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If you follow me on Instagram, you might’ve seen this recent post, where autocorrect changed my caption from “mind games” to “kind games.” Not surprisingly, this led me to think about what “kind games” might consist of since, even if you’re not intentionally playing mind games with those around you, most of us do some game-playing. Anytime you’re not clearly and effectively communicating with others — intentionally or unintentionally — it’s a kind of game (at the very least, a guessing game!).
No matter how much you might aim for healthy, communicative relationships, it’s hard to always get it right. No matter how well you know someone, it’s challenging to convey yourself accurately (particularly if you don’t even fully understand how you feel which, let’s face it, happens sometimes!), and it can be a daunting task to comprehend others, even when they do their best to share how they feel.
Communication is a kind of kindness. The better you are at expressing yourself (and understanding other others express themselves), the better your relationships will be. But if you’re anything like me, knowing that isn’t the same as doing it. I know how valuable good communication is — in work, in socialization, in romantic relationships — and still I struggle greatly with it because it requires bravery, vulnerability, and a self-awareness that sometimes I just don’t possess.
Effective communication has been an issue for me in almost every relationship I’ve been in, and, much as I hate to admit it, I’ve been guilty of playing a mind game or two. Often it’s not calculated or mean-spirited, but, regardless of the intention, mind games are unkind (and very unproductive!). Here are some of the ideas that came to mind when I started thinking about how I could turn mind games into kind games…
COMMUNICATE HOW YOU FEEL
Telling someone else how you feel is one of the kindest acts. It’s also one of the hardest sometimes. But if you want to be kind, you’ve gotta be brave and just do it. (Bonus: it’s also one of the best ways to be kind to yourself as well, helping you cut down on a lot of unnecessary drama!)
ASK ABOUT HOW OTHERS FEEL
If you don’t know how someone else feels (if you’re not 100%, absolutely sure!), ask. I know it can be awkward sometimes, but just think of how many conflicts you could have already avoided if you’d just asked instead of assuming. Assumptions seem like they save time, but they often make things way more complicated, which isn’t kind for anyone.
APOLOGIZE WHEN YOU’RE WRONG
If you mess up, say you’re sorry. Actually say it. Don’t offer an explanation and leave it at that, assuming the other person knows you’re sorry. Apologize out loud (or in writing if that’s not an option) and mean it. (Advanced version of this game: apologize to, and forgive, yourself, too.)
EXPRESS WHEN YOU’RE HURT
When someone’s hurt you, let them know. You can be honest without being dramatic or hurtful. (It’s not easy, but practice helps!) You can set your ego aside and express how you feel without shame or fury. It’s a tough game to play sometimes, I know, but remember: communication is a kind of kindness.
SAY YES / NO WHEN YOU WANT TO
If you want to say yes, say yes. If you want to say no, say no. You don’t need an excuse. You don’t need a reason. The more often you practice saying yes/no to what you do/don’t want, the better your life gets. (And the more everyone else will get you, which is a winning strategy for making the most of all your relationships!)
RECOGNIZE SIGNS OF CONTROL
Pay attention to how you feel, and if you feel like you’re trying to gain control of someone or something, take some time to figure out why you’re seeking control (hint: usually it’s about you and not them), and knock it off. Most of us don’t want to control or manipulate others, but do so without realizing it. Recognize it, then stop.
DON’T JUDGE SO HARSHLY
Don’t judge yourself or others so harshly. Everything — everything — is so much more complex, so much more entangled, than we realize. One thread tugged and everything is shifting ever so slightly. It’s happening all the time in a million different ways so don’t be so hard on yourself or anyone else. We’re all doing what we can with what we’re given.
TAKE A TIME OUT WHEN UPSET
How many negative interactions might you have avoided just by pausing before reacting? It only takes a little bit of time but if you wait before reacting to someone else when you’re upset, you’ll be doing both of you a great kindness. A deep breath, a walk around the block, a day alone. Take time to chill out.
There are so many ways to practice kindness, of course, but one of the most important (albeit most difficult) is communicating in a loving, open-minded, and thoughtful way. What else would you add to this list? What kind of kind games would you like to play? What kind are you already playing?