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Unleashing Your Potential through the Power of Words

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Give Kindness for Christmas

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. – Plato

Life is tough. And it’s always something.

Some people are struggling to put food on the table. Others are facing a life-threatening illness.

Some people have lost loved ones. Others are estranged from their family.

Some people are lonely. Others are in relationships but still feel alone and isolated.

Some people just can’t stand their job. Others can’t seem to find one.

Which is why this Christmas … and every day of the year … we should give the gift of kindness.

While it sounds cheesy, it is the one gesture that can turn someone’s crappy morning or afternoon into a better day – and it doesn’t have to cost anything. All of us are struggling, which is why empathy cannot only heal the soul but give others hope. Showing that you care, that you are willing to go out of your way to open a door, or let an older person step in front of you in the grocery store checkout line, or allow someone INTO your lane on the freeway, can make a huge difference.

Even avoiding posting spoilers for the latest Stars War movie is an act of kindness.

I make it a point to try to be kind to everyone. And I admit I am not always successful. When I find it challenging, when someone is incredibly mean or inconsiderate, I try very hard to put myself into his or her shoes. At the end of the day, I figure you can get more accomplished with kindness than meanness.

Being kind also has the power to catch people off guard. Mean people rarely expect kindness in return.

For me, the greatest gift someone can give me is an act of kindness. Fortunately, I have been showered with these gifts all of my life. In many instances they have been life affirming – and life saving. The nurses at City of Hope come immediately to mind.

So as you hassle the mall for last-minute shopping, or struggle to find a parking space at the grocery store, or deal with traffic jams or crowded airports or cranky baristas, try to give the gift of kindness.

It will go a long way helping you get into the Christmas spirit -- and stay there throughout the year.

 

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

The Shame of Shaming

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. – Eleanor Roosevelt

We are ALL guilty of being judgmental. We look at someone or something, and immediately form an opinion. Negative opinions, combined with a blatant disregard for the feelings of others (i.e. lack of empathy), morph into shaming and bullying – an occurrence fueled by the media and exacerbated by the Internet.

I believe our minds are hard-wired to be judgmental. Indeed, without the ability to judge between good and bad – or safe and unsafe -- our ancestors would’ve ended up being dinner instead of successfully procuring dinner.

Yet the same ability to judge what is a friend and what is a foe also turns us into critics and even bullies. For some reason, bullying and shaming give us satisfaction and make us feel good about ourselves – even superior -- which is why certain people continue to do it well into adulthood. And it becomes highly disturbing when shaming seeps into the public domain.

The Internet is filled with examples of public shaming, from the way someone looks (too fat, too skinny, too young, too old, too many wrinkles, too differently abled) to the way someone dresses, sings, thinks, loves, acts, speaks, drives, writes, believes, lives … there are no lack of examples.

I find the state of Internet shaming exhausting and anxiety-provoking. It’s too easy to shame anonymously, and destroy someone else’s spirit with negativity. Just reading comments posted to even the most benign articles or photos is nauseating.

So what do we do? Two thoughts come to mind.

First, while I believe we are all born with judgmental tendencies, I also believe parents have the responsibility to teach their children to control their urge to bully and shame. I equate it to toilet training. As babies, we all love to pee anywhere at anytime, but as we grow up, we understand there’s a time AND PLACE to pee. If we can train our kids to pee and poop in a toilet, we can train them to take the high road when it comes to curbing their inclination to shame. We can teach young people how to be nice by modeling the way.

Second, if we are shamed, it is our choice to embrace the negativity OR let it go and consider the source. It is difficult NOT to be hurt by mean words. Believe me, as a casualty of bullying in elementary school and junior high, I still carry those hurtful memories. But I certainly have never let them define me. I can’t control what negative energy spews from others, but I certainly can control how to react to it. And I will never let it consume me.

I encourage you to be less judgmental as you navigate your own journey. Turning shaming thoughts into empathy creates more positive energy in your life. And if you find yourself the target of negative comments, don’t internalize them. Continue to be your own best friend.

Most importantly, don’t let the negativity of others become the soundtrack of your life. That would be a shame.

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com