With the coronavirus pandemic showing no signs of letting up and millions of Americans out of work, acts of kindness may be more important now than ever.
Author Houston Kraft believes people should be more intentional about the way in which they go about being gracious to others. In his new book, Deep Kindness: A Revolutionary Guide for the Way We Think, Talk, and Act in Kindness, the newly minted author addresses the problem of kindness being oversimplified in our culture.
“One of the most damaging narratives that we have as a culture is that kindness is free,” he told Wake-Up Call, noting that displays of goodwill often cost us comfort, convenience and sometimes, our egos.
Kraft argued that there is often a gap between our belief in kindness and our ability to practice it well. “When we identify as something, we allow ourselves to not put time and energy to improve at that thing,” he said.
In our wide-ranging conversation about the topic, Kraft shared some ways to improve our ability to show kindness.
Being kind to others starts with being kind to yourself.
Kraft believes meaningful kindness is about showing specific kindness tailored to the needs of loved ones and friends. “I like to think about kindness and specificity as rings, moving outward from myself,” he said.
Confront your anxiety and fear.
“The biggest barriers towards empathy and listening and kindness is actually anxiety and fear,” he said.
Make kindness a measurable metric and hold yourself accountable.
Kraft recommends starting a “to-be list” and visually prioritize the kind of person you want to be on a daily basis. “If I’m always thinking, ‘Oh, I’m a kind person’ ― it’s too big, it’s too amorphous to be able to measure versus it to be-list, which says, ‘Hey, today, I’m going to be this thing by doing this.’”
Focus on improving what lies beneath kindness.
Kraft said kindness begins with an internal set of skills, which includes empathy, a robust emotional vocabulary, and the ability to actively listen to others.
“I think to teach kindness is actually a little bit of a misnomer ― of a red herring ― because I think if we’re trying to teach an action without teaching the skills that live beneath that action, we’re going to get consistently frustrated why this person isn’t behaving the way we want them to behave,” he said.
This originally appeared on Medium.