Radical Kindness, Holiday Style

It’s November and Thanksgiving and other holiday gatherings are fast approaching.  In my next several newsletters, I will deal with the issue of what to do when you know you need to do something, but you do not know what to do.  In other words, I will be writing about Radical Kindness Warrior training.

I mentioned the book I am writing to my Zumba Toning trainer yesterday , and she told me a story.  Everyone seems to have a story when I bring up this topic. Here is her story:

When she was two her family gathered for Thanksgiving.  Her Uncle Ted, as I will call him, proceeded to drink too much and then sent himself on a mission to attack everyone individually. When he commented on her mother’s handmade dress, Jane, as I will call my trainer, had had enough.

“Shup up and eat your turkey!” she commanded, and the family exploded in riotous laughter.  Little two year old Jane had said what everyone else wanted to say but didn’t know how.

I would add that one turkey at the table is enough.

Here is an excerpt from my book Radical Kindness Tips for the Well-Intentioned But Ill-Prepared . Well, I’m still working on the title, but you see what I’m getting at. As always, I would love to know what you think.

Radical Kindness Tip #3: 

Knock Something Over

You are at Thanksgiving dinner and Uncle Ted is about to launch into a racist joke.  You can see that Aunt Minnie is waiting for an opening to comment on your thighs, as she usually does. What are you to do?  You do not want to shame anyone or create a scene, yet you absolutely cannot allow racist jokes to be told in front of you and in front of the children.

What can you do?  The answer: once again, is distraction, distraction, distraction.

You know you need to shift the energy, move the focus.  You need to do something, anything, to break into the telling of the racist joke and the compliant listening to the joke. To get away with it, you have to look innocent.   You are “accidentally” knocking a chair over, dropping a book on the floor, dumping the contents of your purse on the ground.

“Oh, my!” you cry. “How clumsy of me!  Shelly, would you help me pick this mess up?”  Make a fuss.  “Does anyone see my lipstick?”  Have fun.

Perhaps you can talk with Uncle Ted later in private.  “Uncle Ted, dear, I know you mean no harm.  You need to stop telling racist jokes. They aren’t funny. They are cruel.  They perpetuate hate and the world has enough hate.  Next time you start to tell a racist joke, I will leave with my family.  We’ll drive home and that will be the end of this Thanksgiving dinner for us.”

Okay, so you probably are not going to be able to say all of this to Uncle Ted in one sitting.  But you can move toward this. At some point you need to take a stand against racism, homophobia, sexism, and cruelty of all kinds.

Until you are ready to take it on, head on, knock something over.

Other ideas:

Pretend you lost a contact.  “Oh, no!” you cry.  “My contact fell out!”  You drop on all fours to the ground and begin looking.  “Could you please help me?  I just bought these!”

Have fun with this one.  Start patting the feet of the people you are trying to distract.  You do not need to wear contacts to use this ploy, but if you are wearing glasses, it will probably not work.  Or maybe it will work perfectly.  You will have made your point.  Remember to smile.

Note: Your intervention has to look like an accident, otherwise you may get confronted, and a confrontation is the last thing you want.

Practice looking innocent in the mirror.  You can do it.  You did it for years when you were a kid.  If you have children, ask them to practice with you.  This could be a great family bonding moment.  You might even share with them why you are practicing looking like butter would not melt in your mouth.

Never, never, never make the situation worse.

Always, always, always do something to stop cruelty


Dear Vicki,

You know I value your coaching. I thank you for inviting me, and all of your readers, to share our thoughts. I’m grateful for your courage and your heartfelt openness.

I know your method will work well for some people, yet for me, I am ready to take this situation head-on as you say. I intend to speak up for my values and beliefs without pretense. I know many people aren’t ready for that step. Some fear feeling vulnerable, and many fear the potential conflict.

