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Tycoonism ” No Act of Kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

May 25, 2009

Should people be kind to each other? It depends on what you mean by “kind”. Most of us confuse being kind with being nice. Many people are nice, but they aren’t kind. “Nice” is when you are polite to someone in person, but you may criticize them behind their back. “Kind” is when you treat people with respect and compassion regardless of who they are and what they do. Kindness includes empathy and care. Kindness is not something you give to people who deserve it. Kindness is a mindset that you choose and develop. You either express it or you don’t. Being kind to another person is a statement about you, not about them.

Gossip is unkind. If you talk about people behind their backs, make fun of them, and criticize them, you are being unkind. You may tell yourself that they deserve it, but again, your gossip is a comment on you, not on them. The listener of your gossip should beware, because s/he may be the next “victim” of your gossip. Gossip is just as unkind as directly making fun or criticizing someone. Whether it is your family, your workplace, or another group, gossip is extremely destructive. It creates distrust and negativity. It creates an us vs. them mentality. It creates conflict. Every person is a part of the group. If you hurt one person, you hurt the group — and you hurt yourself. Unkindness breeds more unkindness.

How does a kind person handle conflict? A kind person takes responsibility by asking, “How might I have contributed to this issue?” Next, you would attempt to understand the other person, not by analyzing him in your head, but by asking him how he feels and what he thinks. You make sure that you are treating this person with respect and care. If you are truly a kind person, then there is no such thing as someone who doesn’t deserve your kindness.

Being nice is completely ineffective when it comes to managing conflict. In being nice you avoid saying anything because you don’t want to offend the other person. Being nice can be unkind. If my employee is late, doing poor work, or disrespecting other people, to avoid confronting the issues is unkind to him, to myself, and to the group. The kindest thing I can do is to discuss the matter with my employee without judgment, and with compassion.

Poor performers hurt everyone around them including themselves. No one should spend their life doing work they do not like or that they are not good at. I have seen executives be unkind to themselves by keeping on employees who cause them extra work and stress, that drain them of their energy. When I ask them why, the answer goes something like: “He has a family to support. I don’t want to take that away from him.” This is not kindness. It is kind to let people know what is expected of them. It is kind to help them meet those expectations. If they cannot live up to the job, it is kind to find another spot for them. If there is no spot, it is kind to help them leave with dignity and offer some help in finding their right place to work.

Early in my career I had three managers in succession. The first one didn’t care if I was five or ten minutes late. I put in plenty of extra hours and I got the job done. He was nice and he was kind. The second manager would often see me coming in late, smile, and greet me. After a year of being nice to me when I came in late, he wrote tardiness down in my evaluation as a problem. That was unkind. My third manager, after noticing I was late a few times, asked me if everything was okay. Was there a reason I needed to be late? Upon finding no reason, she informed me that any future tardiness would result in my pay being docked. It was her job to manage the contract and the contract said I had to be there at eight a.m. She wasn’t nice, but she was kind. I was never late again. You don’t get great results from people by being nice. Kindness lets people know that you care, and that you are willing to go the distance to make things right. The third manager had a more directive style. Kindness has little to do with style. Whether you are strict or more relaxed, people know whether or not you care about them.

It can be more difficult to be kind in your family. You can’t fire them. Although you certainly can fire your spouse, the effects are long standing. Given these realities, it is even more important to be kind in your family. Kindness is complete acceptance of family members exactly as they are. You do not get to determine what lifestyle, career, financial situation, or religion your family members choose. The kind thing to do is to set clear boundaries. Take responsibility for your family relationships and stop blaming them for your feelings. Be clear about what you will and will not do. Be yourself without concern about everyone else’s opinion. Kindness doesn’t mean that you pretend to be someone everyone will approve of. That would be unkind to yourself. Keep a distance if you must, and if you do, do it with kindness.

We are often most unkind to ourselves. What thoughts do you allow into your mind? Are they thoughts of suspicion toward others? By replaying suspicious thoughts in our minds we are unkind to ourselves. So often we suspect negative motives in others that simply are not there. Get out of your head and go talk to people. When there is no communication, the mind feels compelled to fill the vacuum with its own imaginings. Unfortunately those imaginings tend to be unkind to ourselves and unfair to others. These thoughts affect our behaviors and serve to push people away from us. Honestly assess the people around you. Don’t set yourself up to be hurt and don’t use the actions of others as a reason to condemn and criticize. People do unkind things; that is a fact. The question for you is: “Am I unkind? Is this who I want to be?”

Honest self assessment is necessary. Self criticism is not. Being overly self critical is unkind and ineffective. Refuse to use self criticism as an excuse for proving yourself bad or unworthy. You are kind to yourself when you take responsibility for your thoughts and actions, and then take corrective action.

Why should we be kind? Kindness breeds kindness. Every act of kindness builds you up, strengthens relationships, and adds value to the group. Every act of unkindness, no matter how much you justify it, tears you down, deteriorates relationships, and drains the group. Pragmatically speaking, being kind makes you effective. It makes your group strong.

The question for many is whether or not some people truly deserve our kindness. That is the wrong question. It is not about deserving, It is about who you are. You are kind or you are not kind. There is no justification for unkindness. Self righteous indignation, believing you own the moral high ground, and using that stance as a justification for attack, verbal or physical, is unkind. Religious beliefs do not give you license to be unkind. Moral standards do not justify unkindness. Both the right wing radio hosts and the left wing radio hosts are unkind. Their negative diatribes serve no positive purpose and add no value. It is only their moments of rationality and true questioning of current practices and current political leaders that add value. Their putdowns and sneering create an environment of disrespect and devaluing of others. It is possible to be kind and to question and critique other’s ideas and behaviors. Perhaps the problem is that most people don’t find kindness to be as entertaining.

Are you kind? Do you see yourself as a kind person? If you are truly kind you are effective and you are strong. You are a positive influence within any group. Your kindness serves as a shining example. It also adds to your joy, your peace, and your ability to give and receive love. If you are kind you care more about the highest good for all concerned than for your own selfish goals. The long term effect is that your kindness creates rewards you often don’t expect. Kindness has a powerful effect. It sets a tone in groups that fosters strong bonds between people. Knowing that kindness is the norm, people feel free to express themselves and to work for the common good.

Through kindness you create respect. Don’t worry about being nice– just be kind.

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