I am not a Southerner by birth. Rather, I moved to Atlanta 19 years ago (that still surprises me!) to help start up WebMD. One of my colleagues there, knowing I was a "damn yankee," pulled me aside to explain how differently Southern-born and bred women behave interacting with others.
You see, I had this habit of saying "Bless your heart!" And it came from a place of deep authenticity. Midwesterners do that. That's what prompted my colleague to pull me aside. She explained that when that is said by some women in the South, typically with a sweet-tea smile, it is actually a rather passive-aggressive remark not a blessing. As in, "Well at least she's got a job, bless her heart." Because she wasn't the "marrying kind."
Over time, I discovered further that women are oftentimes expected to be "nice," and all that entails in the Southern lexicon. Basically, you only stab someone in the back, not directly. Say whatever gets you through the immediate situation, then do whatever you want. It used to really get to me until I realized that while my definition of "nice" may have been hijacked, what I really in search of was kindness.
What is kindness? It's not assuming the worst about someone else to make oneself feel better. It involves seeing someone first. We are not invisible. We want and need to be seen and heard, not fixed. That is one of my favorite statements, especially in business.
Kindness towards another is never wrong. It represents abundant thinking -- recognizing that there is more than enough for everyone. It TAKES nothing from us, to acknowledge someone else. It recognizes the humanity in others. We may have diametrically opposed views, but I can still acknowledge your humanness. It's the meaning of Namaste.
I especially like these 3 definitions of Namaste:
"The very best part of me acknowledges and blesses the very best part of you."
"I greet that place within you, which is love, light and life. And when I am in that place in me, and you are in that place in you, we are not separate."
"My soul honors your soul. I honor the place in you where the entire Universe resides. I honor the light, love, truth, beauty and peace within you, because it is also within me. In sharing these things we are united, we are the same, we are one."
How different our lives will be if we can merely stop and see one another, and acknowledge our existence. It doesn't cost a penny. It doesn't require that I change my values, or that you change yours. It IS being kind.
Neither does kindness mean you are not firm. Nor that you ask for what you want. Nor that someone else must lose for you to win.
Above all else, kindness begins with being kind to ourselves. Be gentle with ourselves when we need compassion. Stifle that inner critic, for heavens' sake!
Does it happen merely by saying we will change? Alas, not so fast and not so easy. It takes practice.
A first step might be to recognize when we speak harshly to ourselves. How many times a day do you catch yourself saying to yourself, "I'm such an idiot!" Would you say that to someone else?
When you hear yourself saying that, stop for a moment and pretend someone has just said that out loud to you. How do you respond? It used to be that I was bitterly cruel to myself. My instinct now is to stand up for myself, and then give myself a hug. Over time, the voice becomes softer and less angry. And I feel more peaceful and loved.
How does this apply in business? You may have a work situation where someone else actually DOES call you an idiot. You can react "hot," and lash out. You can act "steel magnolia" and talk poorly behind their back later. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Clairee and Ouiser!) Or you can stop for a moment and say, perhaps silently, "namaste." It gives you a chance for self-care, and to make a decision about what outcome you are seeking.
What outcome will lashing out produce? Is it what you really want? What will result from speaking badly of that person later? Maybe not the one you are looking for. What if you take the bad feelings to heart? WHY are you letting a toxic person lay their stuff on you? It's not about you...
Self-care above all else. Acknowledging the other, without giving up your boundaries and values. Thinking longer term about what outcome you want, and what will get you there.
Kindness always prevails.