One of the blogs I follow, called the Kindness Blog, gives me daily hope about the goodness that we humans have inside of us. The blog* attempts to counterbalance the negativity that gets highlighted in the news and on the Internet. I had a conversation with a reporter a few years ago about the unevenness of good versus bad news stories. He said we report both, but I countered that if someone does the right thing nineteen times out of twenty, only the twentieth item would be newsworthy and not the nineteen good things the person did. So, it truly is not even reporting and is actually quite uneven in the wrong direction.
Which brings me to my title, which speaks to those who feel they are being weak by exhibiting kindness. People will long remember an act of kindness as many witness so few in their lives. And, while a negative echo will have a higher bounce, a positive one can live longer in the minds of those who benefitted from the gesture. I would also note that leadership studies have shown that the better leaders tend to deflect credit to others, while the worse ones tend to assume more credit than they deserve. These good leaders are rewarded for their kindness with better loyalty and esprit de corps. As a former consultant (and employee), it amazes me how some leaders fail to grasp this.
In my career, my volunteer advocacy, my interactions and my parenting, I have witnessed that my opinions are heard more if I treat the recipient with dignity and avoid shouting or telling them their argument is stupid. My kids will listen more when I am talking with them quietly. We often don’t recognize we are the navigators of our own customer service, so if we are kind and diplomatic with our queries, by treating the customer service representative with respect will glean better service. And, if you avoid condescending to people in a perceived lesser economic strata than you, you will actually be more successful in your job and business.
All of the above comments could be grouped into the “walk in their shoes” mantra. If you do this more often, then you will interact in a more compassionate and kind manner. It will greatly benefit the audience, but it will also benefit you. When my diplomacy is not met with the same level of kindness, which I sometimes get when writing legislators who have fairly strident views, I remain diplomatic and feed back informed responses. It is more than okay to disagree with someone, but be as civil as possible. The lack of civility is growing at an alarming rate, so it behooves us to remain civil and calm others. I would also add, even with people you agree with most of the time, there will be times when you disagree, so you don’t want to indict with your concerns or disagreements as you turn an agreeable relationship into an adversarial one.
Like many, I am a person of strong convictions and opinions. I detest people being taken advantage of by those with means. I detest bigotry, especially from the pulpit, as I believe that is a misuse of power. I detest politicians using faulty arguments spoon fed to them by lobbyists to step on people’s rights. Where I can, I share as diplomatically as possible my concerns. Sometimes, I address injustice by deed or action. Sometimes, I will share that I do not find something to be true, based on my experience and reading. Sometimes, I may just be silent and vote with my feet, not frequenting a store or spending time (or limiting time) with a negative person.
If you do feel the need to act or speak, if you remain kind, civil and speak to the action, not the person, then you can remain on the side of the Angels in your argument. You need to treat others like you want to be treated. I also recommend picking your battles. We are a world of imperfect beings and we all make mistakes, both big and small. As a parent of three, one still a teenager, there is almost always something that the parent could complain about or remind the child to do. Don’t sweat the small stuff, with your children or others and encourage them to do the same. Sometimes, it is better to let them make the mistake, even when you see it coming.
So, if there are any takeaways, follow my paraphrasing of the Golden Rule, which appears in almost all religious texts. And, if you walk in people’s shoes, or as a colleague used to say, “picture yourself on their side of the desk,” you will be more civil and kind to people. They will remember your kindness and you will benefit from the better interactions, both mentally and physically. I would love to read your feedback.
* A link to the Kindness Blog follows: http://kindnessblog.com/2014/07/09/yes-or-no/