Have you seen the movie, “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood?”

I watched an ABC Nightline interview with Mrs. Rogers and Tom Hanks. Mrs. Rogers said something that surprised me. She emphasized that being kind was an intentional practice that her husband, Fred Rogers, disciplined and devoted himself to do.

Did you know that as a child that Fred Rogers was bullied?

Did you know that as a child he struggled with being overweight?

Did you know that he was also often lonely because he dealt with respiratory asthma and was frequently housebound?

Despite these childhood difficulties, Fred Rogers made the conscious choice that who he was going to be as an adult was to be sensitive to, and considerate of the feelings of others.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in my 20 plus years of working with people who are dealing with stressful situations and difficult people, is that we have to make conscious choices about how we respond.

It takes work to be sensitive to and considerate of the feelings of others.

Every day, whether at work or at home, we arrive at what I call a conflict crossroads.

And when we arrive at conflict crossroads, we have a choice. We can react or we can respond.

We can either say what’s on the tip of our tongue saying “this isn’t fair” or we cannot say anything at all.

We can either suffer in silence or we can punch a wall.

If there’s anything else I’ve learned after speaking, writing, and researching this topic of conflict, is that our preferred style was modeled by our parents while growing up.

What did your parents model for you?

Were they sensitive to and considerate of each other’s feelings?

Or did they say what was on the tip of their tongues, suffer in silence, or punch walls?

And the most important thing I’ve learned is that we can use our upbringing as an excuse or as an incentive.

We are adults now.

We have the power, the choice, and the freedom to choose to be kind and to choose to be like Fred Rogers.

Next time, you’re tempted to: 

  • React, to put someone in their place
  • Give them a piece of your mind
  • Withdraw and give the silent treatment

Do this instead:

  1. Ask, am I reacting or responding?
  2. Is what I’m tempted to do going to help or hurt?
  3. Could I do the opposite of my “always?” If I’m tempted to suffer in silence, instead I choose to speak up.
  4. If I’m tempted to punch a wall, I’ll take 10 deep breaths and take a walk instead.
  5. If I’m tempted to give them a piece of my mind, I will give myself peace of my mind by saying “this too shall pass.”
  6. If I’m tempted to cry, I will write down what happened and document the behavior so that if it is appropriate, I will discuss it with the individual or our HR Director.

One of my favorite quotes about this is by Brene Brown, which is “Clear is Kind.”

Moving forward promise yourself, you will choose to be clear, you will choose to be kind.

If you do, everyone benefits.

It may be a tough assignment and it will be worth it.

Bonnie Artman Fox, CEO of A Conscious Choice, LLC, is on a mission to help organizations and conference audiences to make conscious conflict choices. She integrates her more than 20 years as a psychiatric nurse and licensed family therapist to focus on practical, relatable responses people can use to handle real life situations more positively, proactively, and collaboratively at work.

#Fred Rogers, #conscious conflict, #kindness

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