A Failure at Kindness
Kindness, like most things, is easy until you get serious about it.
I spent last week focused on kindness. It was a fiasco. It’s not that I’m unkind.
You aren’t kind if all you do is avoid unkindness.
Kindness is more than avoiding harshness or anger. Kindness is something you do, not something undone.
Why kindness is hard:
The grandfather of Jeff Bezos told him, “It’s harder to be kind than clever.”
Jeff, in a commencement address at Princeton, went on to say, “Cleverness is a gift. Kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy…. Choices can be hard.”
#1. Kindness is hard because it takes time.
You can’t be kind when you’re in a hurry. And who isn’t in a hurry these days?
Haste is the root of undone kindness.
Emerson said, “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”
#2. Kindness is hard because it’s inconvenient.
Kindness isn’t on your calendar.
Kindness feels inconvenient because your schedule is filled with important things like solving problems, reaching goals, and addressing tough issues.
Kindness isn’t on your agenda because it’s not important.
Where does kindness fall on your list of personal priorities? Is it in the top 10?
#3. Kindness is hard because it demands focus.
Kindness is never an accident. It’s done intentionally. One of my kind friends suggests, keep your head up and look for opportunities to be kind.
Focus on small acts of kindness. Don’t wait for the spectacular.
- Open doors for others.
- Say, “Thank you.”
- Meet a simple need.
- Be helpful.
I believe when you reflect on your life, acts of kindness will make you proud.
When I think back on my anger, I cringe. When I reflect on those times that I acted in kindness, I’m thankful.
How might leaders integrate kindness into their busy days?
Thanks Dan for focusing on kindness this week – there is not enough in business. Kindness is a choice. Kindness is an attitude. Kindness is not hard if it’s one of your values.
Thanks Carolyn. I was surprised how challenging I found the practice of kindness.
Short, sweet, and powerful.
Thanks Neil. Here’s to kindness!
Hey Dan, great article as usual. You mentioned that your week focused on kindness “was a fiasco”… what would you have done differently to “un-fiasco” it?
I’m thinking of keeping a journal with a regular analysis of what kindnesses I’ve been conscious of and, where I’ve been unkind, what could I do differently and do I need to work on mending that relationship.
Hi John, I think it was a fiasco because of the time factor. I feel like a care. But expressing it is the challenge.
I think I would have succeed more if I had others more intimately involved in the focus with me. This would be true if I connected with people who were particularly good at being kind.
Your idea is fantastic. Please keep me in the loop, if you move forward with your journal, if you don’t mind.
Thanks Dan. Given, it appears to me, that understanding the life-strengthening value of relationships is in short supply these days (in our perceived need to survive in the business world), we need more messages like this one. This is a foundational value to everything we do.
Thanks Alan. YES! Kindness and relationship building go together. Love that.
BTW. We might consider the value of kindness as an aspect of customer service. 🙂
Why should “choosing” kindness be so hard?!?! Lack of time, inconvenience and an absence of focus are terrible excuses. Let’s not try so hard. Let’s try soft and live and work with conscious intention. Kindness will become second nature, as it should be!
Thanks Kim. You make me wonder if what’s easy for one is hard for another. Understanding this is a leadership challenge.
If you live kindness, you share kindness, we live in a cruel world.
If we each would try everyday to commit one random act of kindness , what a world it could be, my Mother always said be kind to one another as we grew up amongst 4 siblings, same goes with life!
Thanks Tim. Mom is a genius. 🙂 The thing that helps is ONE. Who can’t do ONE random act of kindness. Trying to solve everything is another reason kindness is hard.
I grew up with some of the kindest parents and grandparents, and they tried to live the kindness. In doing it, I get bruised so much by it. The unkind world seems to reward that and punish kindness. Sometimes it seems naive or even stupid to show kindness. There seems to be need to do some balancing, but in the event of those calculations, sometimes chance passes on and that state of being unkind then sets in.
Kindness is hard, because it’s often not reciprocated. And sometimes that just hurts.
Ding Ding! This is especially true of leaders. So glad to see you here tonight. Thanks for serving.
Very powerful. I read something somewhere, wish I remembered where, about the importance of creating ‘margin’ in your life. Living below your means is a part of it, to create financial margin that allows you to be generous in meeting the needs of others. But the one that has eluded me so far has been creating time margin; deliberately leaving time unscheduled, leaving more time than you need to get somewhere, creating the time to be aware and engage with people, to see their needs, and to be able to exercise kindness. Money is easy for me, time, not so much. Thanks for the great reminder. Since I’m retiring in 3 days, that eliminates one of the excuses, and I get a fresh start at creating that margin of time.
Hey Glen. Congratulations. I knew it was coming soon. Wow! Time flies.
