The cost we pay to be kind is paid in vulnerability. Now that should be a small charge indeed, given the impact that our kindness has on others. An oft misappropriated quote rings true here, "They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel." And yet it's the feeling part that trips us up, making us soften our message, our kindness tempered when the message contains criticism.
Respecting someone so much that you give them candid, constructive feedback, even when delivering that message is hard, is kindness. This is the core of what radical candor — caring personally while challenging directly — is all about. Not saying something isn't kindness. Pulling your punches isn't kindness. Standing by while someone behaves badly or projects their bias isn't kindness. Each of these are mechanisms to protect ourselves from being vulnerable.
Giving direct feedback is not air cover for unloading unfettered grievances, it's not a license to be a brilliant jerk, it's not a caveat for poor behavior. Crucial, candid feedback is a responsibility, one that we make with all sincerity and with full awareness of the gift we are providing. Our observation is a signpost, an insight for others to consider and incorporate. It is so rarely offered, in its naked form, that the receiver may have never considered this perspective before. In fact, they likely have a long list of examples where others have shared just the opposite message with them — and they may be quick to defend themselves, with this list at the ready.
"My true religion is kindness"
- The Dalai Lama
Kindness is being both generous and considerate. We are generous with our observations, with our trust within our circles of belonging, with our mentorship and coaching. We are considerate when we are willing to sacrifice our own comfort and deliver an important and valuable message. Kindness and directness are not at odds, in fact, they strengthen each other when we are willing to give them as gifts to those around us.
The Paradox Pairs series is an exploration of the contradictory forces that surround us. A deeper study finds that these forces often complement each other if we can learn to tap into the strength of each. See the entire series by using the Paradox Pairs Index.