Being kind isn’t a cop out from being honest, genuine or staying true to your values
Kindness is a daily human habit and leadership skill that we all need to practice to help others and ourselves. Being kind is particularly important during this unexpected period of COVID-19 lock downs where people around us are feeling fragile and uncertain. As famously written by American Poet Max Ehrmann in Desiderata in the late 1920s, “Many fears are borne of fatigue and loneliness”.
When the chips are visibly down for a colleague or friend, it’s important to listen, acknowledge the situation and where possible share your own past failures or experiences so they know it’s not just them going through this. You don’t need to have an answer or a solution, just be there to listen and support. By doing so we help someone out when they are vulnerable, and this is usually gratefully remembered in the long term. People who are kind and compassionate to others also see clear benefits to their own overall wellbeing including a reduction in stress as well as improved mood, self-esteem and happiness.
It’s important that we remain kind within the workplace since such a large part of our time is spent working under pressure and it’s easy to get caught up with work and career priorities.
During the 2000s, I was based in Beijing with KPMG. Being one of very few non-Chinese professionals in the firm was at times very lonely but I was always grateful when local Chinese colleagues kindly invited me to lunch or dinner or included me in their conversations or activities. Back home in Australia that experience in kindness gave me great personal perspective and a strong commitment to ensuring a more inclusive workplace culture, one where all our people feel a sense of belonging and wellbeing.
Being kind or being nice isn’t a cop out from being honest, genuine or staying true to your values. It’s about making sure you firstly consider multiple perspectives and then the context of how best to approach a discussion as a fellow human being.
My late grandmother, Lady ‘Dot’ Ferguson always taught us “it costs nothing to be nice”. She was always very kind, dedicating her life to serving various charities for less fortunate Australians, yet she wasn’t afraid of speaking the truth and offering constructive criticism when it was needed. It’s just that she spent the personal time to sit down and deliver the news in a manner that had impact and left us feeling clear minded and ready to take positive actions.
We also need to practice being kind to ourselves, by being reasonable and fair in how we assess our own performance and practicing positive inner self talk when something unexpected happens. Many high achievers are too hard on themselves and need to learn skills and habits to be kinder to themselves when things don’t go as planned or hoped.
This July, keep an eye out for the Kind July campaign being run by the Stay Kind Foundation which encourages all Australians to “do something kind” each day in July. Stay Kind is a movement that advocates for and actively promotes acts of kindness. They operate a range of programs including a Safe Space Program that looks after CBD nightlife revellers on Friday and Saturday nights who are vulnerable, in distress or at risk of harm. Between December 2014 and April 2019, they assisted more than 66,455 people.
In Kind July, be kind to yourself and to others because kindness needs to be shared.