Do you ever catch yourself in a situation when perhaps a thought creeps into your mind that you know if you said it out loud you would look like a total b-word? But hey, wait! I’m a nice person! I promise…. that internal monologue gets the best of you. The truth is, we always have room for improvement. I was reading Real Simple last month and came across an article about a woman and her therapy dog. They visit a hospice care facility and her dog brings such joy and peace to the folks living there, without any words passing between them. Why is that? Because that dog gave uninterrupted attention. I had tears in my eyes when I finished the story, and there was a specific sentence that really resonated with me.
Attention is a gift.
How accurate is that, right? Think about the last time you carried a conversation with someone when you or the other person didn’t have a cellphone in hand, checking something else at the same time. Why is it so hard for us to put that stuff down? I’m not above it, I am definitely guilty too. If we all just paid a little more attention to the real life people and experiences around us, that would make this world a much nicer place. Because instead of bottling ourselves up into a little cocoon of personal space – totally self absorbed, we instead embrace the opportunities to engage with others. Do you agree? Smiles and shiny happy people all around! So then I started thinking, what else can I change to be a nicer person? These are some simple ways that we can learn to be more conscious of others, focusing less on us.
1 | Empathize. Learn what this truly means. It goes beyond just hearing someone unload their troubles or accomplishments. This involves really feeling the same feelings and emotions that they are expressing to you. You can practice this by mentally putting yourself in their shoes – would you react the same way? If not, then perhaps that gives you a different perspective to present to them. Either way, you are taking the time to really connect.
2 | Just listen. At service on Sunday, we sang a song with the words “More of You, Less of Me” and this is perfect phrase to remember. Stop trying to one-up with stories or claims. Practice humility. Let others speak and let your actions of attention speak in your place. They will appreciate it, and you’ll more peace from letting your mind stop wandering about what story or event you want to share when they stop talking.
3 | Respond appropriately. This goes along with the above mantra. Besides just listening, we have to learn to give appropriate input. Was she asking for my advice, or just venting? Listening can solve this problem before we indulge our opinion when it was not requested. Not everyone wants advice. Some people just want to share, they want you to empathize and listen. Your response could be a smile, a hug, a high five for a job well done. We can speak volumes through our actions. Even simple ones.
4 | Practice love. To truly tie everything together, this is the greatest advice right here. Just practice love, because when you are striving to show love to everyone around you – you already accomplish the other three ways to be a nicer person. It’s not easy, and we fall short daily. But that’s why it’s a practice (just like yoga!). My favorite quote about teaching is “when one teaches, two learn” and this can certainly be applied here. When someone else sees you acting out of love, it only makes others want to embrace that true joy and seek what you have. Happiness.