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All About You: Be kind

Richard Hawk

EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

If you were to ask me what I think the world needs most right now, I’d say “more kindness.” Aspects of kindness include caring about other people, the “natural world” and even ourselves.

Kindness warms the heart – and you can show it in many ways. Whether you’re mowing a neighbor’s lawn because they’re ill or letting someone go in front of you at the store, being kind is a powerful way to make the world a better place.

As safety and health professionals, we have many opportunities to show kindness. Helping people avoid injury is a kind act, provided our motives are sincere. We can also be kind in other situations in which it’s tougher to do so, such as when someone violates a procedure or does something that causes harm.

I’ve been working on my “kindness level” over the past few months. I’ve even included the expression “I am kind” as part of my morning meditation. I’ve discovered that there are more times than I realized when my family, my friends and strangers do things that bother me. How about you? What ticks you off and makes you want to respond in a mean way, or at least negatively?

To respond kindly to something someone does that irritates you shows self-control and often turns a tricky situation into a positive one. Here’s a typical example.

My neighbor gets infuriated when someone tailgates him. Especially when he’s driving on a rural road in the morning on his way to work. His common reaction is to slow down purposely or hit the brakes. Not only are his tactics unsafe, but they also aggravate the situation. Pulling over is the kind thing to do, even if the driver behind you is in the wrong.

Here are a couple of things that help me act kindly in trying situations.

Give people the benefit of the doubt

When I started my tenure in the nuclear industry as a radiation protection technician in 1981, I saw a video during a training course that has stuck with me all these years. It showed a car weaving in and out of traffic, pausing, and then running red lights and tailgating. After a few minutes, I’m sure everyone watching is thinking, “What an idiot,” or something similar. However, that changed when the car stopped in front of an emergency room. The driver gets out, runs over to the passenger side, grabs a small child and rushes into the hospital.

My opinion of the driver’s behavior changed completely – at least about his motives.

“The Four Agreements,” a book authored by Don Miguel Ruiz, includes excellent advice about interpreting other people’s actions. He recommends we make an agreement with ourselves that we “don’t make assumptions” about other people’s motives.

Even if we find out the reasons for other people’s actions are negative, responding in a mean or cruel way won’t change the person’s beliefs or attitude. On the contrary, as many social studies have shown, it’s more likely to escalate whatever conflict is occurring. A kind response, on the other hand, is more likely to turn down the heat.

Practice kindness purposely

Last week, my wife told me she could tell the difference in my demeanor since I’ve been purposely practicing kindness. (Trust me, my wife of 43 years is an observant, and mostly accurate, describer of my behavior!)

Why not take notice of your kindness meter? There’s no downside to being kind. Even when you must be firm about a situation, you still can be kind, whether at home or work. There’s rarely a need in our lives to be mean or, worse, cruel.

You can practice being kind every day in small and large ways. If you do, it’ll strengthen your kindness muscle. My favorite kindness quote from the 14th Dalai Lama is: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Richard Hawk helps leaders inspire employees to care more about their safety and health so “nobody gets hurt.” He also has a long history of success getting safety leaders to increase their influence and make safety fun. For more than 35 years, Richard’s safety keynotes, training sessions, books and “Safety Stuff” e-zine have made a positive difference in the safety and health field. Learn more about how Richard can improve your employees’ safety performance at

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