Being kind to our friends, relatives, romantic partners, children, pets, coworkers, and other people we genuinely like is easy. But being kind to complete strangers, or worse—people who are unkind to us—is much, much harder.
It takes a higher level of awareness to actively choose to spread kindness everywhere you go, in some of the most mundane and even unpleasant situations. With practice, however, it gets easier—and you’ll reap the benefits too.
Here are just seven super small and simple ways to be kinder around others, no matter where you are.
1. Smile more.
Smiling and frowning are both contagious, so which one would you rather spread? We tend to avoid eye contact and acknowledgment of other people we don’t know when we’re out and about, so why not challenge yourself to break that habit? A friendly smile isn’t creepy or uncomfortable when it’s done from the kindness of your own heart, with no expectation of anything in return.
2. Give someone a genuine compliment.
Most people spend the majority of their time living in their own little worlds, failing to notice and acknowledge what they like about other people. Whether you admire the bank teller’s hair color or love the way your partner gives you the best bear hugs, telling them about it can impact them more positively than you might realize.
3. Say “thank you,” and mean it.
We’ve all been conditioned to say thank you when we’re on the receiving end of kindness and generosity, but rarely do we ever say it with so much enthusiasm that it really conveys the genuine extent of our gratitude. Next time you have the opportunity to say thank you, don’t be so robotic about it. Instead, say it like you mean it. (Making eye contact and smiling is an added bonus!)
4. Be present when interacting with others.
Your full, undivided attention is the greatest gift you can give to anyone. So make sure you put down your phone, shut off the TV, detach from those thoughts about tomorrow’s schedule, stop thinking so much about your self-image, and give people what they deserve when speaking with you—your presence.
5. Ask questions.
In Dale Carnegie’s famous self-help book, How to Win Friends & Influence People, one of the best pieces of advice he gives is to always ask other people questions. Turning your focus away from yourself and toward others is one of the easiest ways to get people to like you. When you show that you’re genuinely interested in others, they’ll most likely be flattered.
6. Set your judgments aside.
We all judge—there’s no sense in denying it. The important thing is to recognize automatic judgments and question them before they cause us to react impulsively. If you can open your mind to the personal struggles that other people may be going through that you may have never experienced yourself, you’ll be far more likely to act compassionately toward them.
7. Make small sacrifices to help someone out.
If you’d rather show kindness through action than through words, you can do so with small amounts of time and effort. Here are a few examples:
- Buying or making a small gift for a loved one
- Offering to do chores or tasks that usually aren’t your responsibility
- Paying for a stranger’s coffee who’s standing in line behind you
- Holding the door open for a stranger
- Letting the person standing behind you in the checkout line at the grocery store ahead of you if they have fewer items
- Giving up your seat for somebody else on a crowded public transit route
Pick one act of kindness from the list above and challenge yourself to accomplish it every day for the next seven days. You might be surprised how good it will make you feel, and how much kindness it will attract back to you!