Happy Sunday, how are you feeling?!
We got hit by a stomach bug 🦠 this week but bounced back quick. The rest of my time was filled with backyard soccer and invigorating work calls.
During this period of transition (leaving the toxic job and fully entering the mental health world), I promised myself two things:
To let myself rest with the fam and piles of books
To surround myself with creatives who are lovely to collaborate with
Patting myself on the back for doing both this week. 👏
A major highlight was a visit to my Super Reader in his Kindergarten classroom. The cubbies, the carpet time, Clifford the Big Red Dog!
The warm and fuzzies abound in Kindergarten—even in the Peace Place, a corner where kiddos are encouraged to recenter when feeling strong emotions.
Which leads me right in to this week's topic:
The unexpected thing I learned about kindness by working remote (of all places)
Before we jump in, a quick shoutout to Madre Consulting, the team bringing my brand to life and making sure it’s super relevant to the folks I want to reach. I'm pumped to finally get my point across. Bonus points for all the fun we've had.
Also, a massive welcome hug 🫂 to the 60+ new subscribers that joined this week. I’m grateful you’re here.
"I wasn't disrespectful. I was nice! I smiled."
That's what a spicy coworker said when I mentioned her inappropriate behavior on a Zoom call.
Smiling while saying something mean isn't nice. It's creepy.
But after taking a moment to recover from the strange interaction, I was left with one thought:
Being nice and being kind are NOT the same thing.
Kindness is that cool older cousin who brings you the good snacks and lets you borrow their clothes. Friendly, considerate, and never ask for anything in return.
Niceness is that friend who nods along with what you say but secretly judges you. They're polite and agreeable, wanting to avoid conflict. As Dr. Brene Brown explains, niceness can be a form of manipulation to gain approval from others.
Kindness is the real deal. Niceness is just a facade. And there's no faking the difference.
What you feel on the inside—your true intention—always becomes apparent.
You'd think being kind would be a given, but the truth is, lack of kindness is all too common.
Society has made heroes out of the "sharks" who prey on the weak, but that's an old-fashioned, archaic idea. We don't need to overpower others to succeed.
And science is on our side.
Studies show that being kind can lead to a happier and better life. Here are just a few examples:
Both the giver and receiver of kind acts experience increased well-being. Plus, those who make kindness a habit have stronger social connections and overall life satisfaction. (Univ. of Oxford)
Kind acts can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, plus lower cortisol levels. (UCLA)
People who practice kindness have a lower risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease, lower blood pressure, and stronger immune systems. (Univ. of BC)
Kindness boosts social connections, life satisfaction, self-esteem, and self-compassion. (Univ. of Denver)
Acts of kindness boost empathy, reduce aggression in kids and lead to better social skills and success in school. (Univ. of Exeter)
Not to mention it just feels good.
A no-brainer in my book.
So, if kindness improves all our interpersonal interactions, then what about at work?
No matter the kind of work you do (even if your job is taking care of young kiddos at home), work is made up of humans who collaborate and exchange value.
Work is human, and humans thrive on kindness.
How kindness manifests at work
Most of our lives are dedicated to optimizing for hard skills.
We start with math and literature in grade school, move on to a specialized track like engineering or finance in university, and then learn via tweets and podcasts and audiobooks on topics like marketing, metrics, and more.
But the soft skills will get you far, too.
Kindness is a superpower.
In the first half of my career, I struggled to make peace with some people’s unkind behavior. Snide comments and tricky moves left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
A limiting belief sprouted: “People are at their worst when it comes to work,” I thought.
Fast forward to joining Cogsy in 2021, and things changed.
Everything starts at the top. Similarly to families, good work cultures start with leadership.
Our CEO and COO were a shining example of this from day one. They gave feedback with empathy, prioritized learning and growth, and created an environment where the team was welcome to bring our authentic selves to work.
Over time, I let go of that limiting belief for good. And when I faced a toxic boss at my next gig, my previous experience acted as a protective shield.
I knew better existed out there. The bar had been set. No more settling for less.
