Three Simple Steps to More Joy in Your Life and Relationships
Does your mother-in-law make you want to pull your hair out by criticizing every move you make? Maybe your wife doesn’t appreciate all the things you do for your family, or it’s your husband who takes you for granted and always seems angry.
Perhaps you dread going to work every day because your boss talks down to you and you’ve had enough.
Or maybe it isn’t a bad relationship, but a good one … and you want it to be great.
What if you had the power to transform that relationship into one that is positive and brings joy into your life?
I’ve got great news …You do have the power. In fact, you have a superpower and it’s called kindness. Let me explain.
I’m a social researcher; and after years of study on what we call the 30-Day Kindness Challenge, we found three actions anyone can do to transform any relationship. Because targeted kindness is a potent weapon and will soften any heart.
Including our own!
Here’s what you do. Pick that someone with whom you want a better relationship. For 30 days, you will:
- Say nothing negative about your person — either to them or about them to someone else. If you must provide negative feedback (for example, to discipline a child or correct a subordinate’s mistake), be constructive and encouraging without a negative tone.
- Every day, find one thing that you can sincerely praise or affirm about your person and tell them, and tell someone else.
- Every day, do one small act of kindness or generosity for them.
That’s it! So simple. And yet in our research for The Kindness Challenge, 89 percent of relationships improved!
What does this look like in practice? Well, suppose you and your teenage daughter have been pushing each other’s buttons for weeks. Every conversation with her is like a minefield, not knowing what will set her off.
During the 30-Day Kindness Challenge, you resist the urge to ask “Why did you wait until the last minute to do your homework??” (No sighing in exasperation, either!) And you completely stop yourself from venting about it with your husband or your friends at work. (This is just for thirty days, remember!) Instead, you look for things to praise. So you notice that it was really nice of her to take her little brother to get ice cream. You thank her for it – and then you tell your friends at work about the nice thing she did.
You’re also looking for that little act of generosity to do each day. So when you know she wants to meet her friends at the coffee shop after dinner but it’s her turn to clean the kitchen, you sincerely say, “I’ve got this. You go ahead and go. Have a great time.”
Trust me: Starting this process will show us a whole lot about what needs to change. Not just in the other person: but in us. You will see just how negative you have been, in ways you never realized before. (In The Kindness Challenge I outline the seven distinct types of negativity we found in the research, ranging from exasperation to overt criticism to suspicion. I strongly recommend you find out your negativity patterns, so you can watch for them!)
But as you go, you will also see something amazing: you will see your feelings changing. Not only will you experience more joy and feel better about yourself, you’ll also start appreciating the other person more. You’ll see their defenses lowering. And you may see enjoyment and positivity in the relationship you haven’t seen in years. An effort toward kindness won’t solve every problem – especially the big ones like addiction – but it will make them easier to solve.