“Being kind is one of the hardest thing (sic) to be in high school because you’re so terrified of being cut down yourself that you’re always on your guard. But don’t be like that. Be kind and you will be truly different. A standout. Unique and happy.” ~ Wendy Wunder, author of The Probability of Miracles
I’m not sure I agree that being kind is the hardest thing to do, but I know it’s one of the smartest things you can do for yourself and for others. Kindness, respect and consideration for others not only are the cornerstones of good manners but they are the elements of social success by making us attractive and pleasant to be around. No matter what challenges one’s high school years present they can be overcome, or at least mitigated, by practicing kindness and focusing on others. And, doing so can prepare you for college and beyond.
Therefore, if you’d like to have a different experience starting with this school year, try the 10 approaches listed below that show kindness toward others. They might seem unimportant, but do not be deceived; by taking these approaches toward others you’ll unleash a powerful force that can change your life.
- Smile more. Smiling at people you like is easy, but take that extra step and smile at those you don’t like, as well as those you don’t know very well. At first, it will seem a little strange, and you may get some interesting reactions. But, over time you will see a positive change occur in the way people respond to you. In addition, smiling has physical and mental benefits; it will boost your mood, strengthen your immune system, relieve stress and make you look more attractive. And, because smiling at people usually prompts them to smile back, they will relax and feel better about you, themselves and others in general.
- Acknowledge others. People like to be acknowledged and appreciated. Greet them by name, which they love to hear, or with a nod and smile as you pass them in the hallways, stairwells, classrooms, cafeteria, street, parking lot, playing field, guidance office – everywhere. To remember a person’s name, repeat it when you are introduced and try to associate it with something that will help you to recall it. Nod thoughtfully and smile appreciatively when your teacher comes up with a particularly interesting class or assignment, or another student delivers a presentation, contributes an idea or answers a question in class or study group. Engage in discussions with others about their interests and activities. Make eye contact and focus on what someone is saying. Paying attention to others will make them feel kindly toward you.
- Stand up. Standing up when being introduced to anyone or when an adult or guest enters the room demonstrates respect and courtesy. The exception is when you are seated in class or assembly, unless you are expected to rise for ceremonial reasons or a standing ovation.
- Listen more than you speak. Practice active listening. And remember the wise words of the philosopher, Epictetus, who said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
- Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It has been said that the younger generation lacks empathy, a key ingredient to emotional intelligence and social and professional success. This could be due to a decrease in face-to-face human contact and an increase in living one’s life behind a computer screen or with a smartphone. But, it’s important to connect with others by understanding their feelings and perspectives. So, step in to another’s shoes from time to time so you can feel what they feel,.
- Say “thank you.” Showing gratitude pays tribute to others when they have shown you kindness or consideration on a small or large scale. Never forget to say these words, as well as demonstrate your thanks by reciprocating whenever possible. Use other words of respect, as well, such as, “please,” “you’re welcome,” “excuse me,” “allow me,” and “may I.”
- Lend a hand. Be alert to those who need your help. Open doors, carry packages, pick up dropped items, give up your seat, hold an umbrella, lend lunch money, help with homework, deliver assignments to a classmate who is ill, help with chores and errands at home, make a delivery for a teacher, volunteer in your community, and so on. Doing something for someone else without expecting anything in return shows strong character.
- Ignore your smartphone. Reduce the time you glance at it, text and tweet. Turn it off or keep it on vibrate whenever you’re in class, speaking with others, at an assembly, concert, movie, whenever you are eating with others in the school cafeteria or elsewhere or at dinner with your family. Hiding behind your personal devices and connecting virtually with others will not cut it in the long run. Get out there and have some face time with the human race!
- Create a polished appearance. I don’t mean that you should wear a suit and tie to school – unless, of course, that’s the required uniform or dress code for your particular school. Wear whatever is comfortable and appropriate for your school, but avoid becoming a slave to current trends or dressing carelessly. Develop your own style, but also be neat and well groomed and pay attention to your personal hygiene. Your appearance might attract people to you, but if your deodorant has failed or you didn’t brush your teeth your image and appeal will be blown. Pay attention to the details.
- Be authentic.You’ve no doubt heard the phrase, “be true to yourself.” That, in a nutshell, is what being authentic is all about. And, in today’s world, being authentic is the trait everyone is looking for in others. In business and politics, especially, we are seeking leaders who are honest about themselves and whom we can trust as we spend our money and cast our votes. For all of us in our everyday lives, being authentic – that is, being yourself and not trying to be something or someone you’re not – will resonate positively with others. Just be the best you possible.
Implementing these approaches will begin to improve the quality of your family, school and social lives. Further, achieving a command of these techniques will provide you with the confidence and savvy that will position you to stand out from the crowd in another area. I’m talking about internships, which are currently considered to be the gold standard of forging a path to post-graduation employment and career success. And, with competition continually increasing for internships, it’s not too early while you’re still in high school to start developing the prowess and confidence you’ll need to compete not only in the hard skills, but also in the people skills for which colleges and employers are seeking in candidates.
Next week, college career counselor Lyn Nelson will present a guest post on what you need to know about internships and how further to prepare for them.
Until next time,