragement. Words like “Thank you,” “Please,” “Can I help?” and “You look nice” will model kindness. Don’t stop with words alone; walk the talk. Practice some “mighty little deeds of kindness,” like holding doors open for one another, letting someone else manage the remote…you get the idea. This is the first step in producing a happy family filled with kindness. Researchers at the University of California in San Diego and Harvard observed that one act of kindness leads others to engage in kindness. Ultimately, this “tripled the value” of the first kind act as it spread from person to person. When you share kindness in your family, your spouse and children will follow your example. Your kindness and generosity will “cascade through your social network [family] to affect” the lives of everyone in your family and more! ( read more in Why This Beautiful Human Behaviour is Highly Infectious)
  • Model kindness to those outside your family. You could start by trying an experiment researchers used in a study reported in How To Be Happy By Giving to Others: perform five random acts of kindness one day a week for six weeks. Have each family member assess their level of happiness at the start of this experiment. During the experiment, let each person record their acts of kindness just so you can keep track of all five each week. At the end of the experiment, assess your level of happiness again. You might be pleasantly surprised at the results.
  • Volunteer as a family. Take the time as a family to volunteer with your church, a community activity, or an organization designed to help others (like Habitat for Humanity, a local animal shelter, or your local church).
  • When you gather as a family for dinner or in the car to travel to an activity, ask your spouse and kids about any acts of kindness they carried out. As each person talks about their act of kindness, explore specifics about the reaction of the recipient of their kind act. Were they surprised? Did they smile? How did they respond? Did they say thank you? Breaking the larger goal of showing kindness into a concrete observable goal of making someone smile will increase the overall happiness of the giver (see How to be Happy by Giving to Others for more).

 

Follow these four tips and you will notice acts of kindness, of giving to others, increase; and, as they increase, family happiness will increase as well!

Dunkin’ Donuts & A Better Behaved Child

I stood in line at Dunkin’ Donuts when a mother and her young son entered the store. They line was moving very slow. As we waited for the opportunity to pick out our donuts, this boy’s excitement began to bubble over. Suddenly, the levee that contained his excitement Mother And Son Doing Laundrybroke. He burst out into loud sounds, large gestures, and a quick run in circles around his mother. His mother calmly picked him up and smiled. He smiled back as she said, “You are really excited for your donut aren’t you?”  His eyes grew so large with excitement and joy I thought they might pop out.  “But,” she continued, “Do you see all the people already eating their donuts?” The little boy looked around and nodded. “We will get our donut soon.” He hugged his mother at those words. She continued, “In the meantime, all the people eating donuts now don’t want to be disturbed by someone running and yelling. So…, (I don’t know if she paused for dramatic effect, but I leaned forward waiting for “the rest of the story”) will you stand patiently with me while we wait for our donut?” The young man smiled and shook his head yes. She set him down and together they stood, hand in hand, patiently waiting for their turn to order a donut. I stood in line and smiled. I had just witnessed a wonderful example of the effectiveness of inductive parenting.

 

Inductive parenting is considered the most effective parenting style for helping a child internalize social norms and family values. Three components make it so effective. First, inductive parenting communicates how actions affect other people. When this young mother told her son to “see all the people…,” she raises his awareness of others. She did not judge or lecture. She simply made him aware. In doing so, she taught him to have empathy, to think about other people, to see things from their perspective. She encouraged him to experience his behavior from another person’s point of view. Her son will learn to recognize how his behavior affects others in positive and negative ways as she continues to do this. In short, he will earn to be respectful of other people.

 

Second, inductive parenting teaches the benefits of “social cooperation.” When this young boy’s mother told him ‘the people eating don’t want to be disturbed by someone running and yelling,” she was teaching him social cooperation, to think about other people and be considerate of their rights and desires. He learned that respecting other people involves cooperating with their desires, not just thinking of his own desires.

 

Third, inductive parenting gives a positive behavioral alternative. The mother described above did this when she asked her son to “stand with me while we wait.” Not only did this young man learn to be aware of the impact of his behavior on others and to respect other people by cooperating with their desires, but he learned how to do this. In addition, his mother stood with him, hand in hand as they talked about their plans for the day. He learned and experienced the joy of interacting with his mother while waiting in line. Most likely, he saw the smiles of other patrons as they witnessed a mother and son having a positive, respectful interaction (after all, she made her son aware of them).

 

Using the three components of inductive parenting will help your child internalize your family values. One more tip to help the process along: do not lecture. Simply state the expectation or raise your child’s awareness and move on. Keep it brief and to the point. Even better, as your children learn the expectations ask them rather than tell them. “Is that how we act in public?” “How do you think your behavior is making other customers feel?” “Is that how a young man/lady behaves?” Asking questions encourages your child to process what they already know. Each time they process what they know and think it through, the more likely they will act on it in the future.

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