by Shaunti Feldhahn
You know that colleague or family member who drives you nuts? The one who second-guesses everything you do, is super-sensitive, and doesn’t return urgent emails for help?
No, wait, that would be my colleague! You probably have a different relationship that drives you nuts. Your grumpy step-father or passive-aggressive sister. A daughter with an Olympic level skill in eye-rolling. Or perhaps it is your spouse, as your marriage has slid from happy to hurting.
Or maybe it isn’t a bad relationship, but a good one … and you want it to be great.
Well, I’ve got great news. 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 superpower that will soften any heart.
Including our own!
Here’s what you do. Pick the person 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 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% of relationships improved!
What does this look like in practice? Well, suppose you and your husband have been irritated with one another for months. Now every parenting decision is a battle, and your feelings are regularly hurt.
During the 30-Day Kindness Challenge, you resist the urge to ask “Why did you let the kids stay up so late!?” And you completely stop yourself from venting about it with your girlfriends at work. (This is just for thirty days, remember!) Instead, you’re looking for things to praise. So you notice it was really nice of him to come home early to get the boys to football practice. You thank him for it – and then you tell your girlfriends at work about that nice thing he did.
You’re also looking for that little act of generosity to do each day. So when he’s super tired after work, instead of getting annoyed that he’s not helping with dinner preparation you sincerely say, “I’ve got this. You go watch the game for a few minutes.”
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!)
One Small Win: But as you go, you will also see something amazing: you will see your feelings changing. You’ll 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.
Shaunti Feldhahn is a social researcher, speaker and best-selling author of books such as For Women Only. She thinks Kathi Lipp – and anyone who loves Kathi – rocks the world. She hopes all of you will go rock the world with kindness.
She and her husband Roger are the parents of four young adults in San Jose, CA. When she’s not dating her husband or hanging out with her puggle Jake, Kathi is speaking at retreats, conferences and women’s events across the US.
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