Practice can get you within spitting distance of perfect

It can be enormously difficult to forgive and be empathetic and practice kindness in a workplace where people seem to utterly absorbed in themselves, their stuff, their places, their domains. It means we must go out of our way to cultivate a way of responding that is counteractive to everything going on around us and counterintuitive to our personal survival skills. To decide to practice virtuous behavior is a challenge no matter how you look at it.

Take the angry confrontation, for instance: someone berates you openly, maybe publicly. They say something particularly nasty in the hearing of others. PRACTICE your response: “Jim, this is hurtful and unnecessary. Let’s talk when you’ve calmed down.” REHEARSE walking away immediately.

A coworker makes a snide comment that could be meant as a joke, but you’re not sure. PRACTICE saying, with a smile on your face, “I hope that’s meant to be funny and not nasty. Is it?” REHEARSE keeping your voice calm if the response is, “Oh no, it’s nasty. Your work is rotten” (or whatever), and saying, “Then let’s discuss this like adults and dispense with the sarcasm. Shall we go to my office?”  PRACTICE keeping your cool, particularly if the other person is emotional.

Consider this truth: you may be the only person in someone's life who has any interest in being empathetic or kind or generous. REHEARSE new ways to relate to people like this. Put on your creative thinking cap and make the person your project. A door might open that allows you to provide them with insight into why they don't get along with others.

Superiors act like fools? Forgive. Let them go. People who require your services treat you like an underling who has no feelings? Forgive. The alternative—living with poison in your veins—is a pain in the butt. Extending yourself is an honest-to-goodness, this-is-hard-but-I’m-doing-it-anyway, nothing’s-going-to-stop-me-now decision. Sometimes you drop the ball. Sometimes they get the best of you. We fall down, but we get up.

Practice and rehearse until being kind, forgiving, and empathetic is part of who you are. Character can be strengthened. Make yours rock-solid.