Why you can’t be a connector without being kind

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Have you ever received a compliment from a total stranger? How did it make you feel?

I will never forget an experience I had when I first moved to New York City from Texas five years ago. It was a March “still winter” day, both cold and inclement. I had an important not-to-miss meeting in mid-town that no weather event needed to derail.

Stepping out of my Upper East Side apartment building wearing a newly purchased fashion-forward seasonal raincoat and over-the-knee black Stuart Weitzman all weather leather boots (which I later learned every woman in Manhattan owns!), I shivered. The wind was howling and whistling around corners, and the rain came down in sheets. As I threw myself into a taxi, my fancy-dancy umbrella flew inside out and tore off its spine. The day was not starting off well!

Arriving at my Madison Avenue destination, drivers all around me laid on their car horns as I attempted (a little too slowly) to pay the cabbie and get out of the taxi, loaded down with briefcase and papers, without getting further drenched. Welcome to the Big Apple, I thought!

With head down, I dashed across the sidewalk to the revolving glass door of the high-rise office building and wedged myself in, pushing the handlebar to propel the door forward. Deposited at high speed on the lobby side, I walked/ran onto the marble floor of the lobby before de-accelerating just in time to look straight up into the face of a distinguished gentleman.

“I don’t care where you are going and who you are seeing today. You will wow them,” he said.

“Thank you.” I stammered. “You can’t tell I am new around here?!”

“I won’t say a word if you don’t,” he smiled. “You just passed the test. You are a real New Yorker now.”

What the stranger’s kindness meant to me

In a moment when I was frazzled and completely out of my element, the kind words of a stranger gave me a boost of confidence that I carried with me all day. He made a difference in my self-esteem, and gave me a positive outlook at a moment when I felt knocked off kilter.

What if I hadn’t run into him (almost literally!)? How would my mood have been impacted? Would I have felt a little less sure of myself? Hard to say. But I know that the value of my interaction with him meant everything to me. All of a sudden, the world seemed a kinder place.

What opportunities do you have to connect with kindness?

Countless chances exist for acts of kindness in our daily interactions. Here are just a few:

  • Tone and temperament of communication.

In all forms of communication (e.g. email, text, phone call), you have the power to inject warmth. Open your message or conversation with a greeting, close with a word of thanks, and above all, don’t be curt.  If that friendly style doesn’t come naturally to you, watch and copy others who are good at it. Being gracious to the recipient sets up the interaction to go well. Not only will you have the chance to be initially received better, the back and forth of your conversation is almost guaranteed to be more productive.

  •  Positive body language.

Be accessible and open in person. Stay in the moment and don’t prejudge. Even if you must eventually disagree, don’t let your posture and stance speak for you.  Make sure that the physical impression you give is congruent with patience, listening, and being present. Maintaining eye contact (even if you aren’t interested) equals respect.

  • Saying yes if you can.

Not every situation will allow you to say yes. But if you have the power to help others when the stakes are low, saying yes is an endearingly kind gesture. You know how being told yes makes you feel, especially when you don’t expect it! Grant the same joy to others, and you will be a true connector.

Think about the value of kindness each day – both how you can give it and how it makes you feel when you receive it. Share with me act of your kindness that demonstrates how you believe in the importance of connection at Ann@AnnLouden.com.


  • Ann Louden

    A seasoned executive in the nonprofit world, Ann Louden is the founder and CEO of Ann Louden Strategy and Consulting. Recognized for her expertise in fund raising, high profile special events, and campaign planning, Ann provides counsel to chief executives, staff, and volunteer leadership. Ann’s primary interest areas are education, health care for women and children, the arts, and adoption. As a cancer survivor, she led and was the twelve-year spokesperson for a breast cancer advocacy initiative that engaged thousands of survivors, volunteers and medical providers. With a mantra of bringing big ideas to life, Ann focuses on identifying a compelling vision and creating a goals-oriented plan for execution. An in-demand national speaker for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, Ann is the recipient of the Steuben Excellence in Teaching Award and has been named as a CASE Laureate. She is the author of the upcoming book: From Social Courage to Connection: Lessons from Leaders Who Change and Save Lives. You can find her at www.AnnLouden.com.

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