Kindness can be brutal

When you’re on the receiving end of kindness — it’s milk — a honeyed sap with associations of mothering & the cosseted dark womb.

But being kind is an altogether different experience.

It’s rising in the dark to run despite rain & icy winds while the world is sleeping.

Being kind can mean:

  • Suppressing the urge to lash out because you feel momentarily better.
  • Letting it go through to the keeper.
  • Putting your needs second, third or taking them off the table, this time.
  • Not adding fuel to the fire though you’re desperate to do so.
  • Refusing to let someone else’s feelings determine yours.
  • Sometimes, not speaking out.
  • Sometimes, not saying what you really think.
  • Appreciating a person is not just their last encounter with you.
  • Remembering the good when you don’t want to.
  • Knowing that when someone strikes at your sense of self it’s because they desperately need to affirm theirs and feeling compassion, rather than anger, for that humanness.
  • Seeing yourself in the above.
  • Admitting that you too can be unkind.

It’s not for the meek. Kindness demands vigilance, acute self-awareness and internal restraint, for which the rewards are not always obvious.

You also need to know the border at which kindness transmutes into self-abuse and not step over it.

That’s the sharper edge of the practice that means you must also know when to: (more…)

‘I don’t know’. Uncertainty as a platform for growth.

When leadership is confused with the need to know everything it can lead to cultures of bluff where people feel it’s more important to give a response (including a wrong one) than acknowledge doubt.

Instead, these three simple words from a leader can establish a very different context: I don’t know.

“I don’t know” puts the focus on rigour and says many things including:

  1. Let’s not assume;
  2. We need data not anecdotes;
  3. Let’s find out.

Then why is saying it so difficult?

For one, we like to believe that certainty is possible.

This is despite knowing that many of the things we once through to be true we now know to be false (that the earth is flat or that ulcers are caused by stress, for example) and that this will most likely happen again in the future.

(more…)

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