Recently I was riding shotgun as my 15-year-old son was driving. He has his learner’s permit and was driving us back home after his cello lesson and a thought occurred to me that I think holds true in most things we encounter in life: be kind.
My children endure a number of maxims, lectures, and even some rants. They’ve even started joking that they have assigned numbers. Like, when I started mumbling under my breath when our new freezer went out (eight months after we bought it), saying things like “just take some pride in your work. Don’t sell junk and lie to people about how great it is” the three kids exchanged knowing looks while trying to hide grimaces and my oldest said “isn’t that lecture 7b?”
The lecture: Be Kind
So, as my son was driving, the driver of the car behind us felt it was important to drive so close that my son couldn’t see their headlights in his rearview mirror. It was causing him a lot of stress and I told him “don’t worry about jerks on the road … just obey the rules and make sure you’re kind.”
My mind wandered as we continued to drive and I thought back on experiences in the workplace that could have gone so much better if either I’d been kinder, or if the people I worked with were kinder. This perhaps seems over simplistic, but the research bears out the fact that showing kindness is, in the end, better for everyone. And let’s not mistake my kindness for weakness.
Why Should We be Kind?
In his article Titled Why You Should be Nice to People, Steve Tobak says that being kind “… motivates, empowers, and inspires people” and reminds us that “business is all about relationships” (Tobak, 2013). I worked for a painting contractor to pay for some of my bachelor’s degree and one day, was I was straddling a stovetop, straining to paint the wall near the ceiling in a kitchen that had fire damage, the restoration company general contractor and project manager walked up and said “If you step on that stove I’ll kick your ass.” Being young and impulsive, my reply had nothing to do with painting and more to do with the fact that I didn’t think he’d be able to get his leg high enough to kick my ass due to the size of his gut. Neither of us were kind, and for sure the paint above the stove wasn’t applied as carefully as it should have been.
Even when people aren’t around, it pays to be kind to them. For example, “when someone mentions your work in an email and calls you “supertalented,” or talks about your unique strength of connecting with customers, you’re more likely to feel that your work has meaning” (Jane E. Dutton, 2017). Employees who understand and appreciate the meaning their work has tend to be more engaged, happy, and motivated.
Often people aren’t kind because of two reasons:
- They don’t have enough confidence for kindness.
- They seek external motivation, lacking their own intrinsic motivation.
But Marcia Sirota writes that people respect you more if you have enough self-respect and intrinsic motivation to be kind (Sirota, 2015). You might ask yourself the question, when you’re not being kind, what is driving your actions. Is it fear? Is it that you crave rewards from others such as your boss or team instead of the self-satisfaction that comes from good, honest work?
Finally, if you’re kind, it means that you’re empathetic to others and buys you credibility. I once worked with a guy (I’ll call Nayr) who always seemed to think that he was the smartest person in the room, or at least felt the need to try and prove that point. Ryan would launch into long, complicated explanations of subjects that could have been more effective if we’d kept them simple. We lost work to competitors because of his lectures; we often lost a great deal of credibility even with long-time clients; and certainly project timelines were greatly extended and bloated because of his desire to overcomplicate work. Our clients expect us to be smart enough to keep things simple, and when we do that, they trust us more (Panepinto, 2015).
So let’s remember to be kind, listen, and keep things simple. It’ll increase credibility with clients and make everyone more motivated and engaged.
Jane E. Dutton, J. L. (2017, August 1). The Benefits of Saying Nice Things About Your Colleagues. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2017/08/the-benefits-of-saying-nice-things-about-your-colleagues
Panepinto, J. (2015, April 8). Good Leaders Aren’t Afraid to Be Nice. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2015/04/good-leaders-arent-afraid-to-be-nice
Sirota, M. (2015, June 26). Why You Should Stop Being Nice and Start Being Kind. Retrieved from Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/marcia-sirota/being-a-kind-person_b_7142982.html
Tobak, S. (2013, March 21). Why You Need to be Nice to People. Retrieved from Inc.com: https://www.inc.com/steve-tobak/why-you-should-be-nice-to-people.html