I remember an incident in one of my workplaces. A particular woman in another department was constantly under the scrutiny because of her leadership style. Her manager would always stand up for her, but the issues her team was facing couldn’t be ignored. She could be rude, sometimes jump to conclusion, not trust people and more. But she was also brilliant at her work. After trying a lot of things, no change and the complaints piling on, it had reached a stage of separation. In one final ditch attempt, the organisation got her to accept some counselling. Through that we realised she came from a broken home, abandonment issues, which led to trust issues, and a situation where the family was always trying to make ends meet. This childhood trauma was somehow manifesting itself in her work and relationships, where she felt she couldn’t trust people easily. She had undergone a painful divorce and she would create a wall around her to prevent people from getting in and hurting her. She had never spoken about it, and somewhere we had made many assumptions about her and given up easily!
However, something happened after that. She had applied for adoption almost 2yrs earlier, which was granted. Her daughter was 5years old and a wonderful girl. And the weird thing is, we saw the woman bloom with the girl. Over time, she became more open, would smile more often, started working better with her team and so much more. It’s like the child had in some way helped her heal.
It made me realise, that sometimes we judge people at face value and also give up on them faster. I for one, used to feel that quite often after my divorce. I would assume that my pain was a lot and others had no way of understanding the hurt or feeling anything remotely close to what I was going through. Just because people don’t open up about things, that doesn’t mean they haven’t or aren’t dealing with something.
Honestly, now through my cancer and my coaching journey that I have embarked on, I am meeting so many people from all walks of life and different parts of the globe. And through this I have realised that the person with the most beautiful and strong smile could have so much trauma behind them. It just makes you understand that all of us are in similar situations, just the way we deal with the pain is different. It helps you respect others and not judge quickly.
Here are some of the learnings of the past one year:
When someone says something that hurts or offends you take a moment before you react.
I know we all have our struggles and in this day and age, we are losing our patience more often than not. But you never know what is going on inside the person to have him react this way. So be kind! They might just have lost a dear one, or are dealing with some painful sickness. We can’t take responsibility for their actions, but can certainly take responsibility for ours.
If your gut tells you to be there for someone, do it! No matter what your past experience with them has been!
A few years back, I was going through an emotionally turbulent time. And my anxiety levels would randomly peak. Once, when one such episode was occurring at work, I remember turning to the person next to me and asked him to just talk to me. I’m not sure what he saw or thought, and usually he was the quiet one. But he spoke to me and joked around for a good 30mins with me. Till I finally asked him to stop.
He never asked me what had happened, but just that one act of kindness changed me forever. Sometimes we look for reciprocal giving. If someone has not been there for us, we might remember it and do the same. But kindness is not a barter system. To be there for someone is just that. To be there and not keep an expectation.
So next time, a friend or close one has not been able to be there for you. Try not to judge them. They could have their own journeys.
I recently saw a beautiful movie – Pay it Forward. The storyline is about paying a good deed forward (not backward). If someone has been kind to you, you do good deeds for 3 other people. And they in turn do it to 3 more individually and so on.
And the best thing is Kindness does Spread and is Free!
I’m not saying I’ve achieved nirvana in this context. But I’m certainly working on myself. Sometimes as small a thing as a smile can make someone’s day!