You either brighten the world or darken the world. What are you doing today?
Whether you know it or not, whether you like it or not, you make a difference. Everything you say and do makes a difference. Your words and deeds are either brightening the world or darkening the world.
Sometimes you create brightness. You say some things that put more hope and life into your personal and professional relationships. At other times you create darkness. You do some things that kill off the hope and life in your relationships.
Of course, you and I could list a thousand things that brighten or darken relationships, but let me discuss two of the most important things. In fact, if you did nothing more than these two things, your relationships would improve on and off the job.
First, REFUSE TO USE SARCASM. It always darkens relationships because it always destroys a piece of the other person. It makes the other person the butt of jokes and the object of scorn. And sarcasm always puts the other person down instead of lifting him up.
Unfortunately, sarcasm is one of the more common forms of communication these days. Almost every TV sitcom is filled with sarcasm, and in many cases, it is the only form of humor used. It’s one put down after another. So it’s no wonder that people begin to think that sarcasm is funny, witty, and even okay to use in their own relationships.
Examples are everywhere. One plumbing company in northeast Pennsylvania uses the slogan, “Don’t sleep with a drip. Call your plumber.” I admit it’s very clever, but I also wonder about the put downs some spouses might give each other when their attempted home repairs don’t work out.
Or think about the conflicts that just naturally come with every relationship. I think some people spend more time looking for clever lines to deliver in the midst of conflict than they do looking for skills to resolve the conflict. Take, for example, the person that said, “I don’t have an attitude problem. You have a perception problem.” Someone else said, “Love is blind, but marriage is a real eye opener.” And finally, “Love is grand. Divorce is a hundred grand.” I can just imagine any one of those lines being used in a nasty husband-wife argument–and the conflict getting worse.
So refuse to use sarcasm, no matter how clever you sound or how much you want to say it. Sarcasm may be okay for the sitcoms and the occasional laugh, but just remember, sitcoms aren’t reality. In the world you and I live in, sarcasm only darkens the world.
Second, make it a point to SHOW KINDNESS EVERY DAY. Whether it’s your customer, your coworker, or someone at home, simply ask yourself, “What can I do right now to make that person’s life a little better?” Maybe you listen for thirty seconds, give a compliment, help carry a package, or find a telephone number. Just do something to brighten that person’s world. You’ll almost always get a better relationship in return.
I remember reading in Guideposts magazine about an American family in France many years ago. It was Christmas Eve, and it was a cold, depressing, rainy evening. They were tired and irritable. Their car had broken down, so they stopped at a dismal little restaurant about dinnertime.
There were only five tables in the room that were occupied. One had a French family, and they were fighting. The French father slapped his little son, and he was crying loudly. A German family was also arguing. The wife was berating her husband. And over in a corner a piano player was listlessly playing Christmas music. The only person in the room who seemed happy was an American sailor. He was writing a letter to his sweetheart, judging from his facial expression, and had a half-smile on his face.
Then there came an uncomfortable draft of cold air. Through the open door came an old woman, a seller of flowers. Water was dripping off her long overcoat, and her shoes were soggy wet. She held in her hands a few little corsages. She went over to the American family and asked, “Flowers, monsieur? Only one franc.” But no, they didn’t want any. Then she approached the French family, “One franc, monsieur?” They didn’t want any either. Nor did the German family.
So she sat down, discouraged, and said to the piano player, “Joseph, it is Christmas Eve, and I haven’t sold any flowers all day long.” She called to the waiter and said, “A bowl of soup, please.” Turning back to the piano player, she continued, “Joseph, think of it–only a bowl of soup on Christmas Eve.” He pointed to his tipping plate which was empty. A glum, semi-hostile silence descended on them all.
Then the sailor finished his letter and walked over to the old flower woman and said, “Madame, how much are your flowers?”
“One franc, monsieur.”
“I’ll take two corsages.” He pressed one flat, put it in with the letter and sealed the envelope. Then he handed her a twenty-franc note.
“I have no change, monsieur,” she said.
“Ah, that’s my Christmas gift to you. You know, you somehow remind me of my grandmother.” Then he leaned down, kissed her cheek and said, “Happy Christmas!”
He then took the other corsage and walked over to the American family, bowed to the husband and said, “Sir, will you permit me to present this corsage to your beautiful daughter?” And with that he was gone.
Then Christmas exploded in the restaurant. The old flower woman danced around and said to Joseph, “This is my Christmas present! I’m going to give half of it to you so that we can have a feast together! Isn’t it wonderful?” And the pianist was pounding out Christmas melodies like never before, and the beautiful “daughter,” alias the wife, had stars in her eyes as she smelled the flowers.
They began to sing, in German, French and English, the old carols that span all languages: “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht,” “O Tannenbaum,” and so on. The place was filled with music, so much so that the American went home and wrote a letter to the admiral of the fleet and said, “Somewhere in your forces is a young sailor who gave a very special gift to my family, to me and to the other people in that French restaurant. Because your young sailor had the Christmas spirit in his soul, he released the love and joy that had been smothered within us by anger and disappointment. He gave us Christmas.”
That’s how kindness works. When you make someone’s life a little better, when you brighten his/her world, relationships improve.
Action: Take on the kindness challenge. For one day this week, show a little kindness to every person you meet. Watch their response. Pay attention to how you feel. And if you like what you see and how you feel, then take on the kindness challenge for another day.