I know the value of interrupting Uncle Ted with a loud noise. This is perfect. When he turns my way, I want to be transparent. I would say this, “Uncle Ted, I’m glad you stopped talking. If you must tell that joke, give me a moment to leave the room, and maybe some others will go with me. I don’t want to hear a (racist, sexist, etc.) joke. I think jokes like this are not funny and they are cruel.” Uncle Ted may decide to ridicule me in front of the family. I will not react.

Without asking him, Uncle Ted must now decide if telling a (so judged) cruel joke serves his purpose. If Uncle Ted claims he means no harm, I won’t argue or shame him, but I will leave the room, and if I have minor children, I will tell them to come with me. In another room, I would explain to my children (or others) why I feel uncomfortable hearing racist, homophobic, sexist, handicapped, etc. jokes. Yes, this is the head-on way to take a stand.

In a private follow-up with Uncle Ted, I would not threaten to leave the gathering. I would clearly request that he stop telling jokes of this type in front of me (or my children). I would ask him to give me the time to leave the room when he wants to tell racist, homophobic, sexist, handicapped, etc. jokes. I will assure him that I will interrupt every time if he forgets my request.

I realize that I have experience taking a stand for my values in this social situation unlike encountering the bully at the check-out counter. In this situation, (my brain and) I stay present, I don’t feel afraid, and I avoid creating conflict. I used my process to stop a peer from making offensive comments about “Jerry’s kids” in my presence. He claimed he meant no harm, but he stopped making comments about “Jerry’s kids” in front of me and others at work.

Thank you, Vicki, for hearing my thoughts on this topic. I intend to be as transparent as possible when taking a stand in this situation. I understand the purpose of being an actor in a situation when fear or anger stops my brain from working. Having a “script” ready, I may still take meaningful action. And, acting is much more playful.

With love,
J. G.

Radical Kindness Warrior Pt. 2

Incivility is Not Cool

The Worldwide Cruelty is Not Cool Campaign is gaining momentum.  For now I’m gathering people through this newsletter, but soon I will have a site devoted to this movement.

The time is ripe!  The world is ripe for change. I’m hearing about all kinds of campaigns to stop cruelty and increase kindness.  Here is a song I wrote to help you remember to keep on keeping on:  The World is Ripe for Change.

I’m adding humor and humility to the movement.  We have all been bullied and we have all bullied others.  Shaming people does not help them change.  If we think of someone as our enemy, our wish is granted.

When we unmask cruelty and hatefulness, we will always find a wound.  Always.  We must tend to our own wounds so we do not hurt others, and we must listen deeply to others to help heal their wounds. That is how we break the cycle of pain.

We must do this with kindness and firmness.  Respect, a tender respect, is essential at all times.  Easy to do?  Nope, just essential if we are to start solving our problems and stop calling each other names.

Incivility is Not Cool

Hate is cruel and cruelty is not cool; therefore, hate is not cool either.

It’s logic.  Look it up.

Imagine this:

You are at some political gathering.  One of the speakers calls the other speaker a name, or speaks with contempt, or is hateful in any way.  The politician may be on the same side as you are, fighting for what you deeply believe.

Still, because you believe cruelty is not cool and incivility is a form of cruelty, you start singing “Happy Birthday.”

The entire crowd joins in.  Reporters are stunned. What is going on?  Why are all these people, Democrats, Republicans, and Anarchists, singing “Happy Birthday?”

You are seeing Radical Kindness Warriors at play for civility.  They are demanding it with a smile and a song.

Eureka!  The world is transformed in an instant!  The politicians start actually listening instead of yelling at each other.  Common ground is sought and found.  Creative solutions are hatched before our very eyes.

Want to add your ideas to the campaign?  Send me an email or share this with your friends.

Still getting a little braver every day

Radical Kindness Warrior Pt. 1

My last newsletter announced the start of a worldwide campaign Cruelty is Not Cool.  If you missed it, you can read it on my blog atoutrageousvisions.com/blog/.  Always feel free to pass on any of these newsletters.  Once we unleash the creativity of all the kind-hearted, creative people out there, this campaign could go viral.

