I had a much “ruder” title that involved an acronym but asked the same question. Then realized my mom sometimes reads the blog so rethought my wording.

Was that kind? No. It was self-serving. It might have also been thoughtful but the action in and of itself was not motivated by wanting to be kind. It was motivated by wanting to appear kind. Very different.

 dog and horse close up of faces happy together
Kindness can cross species

Friendly, considerate, and generous are terms often used in definitions of kindness. When taken together I can see they might create a formula to create a “kind” character. BUT, and this is a pretty big but, doing only one or two elements in isolation makes people who are NOT kind believe that they are much kinder than others might see “I am so generous I gave my friend that ticket to the concert I couldn’t use.” “People tell me I am friendly all the time!

So what? you might think if it makes people feel good to think they are kind what could the harm be in that? Sadly there can be a LOT of damage done by people professing to be kind, or telling other people to be kind when they themselves are not. I think about kindness a lot, I have written about it many times before. This was probably my favourite blog about it so far. There are some, hmm, let’s call them complications that can arise from the pretense of kindness though.

Here’s an example

Let’s start to break down an example here.

Dog trainers often draw a line between positive/R+/force-free/clicker/cookie pusher trainers and balanced/punitive/force trainers. Both sides are certain they are in the right, and there is a long and complicated history of bashing the “other” side. Is it kind to tell someone (even people in your “own” camp) how to act or feel towards anyone else? Spoiler Alert: Nope. It’s not. Of course, the bashing isn’t helpful or fruitful and can make people upset and hostile. The reality is both “sides” partake of this though – and believing that telling people to be “nice” will work is simplistic and perhaps ego driven.

If we tell other people to be kind we feel better but we likely have little impact on their behaviour. Kindness is best served from intrinsic or internal desires. If we are kind to make someone else happy odds are good it isn’t sincere and will ultimately fail.

Becoming Kinder

So how does one actually move towards being kinder? (If that’s the word you want to use – I have spent way too much of my life WORKING hard to be kind to easily give it up but if you have a better word go for it!)

  1. Celebrate other people’s successes. Triumph feels good. Shared triumph feels even better. Set people (JUST like we do our animal partners – see what I did there) up to be successful. It really isn’t all about you – don’t be that person – you know the type “aww that’s great and it reminds me of a time when my accomplishment was even bigger and better than that”. Tape your mouth shut or sit on your hands until you can respond “that’s amazing, wonderful and magnificent – JUST like you!”
  2. Open your eyes. Or if you think your eyes are already open – open your heart. It’s amazing what your eyes and heart can see when they work together. Look for people suffering and figure out what you can do to help. In a store that might be holding a door open for someone with heavy bags, online that might be reacting to a difficult emotional post. A sincere compliment made with an open spirit can be one of the kindest acts around.
  3. Think of ways you can add value to your community. Circling back to the different types of trainers discussion above – how can you add value to the conversation? Can you smile at trainers not like you at a community event, could you like a post they make about some common ground? Could you explain to the local pet store staff issues you have seen with electric fencing (to grab a recent, random example from my own experience)? Can you write a blog post or do a social media post that benefits everyone? I bet you can.
  4. Prioritize your practice. Is it more important to pay lip service to be kind to someone with very different beliefs and values than you or is it more important to be kind to people who have less privilege than you? I know what I think about this one, you need to decide for yourself and then work at it. Kindness is hard work, and an investment, develop and spend it in ways you want.
text block reads integrity is choosing courage over comfort: choosing what is right over what it fun fast or easy and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.

Why does it matter?

Kindness is a skill. As a skill, we can improve it. We are trainers. We know this in theory. Let’s take our knowledge into our open hearts and start applying it. Start growing your skillset by being kind to yourself. For some people, this is really easy, for others much harder. It’s not easy to be truly kind. So do the thinking and the work – and include yourself in your trials and application.

Kindness is a glue that helps make relationships work and communities thrive. It’s studied, it’s validated and it’s genuine. We aren’t talking woo and you here – we are talking science!

Without thoughtful compassion, meaningful assistance and kindness we will fall into that human trap of continuing in our racist, ableist, sexist and self-centred way of living. Take the noun and take action instead with your intention: make it personal, and active.

Slowly we can make our community better, stronger and more diverse.

And that my friends is a very good thing.

If you want some pointers on actually being kind and welcoming READ this! Ayoka did her usual wonderful job of giving specific actionable pointers to help us all be our best selves.