This is a lofty goal that is often challenging to make real in our daily lives. Personally, sometimes I get overwhelmed or triggered and am not my best self. And when I’m not my best self, I do not always act very nicely. Even more unfortunately, the world around us often does not promote these values. In fact, most societies bombard their members with negative messages showing that “being mean is funny” at least for certain groups – and that being different can make someone less worthy than others.
At Kidpower, we have learned that the violence prevention, empowerment, and personal safety skills we teach become meaningless if we do not uphold a standard of respectful, safe, and caring behavior throughout our organization.
Here are six steps from lessons we have learned over the past two decades that can help you to create cultures of caring, respect, and safety in your family, school, workplace, place of worship, and social groups.
1. Make a written plan. Define your values and set standards for how you want to act yourself and to lead others in acting. Take a look at Kidpower’s Mission, Goals, and Values and Ten Best Practices for Team Members for ideas that you can adapt and use.
2. Acknowledge obstacles. Overwhelm, negative social messages, triggers, poor communication skills, risks to important relationships, and leaders who do not yet have the ability or commitment to uphold positive values often get in the way of maintaining an environment where everyone is treated with care and respect.
Being realistic about these pitfalls can help you to prepare yourself to address them effectively – sometimes by being courageous and speaking up – and sometimes by using target denial and avoiding situations where problems are likely to occur.
3. Speak up even if it is uncomfortable. Remember that discomfort is not the same as damage. Our article, Integrity in Communication, describes the reasons people give for not speaking up directly to someone whose behavior is making them unhappy and the harm that not speaking up can cause. Our article, Fullpower Boundaries for Adults with People We Know, describes how to set boundaries and to persist in the face of common negative reactions. Remember that most people don’t like being told what to do and that reacting negatively to a boundary at first is normal.
4. Be a powerful, respectful leader. Set a good example. Even if others behave terribly, do your best to get centered and to stay in charge of your own words and actions. Children, family members, friends, and colleagues will learn more from what they see you doing when you are upset than from anything you can tell them. Our article, Create Emotional Safety: Be a Powerful, Positive Adult Leader, describes how to lead with children but is also relevant for leading with adults.
5. Celebrate progress instead of mourning lack of perfection. Accept that creation is messy and that it takes time and practice to develop new habits. Appreciate and acknowledge others and yourself for trying your best and for each time that things go well. If you have trouble doing this, see Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist.
6. Apologize when you make mistakes that hurt others instead of denying that this happened, but don’t over-apologize. Our article, Conscious Apologies, describes how to achieve this balance.
Finally, please be kind to yourself. Being caring, respectful, and safe starts with you upholding these values for yourself towards yourself as well as towards others. Remember our Kidpower motto that, “You don’t have to be perfect to be great!”
Published: December 13, 2012 | Last Updated: December 13, 2012