Many of you responded to the video showing a young man with Down Syndrome being called a dummy.  Your passion helps fuel my commitment.  Thank you!  I am resolved to do all that I can to help people take a stand for kindness whenever they feel anyone is being mistreated.

I’m calling us Radical Kindness Warriors because we need to be courageous, creative, and caring. RK Warriors ask themselves, “What does love look like now?” and then they do something. The goal of the campaign is to train a world of Radical Kindness Warriors, people who know how to take action when they see people being treated in a way that may cause emotional or physical injury.

We are all innocent and we are all guilty.

Calling people bullies does not invite them to wake up to the harm they are causing.  On the contrary, it invites them to get even worse as they prove they are good at something: being bad.

RK Warriors know that everyone has been bullied and everyone has bullied someone.  We are all in this together.

RK Warriors are aware of their own feelings and notice overt forms of cruelty as well as more subtle, less intentional shaming behavior.

Extreme examples of hurtful behavior are easy to spot:  such as calling people the “N” word or a retard.

But we often miss more subtle acts of cruelty:  laughing at people when they make mistakes, telling people they can’t carry a tune in a bucket, or commenting on their bodies: “Carrie is getting quite a butt on her” said to a seven year old girl by her mother, and a skinny seven year old girl at that.

What if this girl were trained as an RK Warrior and started singing, “No bad body talk!”  Click here for the song.  Wow!  That might save her decades of worrying about how her butt looks.  She might never ask her boyfriend or husband the dreaded question:  “Does my butt look good in these pants?”

RK Warriors live the vow:

I will never, never, never do anything the puts me in jeopardy.

I will always, always, always do something to shift the situation.

My role is to build a toolkit of Radical Kindness Warriors.  I’m working on the book right now, Radical Kindness Tips:  What to Do When You Do Not Know What to Do, and You Feel You Should Do Something.  I’m including tips from readers, students, and AARP members.  Send me any ideas you have, and, with your permission, I may include them in the book.

The tips are creative, surprising, startling, courageous, compassionate, and sometimes even funny.  The goal is to shift the situation without adding emotional or physical violence, while remaining serene and strong.

Just like little Carrie in the example above, you will be able to shift the situation successfully because you have a skill set:

Awareness:  You recognize abuse quickly.  You are aware of your own feelings and you take time to get centered before you respond.

Action:  You dip into your Warrior Tool Kit to find something to do to shift the energy.  You know you can always do one of these three things:

  1. Sing Happy Birthday.
  2. Fake a coughing attack.  Make lots of disgusting sounds
  3. Drop something or knock something over.

 Cruelty is Not Cool Worldwide Campaign.

Reply to this email if you want me to put you on a special list.  I’m updating my educational website, Outrageously Alive Education www.outrageouslyalive.com  I will let you know when I have the Cruelty is Not cool Starter Kit available.

Start with being radically kind to yourself, and you will be able to share that kindness with the world.

Cruelty is NOT Cool!

My grandson has Down Syndrome.  Recently my son-in-law posted this video on his Facebook page: www.youtube.com/watch?v=oc_K9c24R5o

Take a minute to look at it and then come back.

Were you shocked?  Did it hurt your soul?  I was struck by two things:  people either did nothing or got aggressive with the abuser, saying things like “Shame on you!” and “Get out of here!  Your are an ass!”

The people who said nothing, probably because they were stunned, accidentally sent a message:  This behavior is acceptable.  They probably left feeling pretty crummy about themselves and the world.

The people who did take action, got pretty riled up.  One woman, a teacher, who stood up to the abuse was so shaken after the account she could hardly speak.  “I’m normally not like this, “ she said.

Coping with Difficult People Without Becoming One of them

My question is: Can people respond to cruelty without becoming aggressive?  Can we take action that makes the world a better place without getting ourselves all riled up?  Can we learn to cope with difficult people without becoming one of them?

