In my 40 years as a psychotherapist, there is one rule of thumb that I have found that makes or breaks the success of my client’s relationships: The degree of kindness they show to others.

More than IQ, status, money, worldly possessions, performance in school, or excelling on the job, kindness trumps pretty much everything. Those who are kind are happier people, and people are happier with them. When conflicts arise they are more focused on being kind rather than being right. Instead of trying to change another person’s perceptions or defend themselves by proving how right they are, those who express themselves rather than try to impress their views on others end up enjoying closer and healthier relationships. Research has shown that the quality of our relationships is one of the most important indicators of personal well-being. Although many people consider kindness a soft skill that is not as important as how smart or right they are, kindness itself is so much more important for quality of life. Proving that you are right is about you and leads to aggressive and insensitive communication, while being kind is about both you and the other person. When another person feels cared for and empathized with, they are more likely to feel closer to you and happier about being with you.

Can you think of a conflict or argument you have had with someone close to you?  What was your goal in resolving the conflict?  Were you more focused on being kind or being right?  If you spend time trying to alter someone’s perceptions, you will invariably alienate the other person. You will tend to use aggressive YOU statements rather than assertive I statements. Trying to change someone’s perceptions to think like you is like giving them eyeglasses with your prescription, not theirs.  So think of that the next time you find yourself in an argument or conflict with someone and choose kindness every time. To quote Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Here are three tips to unleash the power of kindness:

1. Be free with smiles, hugs and kisses. 

Smile more frequently. Be more apt to express positive feelings to those around you. Give plenty of hugs and kisses!  They can even be in the form of Hershey Hugs and Kisses – have a bowl of them at work, and spread the love!  If you feel positively about something a coworker did, for example, offer them a Hershey Hug or Kiss, look them in the eye and tell them why you appreciate them!  With your children, be freer with your actual hugs and kisses, and catch them being good and show positivity, expressing what you liked about what they are did. Even if you are angry, refrain from lecturing, yelling or being aggressive.  Set limits with nonjudgmental assertiveness and kindness.

2. Remember this acronym to show others that you CARE –  Communicate Assertively, showing Respect and Empathy.

Communicate Assertively   Use “I” statements instead of “YOU” statements. No blaming, labelling or name calling.

Respect       Show respect to yourself and others. Be accepting and non –  judgmental .  Be tolerant of  differences in ideas and opinions.

Empathy     Show consideration for the feelings of others. Look behind the words for the feelings being expressed.

3. Be a Bucket Filler – and not a Bucket Dipper

I love using this simple metaphor from a bestselling children’s book, Have You Filled A Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud. The premise of the book uses the metaphor of a bucket that we all carry around invisibly, which needs to be filled with the kind acts of others and also towards yourself. A smile, a good deed, a kind word, a kiss, a hug, helping someone, are all examples of bucket filling. Conversely, examples of bucket dipping are criticisms, rude remarks, arguing, negative comments, and sarcasm. Click here for more in-depth examples of how to be a bucket filler instead of a bucket dipper. This concept can be used as home, the classroom and even in the corporate world to improve relationships and unleash the power of kindness.

So how about you?  Are you ready to improve your strategies on how to focus on being kind rather than right, and unleash the power of kindness?