On Monday I was lucky, very lucky. I had tickets to see Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love author) at the How To: Academy in London. I didn’t find out about the event or book tickets early and yet upon arrival, we were told that there had been hundreds of people on the waiting list, who hadn’t managed to get tickets. I’ll confess, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Eat, Pray, Love. Sometimes I love it and other times, it really doesn’t do it for me. One thing was for certain though, when the book was finished, I felt very honoured that Elizabeth had let us into her world and shared her deepest, darkest moments with us. Therefore, when the tickets became available, I knew I had to try and get them.

The decisiveness paid off and I got to spend (nearly) 2 hours in a room listening to this charming, vivacious, energetic, charismatic lady and today, I’m still processing and savouring the incredible amount of information that was shared during the session. There are far too many to go into here but this one really struck a chord with me:

When asked about handling feedback:

Elizabeth was asked how she handles negative reviews and criticism of her work. Whilst answering, she went on to say that she only values the feedback that is given with kindness, that kindness is a skill and people should only work with people who have the very best, supportive intentions for them.

This got me thinking about a training exercise we did a few years ago at work, we were all sitting in a circle and the trainer asked each person what they expected of themselves. The first couple of people said they expected themselves to be perfect. The third person said ‘kind’, she always expected herself to be kind. This was about 8 years ago and it is something I have modelled my own life on.

We never know what is going on in another person’s life

It is so easy to have a bad day, to feel impatient with others, to not want to respond in the way we know we should. However, no matter what type of day we are having and what has happened to put us in that frame of mind, we never know what is really going on in another person’s life and how they feel about our responses to them.

Anybody can be nice….Kindness has depth

Elizabeth went on to say that kindness should not be confused with niceness. Anybody can be nice….. Nice is polite, but it doesn’t have any depth or meaning. To a large extent, it is just a platitude. Kindness has depth, it is caring, it is wanting the best for the person you are with and some days this can take a huge amount of energy but it is so worth it, not just to the person receiving it, but to you, who is giving it too.

The biggest achievement I hope for them is that they are kind.

Having had this experience of a colleague saying she always expected herself to be kind, 8 years ago, it has changed not only how I deal with people on a day to day basis, it has shaped how I raise my children and that the biggest achievement I hope for them is that they are kind.

The next time you’re having a bad day or are tempted to brush someone aside or not treat them with the kindness that they deserve, try to remember, they have their own things going on in the background and treating them with kindness can make a big difference between them having a good day, and a terrible one.

You can read more about Elizabeth Gilbert by visiting her website.