Kindness an essential skill when working with Humans. From traveling around the world over the past seven years this has caused me to become a kinder person.
Another floggin’ noggin’ article written by by Kimberly M. Wiefling, M.S. re-published with permission, from the Scrappy Women group.
Something about watching an accomplished senior professional struggle to express a simple business concept fills me with a desire to treat them gently. Perhaps it’s because their lack of fluency reminds me how vulnerable they are, or of the innocence that they possessed as a child. Or it might be that their language difficulties make it impossible to speak with the affectation and disdain that I so despise in some of my Silicon Valley colleagues. Even if I perceive some hubris in their speaking, I’m likely to attribute it to their limited facility with English rather than a loathsome personality disorder.
Whatever the reason, over the years I’ve been inspired to treat people at work with a bit more tenderness. It’s not that I demand less of my collaborators, it’s just that I’m more compassionate in how I go about getting my ridiculously high expectations met.
I suppose I’ve developed a greater sensitivity to the impact human beings have on one another in the workplace because of experiences like the one I had recently in Tokyo. I was facilitating the last day of the final workshop of a six-month global leadership development program, and the participants were giving each other feedback on their strengths.
Afterwards, while reflecting on this exercise, one guy (let’s call him Diego), said that this was the first time anyone had pointed out his strengths to him. Diego is almost 40 years old, with at least 15 years of work experience. How on earth could he have gone through his entire career without a single person pointing out some of the many fine qualities that make him an asset in the business world? I just about burst into tears thinking about it.
To me this goes way beyond a failure of the all-important “attitude of gratitude”. It’s just outright unkind! And, as numerous studies have shown, the negative business impact surely must have been substantial.
Talk of Kindness at Work Used to Make Me Wretch
Okay, okay, I’ll admit that I’m not the nicest person on Planet Earth. According to the quiz based on Dr. Bob Sutton’s “The No Asshole Rule”, courageously hosted by Guy Kawawsaki, I’m 12.5% nasty – and that’s on a good day, when not jet-lagged. Kindness? I used to practically wretch when I heard the song “Hands”, in particular the part where the singer croons “In the end, only kindness matters”.
I’d laugh sardonically as I tried to imagine how kindness could possibly matter more than reaching this month’s manufacturing shipping target or hitting the next project milestone. But over the past few years, I’ve come to appreciate the power in the business world of being kind as well as scrappy.
Maybe my change of heart is due to the many incredible acts of kindness that I have experienced at the hands of workshop attendees from over 20 different countries. First, there’s the frequent practice of gift giving.
In Asia, I’ve frequently received presents when I reconnect with people I’ve worked with in the past. Gift-giving can be done out of a sense of obligation, but the ones I’ve received are usually incredibly thoughtful.
- One leadership program graduate from Singapore presented me with a colorful makeup purse, saying “I chose this exciting color to match your personality!
- Another brought me some pepper. It was “just pepper,” I know, but she described in detail how she remembered that I loved the taste of this particular pepper when I last visited Osaka.
- During my first trip to Thailand, an admiring former workshop participant who was too busy to meet me in person dropped off a beautifully wrapped gift at my hotel to welcome me to her home country.
- And then there are the countless times a complete stranger has helped me survive my travels to unfamiliar lands. Once, another women staying at my “no frills” hotel saw me struggling with a lot of luggage and offered to help me to my room.
- On a different occasion a construction worker in the Tokyo subway temporarily put aside his job and insisted on carrying my (very large and heavy) bags up the stairs because the escalator was out of service.
- And one complete stranger, upon seeing my obvious confusion while staring at a map of the city, personally walked me to my nearby hotel.
Part 2 will come not far behind this first article.. For someone who did believe in kindness, Kimberly seems to have a lot of great experiences. You can also read more about kindness how to de-stress yourself.