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The Best Advice I Ever Got

Woman smiling with kindness in her eyes

Over 10 years ago, I received one of the best pieces of wisdom I have ever gotten. An incredibly wise soul said that a powerful way to increase harmony with others is to treat them as we would treat individuals we want to impress. How would we act if the person we most admire on earth appeared at our doorstep? What respect, kindness and and courtesy would we show them? What if we treated those in our lives the same way we would treat the ones we want to impress?

I was amazed by her words when I first heard them, but perhaps because I was unmarried and living on my own I didn’t quite put them to the test. Last month, I remembered them and was charmed by the thought of being on my best behavior with the people in my life--everyone from my husband and my kids to the people I interact with on a daily basis. I wondered what impact it would have on them and our environment. I have been blown away by the results!

Here is one example: A few days after I decided to try this bit of wisdom out, my husband and I took our kids to an indoor play area. It offers a good deal to the parents as the play area is well cushioned, so we don’t have to worry too much about falls, and the children cannot leave without having their bracelet matched with the parent’s, so we don’t have to worry too much about them making an escape. They also have a nice selection of coffee and tea for the adults.

I was sitting in the “observation” section reading a book and sipping some Earl Grey. My husband was in the play area with the kids. My daughter fell from one of the structures and for a split second I paused, wondering if she was OK. After a couple of seconds, she got up, readjusted her clothes and went back to play. Of course, my husband and I felt more fear than she did, so my husband, understandably, turned to me to unleash his feelings.

“You’re just sitting there, reading!” He exclaimed, as if my standing by her side--as he was doing--could have prevented the fall.

I took a deep breath and remembered my experiment.

“That’s right,” I replied. “When we come here, I like to let them fend for themselves. It’s a pretty safe environment, so I like to let them learn how to navigate it on their own with me just watching them. If you would prefer I be more involved, I can be. I can come stand with you.”

He simmered down considerably. “No, I am probably being too overbearing. I should give them space,” he said.

“Not necessarily,” I replied. “If you want to spend the time with them and play with them, you can. It’s up to you.” I looked down at my hand. “Oh, and can I get you a cup of tea?” I added.

I think his jaw dropped. And I swear, we went on to have a really good day with the kids.

Since then, I have continued trying this out in different situations and have been amazed by the composure and poise that comes over me. It’s possible this is my favorite part of the exercise. But it has also been pretty incredible to see the shift that takes place in the others.

I do have to say: it’s a bit harder to practice this on my own children. What I have been doing with them is pretending the person I most admire is watching me as I interact with my kids. It does the trick as that has quite an effect on my attitude. And for the most part, my kids respond in kind!

So when you’re in a situation where tensions are escalating and things aren’t feeling good, take a deep breath and see if you can get them to simmer down by using this trick. You can also employ it first thing in the morning and see how it sets the tone for the day.

If you do try treating those closest to you with the same courtesy, respect and kindness as you would treat individuals you don’t know too well and want to impress, please drop me a line to let me know how it goes! If you are already doing something similar, let me know about your experiences. I can be reached at

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