We have a tendency to fill up the time, even if we don’t have something meaningful to do. I’ll be interested in your experience, as time passes.
Best wishes for a meaningful retirement!
I will let you know. It will be interesting to see what I will now have time for, now that I’m not working 60+ hours a week, and how many things the work was just a convenient excuse for not getting to!
Quite simply perfect. I pride myself in being kind to my team, even when I don’t feel like it. Kindness is also apologizing when you are wrong. You are correct, kindness isn’t scheduled. Kindness is a choice. In our day to day we have to consciously think about how we kind bless another person with just a simple act of kindness. The smile in return is the best gift of all!
Thanks Hampton. Advice from someone good at kindness is helpful.
I celebrate you! So much unkindness in the world today, but, yes, we can choose to live above board, and anyone who can boldly say they’re doing it are to be congratulated for passing the test. I sense honesty in your words. Sometimes even those who’re unkind think otherwise, because virtues are things we all aspire for, and because there’s no judge to give us ranking, we rank wrongly, and often too high because of personal proclivity to love and treat self more fairly, sometimes undeservedly so.
An interesting & thought-provoking post!,
Yes, kindness is a matter of choice and the attitude which can be developed by way of a regulat habit. I do agree that one needs time to be kind enough! Yet, it’s more of empathy and willingness to help and support.
You value kindness if you have gone through the troubles and sufferings in your hard times. Children imbibe this habit simply by observing elders and their way of caring and sharing.
The benefits of remaining kind always are of immense type! The most important ones are the inner satisfaction, blessings and betterment of people. From a business angle, it’s more of winning the confidence and getting commitment to achieve the set business goals.
Thanks Dr. Asher. Those who are kind to others are kind to themselves. Now that’s motivation!
I do not find being kind a chore. I find that it comes naturally to me. I am a peacemaker at heart. I remember a phrase my grandmother and mother always said “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” It is very true.
I’m with you Crystal. It’s not a chore. It’s just a matter of time and priority for me. Frankly, I enjoy being kind.
Very truthful and heartfelt post, Dan, thank you.
I will only add…remember that it starts with being kind to “you”. Be gentle and kind with yourself, and you will become gentle and kind with others. Unconditional kindness, not expecting a smile or a kindness in return is also key…we don’t know what that other person is going through. Agape Kindness. Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “the first step to learning to manifest your reality is to create a new concept of yourself”. “We are Spiritual beings having a temporary Human experience”. Believe this, and when you observe your thoughts, they will become kind.
I wish you, and your readers, much kindness Sir Dan.
WOW! I think I completely missed this this point BE KIND TO YOURSELF. How often do leaders take care of themselves last? Some of the best lessons of being a leader came from our Mothers. Always putting others first. Good idea but if we don’t take of ourselves we wont be around long enough to get our job done. Thank you.
Dan I don’t see this week’s subject as a fail at all. This week I have been sharing your blog and have confirmed other leaders in my agency are now following because of this subject and your way of presenting it.
I’m old enough to recognize a decline in kindness. The sheer self-righteous anger because someone at a red light doesn’t accelerate IMMEDIATELY that the light turns green; grinding those with whom we disagree under heel; their “ignorance” renders them unworthy of any respect whatsoever. Alas! But please don’t be hard on yourself, Dan. If you hold kindness up as an ideal, you’re apt to notice your one unkindness versus a thousand kindnesses – part and parcel of having ideals.
I love this–the reminder of the intentionality of kindness. Kindness (like love) is an act of the will.
I do think that if you work on being kind it soon becomes muscle memory and you no longer have to “put it on your calendar.” It becomes part of you DNA.
I like the idea of a journal to reflect. I agree – the times I’ve snapped at someone make me ashamed but the times I was kind make me feel better – and not just about me, but the world. Not enough kindness in business and too many demands.
Dan, I’ve been reading your Leadership Freak emails for longer than I can remember. I am an huge fan of yours! As I read this, I reflected on how growing up I was taught to always be kind even when faced with adversity and conflict. While I may have suffered a lapse here and there, I certainly strive to do something kind for someone else everyday. And you are right – it is a choice.
A very powerful reminder. Thanks, Dan, for covering all facets of leadership!
Thank you for the great post. In my experience in business Kindness is seen as a weekness and leaders can over compensate when it comes to several other emotions in the work place.
Take it from an old hippie (from the sixties, then corporate Type-A, then parent, then just worn out),
“Love the one(s) you’re with …”
Kindness occurs in the moment,
the moment of need,
(NOT the one just past, not procrastinated to the next) …
I would suggest that “kindness” is actually an affirming (though complex) EMOTION,
an Actionable Empathy, to wit:
“We are of the same kind, you and I, let me help (’cause I can!).”
A humble heart always helps.
(“… but for the grace of God / Luck / Fate go I …”)