Being ‘kind’ isn’t what you think it is

What do I mean by ‘being kind isn’t what you think it is’? Kindness differs from peoples’ perceptions of it – and this can be influenced by environmental and psychological factors. Some main ‘states of mind’ particularly prominent when perceiving somebody as, for example, threatening could be raised levels of testerone, mental illness, past traumas, or upbringing. This is because every emotion that we feel, is connected to a physical process. Peaked levels or hormones could lead to a person, for example, to perceive a kind person as unkind. That is situational. Kindness can be subtle, kindness can be misconstrued and twisted and manipulated – but one thing I don’t believe is that kindness can ever be fake. The emotion, physical processes, smiles, hugs, and kind wishes are not always necessarily meant from the heart – but it takes a conscious, empathetic being to show some form of kindness. It is this fact which makes me believe fake kindness doesn’t exist.

This article was particularly prominent in my notebook; I found that throughout my life up until my current age, I noted things about people that I thought were peculiar. I picked up on subtle differences in behavior and kindness however instead of manifesting this into anger and resentment in these situations, I used these forces to better understand the people around me. Psychology isn’t just for psychologists – it’s for human beings. Understanding the baseline of psychology can have many benefits, such as understanding exactly why somebody is saying what they’re saying, and reaching a conclusion based upon how they say it exactly.

My own experiences can absolutely contribute at least one anecdote to this text. This article. This monologue. As aforementioned, growing up was an experiential time for me. Not owning too many material possessions par colouring books, pens and a DS, I was satisfied with reading material, a computer on which I taught myself to design websites, and a password journal. My upbringing was incredibly person-oriented, interacting with my parents, 5-year-my-junior brother, and my inner family circle.

I attended public school, you can read about that mess here, and of course this meant spending time speaking with people. I like to consider myself relatively intelligent, for when I heard people speak about things important to them I made a mental note of that thing and did everything I could to make sure that person’s life was better according to that thing. For example, I was generous in handing out my school lunch after overhearing about a child not being able to afford theirs. I applied for every opportunity I was offered to be a prefect – or a helper of some sort – and never was chosen. This, I think, is a good measurement of my empathy as a human being. Enough about me and more about kindness.

Kindness isn’t fake, nor will it ever be. I hope that from this article you can get ahold of kindness by its horns and swing it around in circles. By this, I mean, understand better how you can approach people with kindness by taking a step back and noticing just how anxious they are. It’s like how your parents tell you that spiders are more afraid of you than you are them. As fucking if.

This article will walk you through the three types of kindness and how I have experienced each kind, but do note that these are purely from my own knowledge and prior experiences; there’s no technical knowledge here. Just good ol’ Kaitlyn brain.

Anxiety makes one rude

Anxiety is an incredibly debilitating condition to live with – living with it through my teens definitely altered the intended trajectory of my life, but for the better. It’s important to look at things that aren’t within your control through rose-coloured spectacles. Despite how much I hated having anxiety, I have ultimately grown from it and become a far more confident person.

Have you ever noticed that some people either blank you, or only reply with one word? Anxiety. I’ve been there. If this is you, don’t worry – I get it. You might often see somebody with anxiety be regarded as rude, or stuck up, or bitchy. You perhaps view that girl in the corner of your class as a bitch because she always looks at you and never speaks to you. She isn’t a bitch – she just has social anxiety.

It is all too common for people struggling with anxiety to be considered rude and obnoxious quiet and this is because of something very important.

Anxiety is a silent illness.

People don’t know when others experience anxiety. Panic attacks aren’t incredibly visual, and people with anxiety don’t like to tell people mostly out of the fear of being mocked, ridiculed, or having fingers pointed calling them a liar/hypochondriac.

This is what my beginning point consists of – if you have anxiety / know somebody that you know has anxiety but is ‘incredibly rude’ or ‘snotty’ or ‘snobby’ – reach out. Be kinder to them. Offer them the knowledge that you know why they’re so quiet, and that it is okay. The silence is okay – because they will be glad that you know why they’re really quiet.

Anxiety might appear to make its sufferers rude because anxiety will limit the person’s ability to reach out to others. They will appear to alienate their friends, family, teachers, colleagues. You might think the person that has drifted out of your life rudely is inconsiderate – however it is highly likely that their condition has ceased their abilities to reach out. Anxiety, as a condition, narrows your perceptions to harrowing, constant bullying from yourself.

Anxiety also prevents the sufferer from offering help to those who need it. Reaching out to people when suffering from anxiety can cause more anxiety, further rumination of potentially negative responses from the person they reach out to, or general fear that their message will be misconstrued into something unintended. This, alone, might make an anxious person appear rude, obnoxious, or uncaring.

You might dress up one day, and go to work/school/whatever. You go to your friend – a person with anxiety. They smile to you as you chat, maintaining perfect eye contact. You notice that they don’t compliment you once, and you seem kinda put off them from this. It makes you question if they’re really your friend or not. You question whether or not this is them being unkind, inconsiderate.

