The Kindness of Strangers

Opportunities to practice otheresteem abound! It’s not just your immediate circle that benefits from your acceptance, appreciation, positive expectations or gratitude, even people you encounter casually can help you practice and give immediate feedback with their reactions to you.

In the book I mention looking into people’s eyes (the waitress serving you, the valet parking guy, the teller at the bank, fellow shoppers…) and asking their names as ways of accepting, considering and paying more attention to people. Some folks do this consistently and create an environment where people tend to feel comfortable. Be liberal with the smile, curious in conversation and open to input from people that seem interesting to you.

Actively appreciating the kindness behind services rendered to you is a wonderful way to make someone’s day AND energize yours! Make it a point to express appreciation at least once every given ammount of time. At first you can set a timer to remind you (a nudge that says “Quick! Appreciate someone!” on your phone or laptop will do. It’s fun to “have to” do it and always find someone worthy.

We all rely on the “kindness of strangers” much more than we care to admit. It won’t hurt to make sure we tell them and it will work wonders for your otheresteem practices. So thanks for reading this and pondering it’s impact in your life. Let me know if you make the effort and change something, as well as how it is working out for you.

I always rely on the comments of readers… just know that you really do make my day when you add your perspective to this blog :)


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Imperfect Acceptance

We had been at a two day training session for coaches, but most of the time was spent exploring otheresteem issues that were very impressive to this group in particular. The impact on their coaching practice and personal relationships was evident to them, so they went back and forth exploring the implications of the four practices with eachother and in relation to their current coaching clients. One of the participants was especially curious about what real, honest to goodness acceptance might look like. He felt it was the most important of the four practices and one that presented a big challenge in many instances. We discussed this together and he set goals for working acceptance into his life in the next few weeks before we met again.

But it was another of the participants that went away from the experience fired up and ready to go! On the plane ride home she took a notebook and wrote profusely about things she wanted to accept about her husband, often moving herself to tears. She went on to write about everything she appreciated in him and all that she still held as positive expectation. Then, she got to gratitude and realized that, even through the tough times like the ones that they are facing now, she was deeply grateful for their life together.  She couldn’t wait to get home and tell him all about it! She envisioned how it would change their lives, what it could do for them as a couple, as a family. And as soon as she was home she found the time and told him all about it.

The next day, she was writing to me about the adventure. She was dumbfounded by his response! Instead of playing out as she had imagined, he listened intently, looked moved and touched and finally told her that he was so happy she saw everything that she was ignoring and how she was as much to blame for their problems as he was.  She felt her heart sink and her excitement crash. What had she done wrong, she asked me? How could he not understand? This smart, intensely sensitive, brilliant woman was asking. She was judging the excersise as a failure. And him as insensitive, misunderstanding and just plain awful!

I couldn’t help but smile at the irony and at the very same time, understand her plight. I reminded her: you are practicing this. The more you practice, the better you will get. This is all new to you, and to him. So, let’s begin again.What if you accept his reaction? It quickly dawned on her that she was not doing that. What if he gets to react in any way he does and you get to practice everything even more deeply?

I know I’ve been there! More than once! Imperfect acceptance requires an understanding that what you expect is yours and yours only. You don’t get to accept only what you like, but what the other is, what he does, how she reacts.  True acceptance opens the path for consistent positive expectations that can truly make a difference.  And I have high hopes for her. She is well on the way!

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The African Way

It doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as you are finding your own way of incorporating practices into your life that will allow you to value others more.  Every major spiritual tradition has something to add to the theme of being grateful, appreciating your fellow human, giving generously of your self.

This week, my father called my attention to a concept that I had not explored before. In Africa there is a word that embodies the spirit of otheresteem well: Ubuntu.  A fascinating word that I will surely be exploring more about! The Ubuntu philosophy is an important part of religion and guides the behavior of many Africans, inspiring political movements, change and even the creation of nations. It is a powerful word that entails the identity of self with relation to others. In 2008 Desmond Tutu said:

One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity.

We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.

It is most definitely for the whole of humanity. Understanding our interconectedness can have a profound effect on us as individuals. It can inspire depth in relating to others, a shift in where we place our attention and a difference in how we view the impact of our words and actions.

To our western minds, Ubuntu might seem so far from the way we have been living. But, if you pay attention, you might discover the difference having more esteem for others might make in your life and in the world around you. Chapter 6 of the book explores how we can bring our otheresteem practices to the world, expanding our reach, building our awareness of the way we connect to eachother. You can start small, like we explained in the post “Its About Us All” and grow from there.  Lets find our way to Ubuntu, or any other path that will draw us together. Let’s explore that path together and move to build otheresteem into the way of the world. It can be done, but only by us, as a whole!

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