And it’s been such a gift to my work—and the rest of my life, too.
I'm not the only one who feels this. Studies show acts of kindness at work lead to:
more productivity (Univ. of Warwick)
increased job satisfaction and relationships (UC Berkeley)
increased trust, improved teamwork, and greater creativity (HBR)
But if it's so important and powerful, why do folks struggle with it so much?
Well, being kind at work is more an art than a science.
This is easier said that done because it requires a few things:
Putting people first: Ever get stuck in your own head? Wrapped up in your own life? Yeah, we all do. And, in the process, we forget to consider others. Putting others first means swapping "what's in it for me" for "what's best for everyone". It's basic human empathy, and it takes conscious effort.
Abundance mindset: Because we're hard-wired for competition and seeking our own individual success, being kind and putting others first can feel counterintuitive. When profit is the main focus, it can be easy to overlook the people who make it all possible. Believing there's enough credit and good-will to go around makes being kind easier.
Self-regulation: We all experience strong emotions from time to time (or all the time, depending on the day). But we're responsible for what we do with them. Being unkind is usually an unregulated, off-the-cuff reaction.
Getting to that place takes self-work.
But if someone doesn’t want to care for their team and wish the best for them, should they even be leading?
And kindness matters now more than ever
The world (and the world of work) has changed forever.
In today's world of remote and asynchronous work, more and more communication happens via video calls, voice notes, and written messages.
Working with someone who isn't kind is terrible under normal circumstances, and it's even worse remote or async.
How many times have you witnessed miscommunications and collaborative relationships gone sour?
Being unkind or dismissive at work may have been acceptable in the past, but it's no longer tolerated. Today's employees want to work in a positive, supportive, and inclusive environment.
The future of work is built on kind and supportive working relationships. Kindness is no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have.
How to act with more kindness
If you want to be kind more often, you have to build the muscle for it. Kindness takes practice because it means putting another person at the forefront of your mind and attention.
I've discovered a few ways that help me build my own kindness muscle in everyday life. I hope they work for you, but please adapt them to your own life as you see fit.
Here are some practical ways I build that muscle:
On the road: I enjoy letting cars pass me or giving pedestrians a chance to cross. (Official crosswalks aren't common in Nicaragua.) This may sound small, but letting someone pass and giving them a smile is incredibly gratifying, even if it’s uncomfortable for me or slows me down. Kindness on the road also isn't a common thing, so it's an easy place to practice.
At work: Kindness is not about avoiding difficult conversations or sugarcoating the truth. It's about having firm but friendly conversations that respect the other person's feelings and needs. Hard feedback can be delivered with empathy and understanding, where both parties can express themselves freely and be heard. Using the phrase "I hear you" can save a hard convo from going off the deep end.
With a friend: What's your zone of genius? Take some time to offer that to someone else. I recently edited college essays for a friend’s son, and it took me an entire 20 minutes to potentially (hopefully) change the trajectory of his life. We all have gifts that come easy to us, so why not share them? It could make all the difference to someone else.
At home: Our most difficult relationships are usually found within our own homes. Family is triggering, but there's something that helps me. Lately, when things get dicey with the kids tantrums, I've pretended to "float above" the house and view a situation as a third-party observer. It's not always easy to just "calm down" because I know I should, but being neutral gives me more information about what's going on. 9 out of 10 times, the new information I gain helps me act with more kindness.
There are infinite more ways to practice building your kindness muscle, but these are just a few that have worked for me.
Each is an exercise in putting people first.
But, as with all things, use your common sense because you matter, too. Being kind to others means being kind to yourself.
And because I'm watching the Super Bowl as I write these last few sentences, I'll say it:
Kindness is the real MVP.
Being kind goes beyond just being nice—it's about putting others first and creating a positive impact in their lives. It's a crucial aspect of building strong relationships and creating a better world.
Make kindness a daily habit.
You got this.
Alrighty, that's all for this edition.
I'll be back next week with another self-work strategy, to make life 10x better for you and everyone around you.
Sending all the best vibes ✨
— Marcella ✌️
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