For many, this wouldn’t be a significant deal. However, built up over the span of a few months, this could be make or break for a friendship. Or a decision breaker for somebody to decide ultimately whether or not they like you. Smaller, less significant things tend to build up and create outcomes of which we didn’t anticipate. Living with a condition as debilitating, emotionally, as anxiety has its challenges, and these are only a few from the peak of the iceberg.

Unkind people aren’t unkind to everyone all the time

You probably just caught them on a bad day. Or pissed them off. Or both. Or neither.

Most people tend to show their unkind sides during times of high stress levels, during colder seasons, and during times of depressive episodes.

Did you know that you have been the ‘unkind’ person in lots of people’s lives? This isn’t to put a dampen on anything, or you as a person, but more of a wakeup call. It’s grounding – makes you realise your enemies aren’t your enemies and more like somebody you caught on a bad day.

That person goes home to their loved one and kisses them on the forehead, listens to their problems, and hugs them. Every single human being has the capacity for love, par sociopaths, and every single human being has good days (par those that don’t).

It’s imperative to acknowledge the small smudge we are individually on this planet. Do you really think you have time to firstly stress about people, and secondly care what they think? No, no, no…

You meant to smile at your neighbour and now they think you’re an asshole because they waved and you didn’t. You genuinely forgot to walk the dog and now your brother hates you. You accidentally splashed a friend in the pool when you were five and you thought they hated you.

Travesties like this happen all. The. Damn. Time. They don’t hate you – and they probably don’t even remember that it happened. People are narcissistic and care only about themselves. That’s the damp reality of it all – but also an uplifting reality since you’ve probably by now realised that your mistakes aren’t even that big at all, and your kindness isn’t composed of the accidents you make, but more of the intentional marks you purposefully make on this planet.

‘Unkind’ people often tend to react in an aggressive or defensive way; they feel attacked. Typically, when approaching a situation one would choose phrases such as, “you did ____”, “who did _____?!” and “why did you do ____?!”. Accusatory phrases that instantly spike our defensive senses. Our tails spike and we go into defense mode – instantly conjuring up an excuse, or a reason, or a “no! It wasn’t me [insert lame excuse]”.

The truth is, if you consciously approach people with a non-accusatory question – and I must put emphasis on the fact that it must be non-accusatory – the person will not feel attacked. They consequently won’t feel compelled to defend themself.

An example of an unkind person in their natural habitat is school. You see the ‘playground’ bully, or the ‘chav’ loitering around. Every time you see them, and they glance past you, you meet their eyes with a cold and stern gaze. You appear stone cold and hostile – and this makes them appear stone cold and hostile.

The truth is, if you smile they probably won’t smile back. But at least you smiled. The next time you were to pass them, they would acknowledge that you’re a genuine non-threat, and wouldn’t feel disobliged to interact with you. This is, of course, dependant on the situation. In most scenarios, a toxic situation can be diffused by simple kindness and understanding from one party which can ‘infect’ the other.

How can we stop people from being rude?

Good question, Kaitlyn! Through my thorough years of experience dealing with assholes, I’ve devised two main methods of diffusing and mitigating violent situations or anything similar.

  • Offer compassion, understanding, and open-mindedness
  • Don’t begin a discussion with confrontation

There’s no such thing as ‘fake’ kindness

Like I mentioned earlier in this article, I genuinely don’t believe in fake kindness. Every ounce of kindness that I exert has at least some genuineness to it. I don’t think I have the capacity to fake a smile.

But what is a fake smile? Is it a smile in which only the mouth is involved? Or can people fake the eye squint, too? Who knows. But I don’t think us humans are capable of faking such a thing. A scientific study found that even faking a physical smile led to the person experiencing happiness. So there!

There are two types of kindness, I’ve noticed (if you put it into binary):

  • Inconsistent Kindness – Only being overtly kind when you have to. For example, saying hi to the neighbour you actually do like, despite having a bad day. This is a conscious effort to maintain your friendship because you’re not that close – at least to share your bad day with them…
    That doesn’t mean the kindness is fake, though. Kindness and positive emotions burn energy like coal, and it’s no surprise that most people get socially/emotionally exhausted easily. This doesn’t mean your kindness is fake. Kindness takes energy; it’s smart to conserve that energy. You smart.
You Smart. You loyal. You grateful. - DJ Khaled Central
  • Thoughtful Kindness – Showing care, kindness and compassion for others when you can see that they need it.
    This isn’t fake, it’s called empathy. Something most humans have. Empathy is about caring for others when you can notice that they need it.

So, kindness isn’t what you think it is. Kindness is a complex web intertwining all of us, and your one experience of somebody doesn’t determine whether they are kind or not.

Before summarising a person, ask yourself:

  • What might they be going through?
  • Are they anxious, depressed, or dealing with mental health issues?
  • Have they lost somebody close to them?
  • Have they recently failed at something that meant a lot to them?
  • Are they under a lot of work/academic pressure?
  • Are you reading into them too much? Is this overthinking? (be rational and non-biased if you can, or ask somebody close to you for help)

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and as always, I welcome constructive criticism with open arms!

Kaitlyn Pibernik. References:

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Categories: Personal Stories

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