Do not mistake kindness for weakness

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/

 

 

 

If you need to wear a mask have you given up the high road?

For the all of the flak that Vice President Joe Biden takes for sometimes saying the wrong thing, he oftentimes can say the painfully obvious truth. On his visit last week to the Ukraine, Biden admonished Vladimir Putin and Russia by saying “stop supporting people who wear masks.” This applies far beyond the boundaries of Ukraine. As I was watching the training footage of Al Qaeda the other day, almost every person was wearing a mask. I fully realize it is a head covering pulled down over the face, but the key goal is anonymity.

Sitting in my comfortable seat in a country where it is OK for me to register my dissent, it is very hard for me to place myself in this situation. It is easy for me to send emails and vocalize my concerns to elected officials or as a shareholder to a CEO, which I often do. For those that live in a corrupt and/ or fascist country, anonymity in showing your dissent may be vital to keep yourself and your family alive or out of harms way. This caveat cannot be emphasized enough, as in countries like these, dissent is not tolerated. But, when dissent begins to harm people who simply get in the way, I find that troubling and I find that there can be an element of cowardice behind the mask. It is one thing to protest. It is another to kill innocent people.

Call me crazy, but at my age, I would observe that if you need to hide your identity behind a mask, then you are likely up to no good. Or, to put it another way, you may have given up the high road on how you have chosen to disagree with something. When I see people covering their faces, unless it is for religious reasons, to protect the sun and wind from the face or because the regime is so corrupt, it usually registers that the person is doing something they would be less inclined to do if someone saw their face. This issue becomes cloudy when you have a government that will harm protestors or their families.

I have been taught that the worse a person’s argument, the louder they yell or more they name call. If someone is using labels to define an action they do not like, that means their argument is poor. It usually means they are identifying someone else as the reason for your anguish and asking you to hate them. In my country, we have politicians and religious leaders call things Nazism or Apartheid when they want to demonize something. Even Putin knows America’s weakness, so he also is calling American’s actions as Nazism in Ukraine, when in fact, his troops are acting as instigators across the border in masks and unmarked uniforms. To me, the name calling is a way to mask intent or real discussion of the issues because your points are poor.

With Islamic extremist groups, Americans are infidels. That is a convenient label which is often used to paint America as an enemy. America is far from perfect and our leaders disappoint, but infidels? Give me a break. There is a former Islamic extremist in Great Britain whose new mission is to reach as many young Muslims as possible and say don’t let the extremists blame others for your shortcomings. He is telling these people that extremists are using their religion to divide people, hold people down (especially women), hold back freer flowing economies and not allow people to live a safer, secure life and raise their families worshipping their religion in peace. These are the kind of people who fear Malala Yousafzai and her power when she becomes educated. She is the kind of person who can shame people into acting against these extremists.

We have a worldwide poverty problem. We have a worldwide human rights problem directed at women. We have a worldwide corruption problem where people in power take and take and don’t help those in need. My blogging friend George Dowdell (www.georgedowdell.org) notes until we address this corruption problem, the have-nots will always have an uphill battle. Let’s begin with rebelling against extremists. We can start with those wearing masks. If you are using the mask to promote violence and hate, then your message is one we don’t need. If you have a grievance, come out in the open. If you are wearing a mask, you have given up the high road.

 

My heart is out to our Boston friends and visitors

The tragic events of today in Boston have led me to write some thoughts down which I am sure others are doing as well. My wife’s brother was supposed to run today, qualifying for the Boston Marathon. For marathon runners, the Boston Marathon is like one of the Kentucky Derby races, as it is difficult to get into. He made the grade, but had a business opportunity arise that negated his plans. The personal side of this is my wife would have gone with their sister to pull for him near the finish line. And, that is precisely where the first two bombs went off.

This is a horrible tragedy that we are still trying to figure out what happened. I think most everyone detests the loss of innocent life just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The only ones who do not are those less than humane perpetrators of this and other crimes against humanity. I personally find the actions of terrorists (big or small) to be detestable and should not be condoned or supported by any regime. If your regime supports terrorism, then your regime is not worthy of recognition. If your hate group acts on its hate, then you are a group of criminals. If you are trying to make a statement, then you did. You made the statement that you should be arrested and tried for your heinous acts. I hope they find the perpetrators and not give them any publicity. They should just have a brief press release saying we got the bastards.

However, that is for the future. For the now, let’s say a prayer for the families of the loved ones lost. Let’s say a prayer for those injured in the explosion and hope they can survive their wounds. Let’s say a prayer for those wonderful police, firefighters, EMTs, nurses, doctors and other medical practitioners who have done and will do their best to save lives. Let’s say a prayer for the friends and family to be strong and soothe their loved ones in pain, from loss and their injuries. If you are not religious, please think good thoughts for those in need akin to the above.

The day was supposed to be a day of celebration in Boston. It still can be a memorable Patriots Day for better reasons than this tragedy. So, let’s remember our fellow patriots in Boston and say we are with you. You led us down a path of revolution that gained us our freedom in America. We are free to worship any religion. We are free to speak our mind. We are free to tell a Congressperson we disagree with his or her views. We are free to live where we want and try to make a decent living for our families. We are free to form groups that believe in causes, even if we do not agree with them. We are free to do many things in our great country, provided we do not harm others.

To our friends and visitors in Boston. We are free because of what you started for all of us. I am saddened that your day has been filled with tragedy. I am saddened that people lost their lives and are harmed. We will be sad with you and be beside you in your time of need. May God grant you peace and comfort.