My answer is Yes, Yes, Yes!

Cruelty is Not Cool campaign

I am starting a worldwide campaign to deal with all forms of cruelty.  Racism, sexism, insults to people’s bodies or their mental capacity– I want to teach people of all ages how to stand up to all forms of bullying and cruelty in a way that brings joy.

Did she just say stand up to bullying with joy?

Yes she did.

Imagine, if you will, people standing in line at a market.  The cashier has Downs.  Someone starts saying mean things, “Hurry up, you dummy!  You shouldn’t be allowed to have a job. I don’t want to be in the Retard Line.”

Idea #1:

One person makes a loud clap and says, “Enough!” then smiles.  He does it again.  “If you agree, help me!” he says.  Soon everyone is smiling, making a loud clap together, and saying “Enough!”  It is a Flash Mob of saying a kind and firm “No.”

Why smile?  It will keep your brain functioning at top speed and will show you are not being aggressive.  You are saying a kind and firm NO!  *Read William Ury’s book, The Power of a Positive No , if you want an excellent explanation of how to say a positive no and still maintain your relationships.

When the cruelty stops, you smile and say, “Thanks” to the person who was being abusive.  Then you turn to the cashier, smile, and say, “I’m thrilled you are working here.”

Idea #2:  

Fake a coughing attack.  Let people know you are not choking so they don’t try to save you and break your ribs in the process, but MAKE A LOT OF NOISE.

Why Be Kind and Firm? Why not smack down those bad guy bullies?

For two reasons:

#1 We have all been bullied and we have all been mean to others.  We are all innocent and we are all guilty. Fixing those “bad guy bullies” out there, instead of looking at the deeper causes of cruelty, perpetuates instead of solving the problem.

#2 Cruelty is pain leaking out.  If you add more pain to the situation, you do not reduce the cruelty.  Maybe at that moment it stops, but shaming people for their behavior just makes them more frightened and hurt more.  They will leak their cruelty somewhere else.

Are you with me?  Does this sound good?  Want to take action?

How do we get the ‘Cruelty is Not Cool’ campaign out in the world?

I have lots of ideas.  If you are interested in joining the campaign, reply to this email and I will put you on a special list.  Together we will generate and share ideas from all over the world.  It will be really, really cool.

Kindness Takes Courage.  It feels better too.

What do you think?

I’m Not Good at Blind Obedience

I’m not good at blind obedience
Or turning a blind eye
Or a deaf ear.

I’m no good at saying yes when my truth is no
Or allowing a lie to go unchallenged.

If you could put a cardboard cutout of myself in a chair,
If a pasted smile of approval is what you are seeking,
I’m not your gal.

I’m the one you can count on to rock the boat,
Not for the perverse pleasure of making waves,
But to topple jury-rigged “rules” of engagement.

Who said? I will ask.
Who said it had to be that one way, that way you say it must be and no other way?

Jesus was the real deal,
But his followers looked at his iconoclastic, Spirit freeing,
Dogma-shattering presence
And tried to fit his enormous love
Into a book you could put in a box and carry around in your purse.

His truth was dogmatized into blind obedience
By the many who are too frighten to find out
just how radical a proposition
“Love your neighbor as yourself” truly is.

They really socked it to Jesus
Because the truth will set us free,
But first it might hurt a bit
As those shackles splinter
and the broken pieces of our illusions nick us as they fall away.

This is not a journey for wimps.
Pull back the curtain every day?

Let go of who we think we are for who we could become every day?
Speak up every day,
Even if we are accused of being trouble makers
Even if we are seen as contentious.
Oh, I so do not like who you think I am,
But I can only hold fast to who I am willing to become
Every day.

I am not good at blind obedience
Except to the deeper truth in me
That wants to be discovered,
And, yes,
Loved as well.

Loved or not,
Here I come.
Understood or not,
Here I am.
Like me or not,
Here I go!

Vicki Hannah Lein
May 2014