Discover more from Timeless & Timely
How to Embrace Your Softer Side, and Why It Matters
Resist the primal temptation to be fearful, judgmental, or negative and instead choose kindness and empathy.
“Whenever I’m about to do something, I think ‘Would an idiot do that?’ and if they would, I do not do that thing.”— Dwight Schrute
Society struggles with kindness.
Kindness is considered weak, and those who practice it are branded as simps or wimps.
Too often, we see “manliness” as synonymous with toughness and cruelty. We think of strength as synonymous with the wielding of power, the subjugation of those weaker than us.
“When I was a boy I used to think that STRONG meant having big muscles, great physical power; but the longer I live, the more I realize that real strength has much more to do with what is NOT seen. Real strength has to do with helping others.” — Fred Rogers, 2003
In reality, such an expression of manliness hides other deficits, attempting to make up for them with what I call toughwashing: glossing over weakness and flaws with an exaggerated sense of machismo.
People who do this slather on layers of toxicity, malevolence, and inhumanity, building themselves up by putting other people down.
It is neither tough nor manly. In fact, it’s downright cowardly. And when we see it, we ought to call it out.
I know, that takes courage.
I happened to catch a bit of Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker’s commencement speech at Northwestern recently, and he captured the essence of this:
“If you want to be successful in this world, you have to develop your own idiot detection system. The best way to spot the idiot? Look for the person who is cruel.
When we see someone who doesn’t look like us or sound like us, or act like us, or love like us, or live like us, the first thought that crosses almost everyone’s brain is rooted in either fear or judgment or both.
That’s evolution. We survived as a species by being suspicious of things that we aren’t familiar with. In order to be kind, we have to shut down that animal instinct and force our brain to travel a different pathway.
Empathy and compassion are evolved states of being. They require the mental capacity to step past our most primal urges.
This may be a surprising assessment because somewhere along the way in the last few years our society has come to believe that weaponized cruelty is part of some well thought out master plan. Cruelty is seen by some as an adroit cudgel to gain power. Empathy and kindness are considered weak. Many important people look at the vulnerable only as rungs in a ladder to the top.
I’m here to tell you that when someone’s path through this world is marked by acts of cruelty, they have failed the first test of an advanced society. Over my many years in politics and business I have found one thing to be universally true: the kindest person in the room is often the smartest.”
You can watch him give the speech here.
But here’s what I really want you to watch.
Neal Foard tells a story about the Restaurant of Mistaken Orders, a restaurant established in Japan to give meaning to the lives of dementia patients.
As the video ends, we see the exhortation: Remember to include humanity in the company budget.
In a landmark study analyzing more than 3,500 business units with more than 50,000 individuals, researchers found that acts of courtesy, helping, and praise were related to core goals of organizations. Higher rates of these behaviors were predictive of productivity, efficiency, and lower turnover rates. When leaders and employees act kindly towards each other, they facilitate a culture of collaboration and innovation.
Simply put, kindness is good for business. And business is built on relationships.
“Mutually caring relationships require kindness and patience, tolerance, optimism, joy in the other's achievements, confidence in oneself, and the ability to give without undue thought of gain. We need to accept the fact that it's not in the power of any human being to provide all these things all the time.” — Fred Rogers, 2003
If you find yourself slipping into what comes naturally to your lizard brain (as Gov. Pritzker noted), don’t beat yourself up. Mister Rogers himself recognized that it’s not humanly possible to always be kind, patient, tolerant, etc.
Just know that all of these things take work.
It takes an effort to choose kindness. It takes thoughtfulness to choose empathy. And it takes real strength to embrace vulnerability.
Even Arnold Schwarzenegger acknowledged the focus, intention, and perseverance that’s required.
If you like what you read today, I hope you subscribe and encourage others to join and unlock complimentary paid status at the same time:
Thanks, and I’ll see you on the internet.