Making it my business: 10 ways to be kind that you may or may not think of

Read to find out if you are being an absolute treat to people…or an absolute drag.

I live much of my life hyper-aware of how my actions might be effecting other people. This comes from the fact that my mother made sure I was hyper-aware, because no child of hers was going to roam around using bad manners and making it look like she didn’t know how to raise her kids.

Good or bad, my hyper-awareness of my own actions makes me pay equal attention to the actions of other people. Even yours. Sometimes in a seething-with-anger kind of way. And while I admittedly do sometimes love to seethe with anger, I figured it was more helpful to just hand out a few tips. Maybe you already do these things. If so, great! If you don’t, get on it, kids.

1. If you’re standing in line at the grocery store and you get a call on your cell phone, send it to voice mail. Or, if it’s important, step out of line to take the call. Not only is it rude force other people to listen to your conversation, if you’re on the phone, you’re distracted and are undoubtedly making the checkout process take even longer. And making that petite, blonde woman behind you mutter murderous thoughts under her breath. Ahem.

2. If a car has stopped to let you pass in front of it, walk swiftly. Don’t strut slowly across the street, holding up traffic. True, you do have the right of way, but responding to someone’s courtesy with a friendly wave and a little kick in your step will make them more likely to consider pedestrians later on. And less likely to smash their bumper into the back of your knees.

3. If you’re going to be late, call and let someone know. And absolutely under no circumstances should you arrive at the meet-up with any variation of Starbucks in your hand. Even though the late-making situation may have occurred after picking up your coffee, you’re making it look like your fix was more important than the person you had plans with.

4. Use your turn signal. I’ll admit, I am horrible at this. HORRIBLE. But, aside from being what you’re legally supposed to do, making your intentions on the road as explicit as possible eases tension for everyone else.

5. Hold doors for parents with strollers. Have you ever tried to navigate a baby buggy through a non-automatic door? Close to impossible, I would say, and I’ve only done it maybe twice in my life. I imagine having to do it multiple times a day every day grates on you. Throw them a bone, already – and make sure you smile when you do it, kiddies. They will mostly like respond with a frazzled “Thanks” and a knowing glance. I promise you, they needed that bit of consideration.

6. Let customer service people know when they’ve been helpful. I once called 1-800-TACO-BELL to let them know about the amazingly sweet attendant working the drive-thru at the Taco Bell on Libbie and Broad (as opposed to her predecessor who utter “sh*t” every 2.5 seconds). And when speaking with a friendly person over the phone, I ask them their name at the end of the conversation and say, “Thank you, so-and-so, you’ve been very helpful. I appreciate it.” I can speak from personal experience on the importance of being kind to these people – I spent too much time getting bawled out for the price of movie theater concessions while donning a burgundy vest and bow tie. Because clearly if I were in charge of setting the prices, I would be wearing that EXACT outfit.

7. If you’re in a store and decide you no longer want something you’ve already picked out, don’t just shove it somewhere. Yes, I know they have people responsible for restocking, but none of you are above retracing your steps and putting something back where it belongs.

8. Put your shopping cart in the shopping cart corral. Not on the curb, not to the side of your parking space, not on the median. Same reasons that went for #7 – a few extra steps aren’t going to kill you.

9. When ordering food, say “Can I please have…” rather than “I want…” This applies to any restaurant, even fast food places. I don’t care if it’s the grimiest McDonald’s in the middle of nowhere. Those people still deserve to be on the receiving end of all those manners your mom taught you.

10. Learn and use the three most important phrases you could ever say: Thank you, I need help, and I don’t know. All three phrases show that you’re not too proud to admit that you are not The King Of Everything and appreciate the fact that someone else might be.

Did I miss anything? Go forth and comment…

(Got a question you want answered or an idea for something I should rant about? Email me at and let me know.)

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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