Search & Replace Episode S01E20: Donna Cameron

Incivility was growing all around Donna Cameron in epidemic proportions. Through genuine kindness, she hoped to show herself and others how to overcome such incivility. Being kind requires more than just being nice – it takes courage, strength, and grace. Donna was inspired to live one full year dedicated to kindness, affording her opportunities to speak out about kindness and to connect with other people who believe in the power of kindness and want to create a kinder world. Find out how Donna learned the meaning of true kindness on Search and Replace.

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[00:00:00] Announcer: Support for the following podcast is provided by the user experience specialist at Johns and Taylor. More information follows this episode. 
[00:00:10] Joe Taylor, Jr.: What if you spent the next year of your life not just trying to be nice, but trying to be kind? I'm Joe Taylor Jr. This is Search and Replace.
Donna Cameron spent much of her career leading nonprofit organizations. And over that time she started dwelling on whether she could do more than just be nice. 
[00:00:36] Donna Cameron: I think I've always been a pretty nice person, with those occasional lapses that we all have. But I want it to be more than nice. I wanted to be kind. How wonderful you feel when you're in the presence of a really kind person. I want it to be more like that. 
And it's not that I was unkind, but I think for most of my life I just settled for nice. I've certainly had many conversations with people asking about the difference. Aren't they the same thing? For some people it may be semantics, but I really see a vast difference between kind and nice. 
[00:01:10] Joe Taylor, Jr.: That difference, Donna says, has a lot to do with how much you put on the line. 
[00:01:15] Donna Cameron: I think I can be nice without expending a whole lot of effort, without making a connection with the person I'm interacting with. I can even be nice and still really merely tolerate someone or feel impatient about the encounter and I can make judgements about them.
I don't think I can do any of those things and really be kind. Kind asks a lot more of me. It requires, really, that I take a risk. My kindness might be rejected or misunderstood. I might do it wrong. I might be clumsy or call unwanted attention to myself. If I'm going to be kind, I need to withhold judgment. I need to genuinely care about that other person. And I really need to want to make a connection. 
[00:02:03] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Donna's curiosity turned into a full-blown year, long research experiment, discovering more distinctions along the way. 
[00:02:11] Donna Cameron: As I studied kindness and spent more time thinking about it, I came to think of kindness as a verb while remained an adjective. Especially over the last few years as I saw incivility growing all around us. It's reached epidemic proportions. I want it to show both myself and others how we can counter that incivility with true kindness. 
I think there are two ways of looking at it. One is actual things we do, and the other is the attitude we bring to it. The mindset, our intentionality.
Most of the skills of kindness are really simple things. So things like learning to pause. I think that's one of the greatest skills of kindness. So I really like to remind myself that just because somebody else might be having a bad day or might be behaving like a jerk, even if they are a jerk, that doesn't mean that I need to do that.
So a pause is really, as simple as it sounds, it's such an important thing. It lets us choose who we're going to be in the next minute. It's not a vacant space. It gives us a moment to think about what we want to happen and who we want to be. And in that instance, that brief pause, we can totally change our reaction or perhaps decide not to respond at all.
I think it always guides us to a better place. For me, I think it gives really the gift of grace. And most kindness skills are simple things like that. 
[00:03:44] Joe Taylor, Jr.: The more she studied kindness, the more Donna bumped into a dark side to our nature, something we're not always ready to admit. 
[00:03:51] Donna Cameron: There are a lot of people who equate kindness with weakness and they perceive kind people as people that are easily manipulated, or people who just aren't very substantial. Where in my experience, the absolute opposite is true.
Kind people are the strongest and most courageous among us. Kindness isn't a passive, accept anything quality. You still stand up for what you believe. You still stand up for other people if they're being marginalized or mistreated. It takes a lot of courage to be the first one to stand when everybody else is just remaining seated or the first one to speak out when nobody else yet feels comfortable doing that.
And that's what I see kindness as. It's really not this passive, weak, acquiesce to anything quality. Maybe nice fits there. But kindness takes a great deal of courage and it's not always easy. In fact, sometimes it's very hard and it makes us vulnerable. So those people who say kind, people are weak and kindness is insubstantial or inconsequential, they just haven't gotten it yet.
Incivility is contagious, just like a cold or the flu. When we experienced it we are more likely to be rude in our next encounters, even if we only witness it. But on the other side, kindness is equally contagious. So as I look at it, we have a choice in which contagion we want to spread. Do we want to see more rudeness and incivility or do we want to see compassion and respect and co-operation. In every interaction we have that choice of which contagion we want to come down on the side of. 
[00:05:49] Joe Taylor, Jr.: After a full year of exploring what it means to be kind, Donna's got some thoughts to share with you as you think about the interactions in your daily life. 
[00:05:57] Donna Cameron: Don't aim for perfection because change doesn't come instantaneously. I think that's one of the big lessons of life. Not just with kindness, but with anything we want to do. 
It's very incremental and sometimes it comes so slowly that we don't notice it until it's there. So if you aim to be 5% kinder today, or 10%, and practice that for a while. And just notice how you can be kind going into a store, dealing with someone on the phone or having an encounter with someone. Just how can I be kinder here? What could I say? And then when you get pretty good at doing that add another 5% and another 5%. And then pretty soon you're going to look around and say, oh, I'm a kinder person and I'm a happier person. 
[00:06:49] Joe Taylor, Jr.: That's Donna Cameron author of the book "A Year of Living Kindly." We've got a link to Donna's book and to a bunch of great resources on the power of kindness over on our show notes page at 
Today's episode was produced by Nicole Hubbard. I'm Joe Taylor, Jr. 
This has been a Podcast Taxi radio production. 
[00:07:09] Announcer: Support for Search and Replace is provided by Johns and Taylor, user experience specialist serving media and technology companies that want their websites to work. Learn more about how top performing businesses eliminate barriers between customers and their goals at

Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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