(One of the 83 quick and practical life & work lessons from Sh*t Sandwich: Quick & Practical Success Lessons for Practically Anyone.)
The Intersection of Concern & Courtesy
Where courtesy and concern intersect – where they are both genuinely expressed – we get kindness. Simple courtesies, coupled with a concern about the well-being of others, produce kindness. Kindness, despite what the old-school sales motivators will tell you, is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary; kindness in today’s workplace is a show of strength. Anyone can be an asshole; true leaders are kind.
You can be kind and stand your ground. You can be kind and get your way. You can be kind and succeed. In fact, success in virtually every endeavor (except perhaps as a cage fighter) is easier with a little genuine kindness.
Kindness is free; it’s easy; and it can change relationships overnight. Kindness works wonders on subordinate relationships. And, provided you’re not going out with a psychopath, kindness works wonders for your love life, as well. The most suspiciously-cynical people I’ve ever met have been won over with genuine kindness. Genuine – as with all relationship matters – being the key here.
If you’re currently a bit of an ass (or, you think you might be), and your true desire is to be kind to others, here are three quick tips to help you get started down the right road to find that intersection of concern and courtesy:
- Start by writing and saying pleasantries to others. Just because you don’t need a “thank you” or a “please” doesn’t mean your team doesn’t need to hear them. No one is offended by a genuine “thank you,” but plenty of people are offended when you fail to say it.
- Always make eye contact with the person doing the speaking. I know this is hard to do sometimes; and it can even feel really awkward for some people; but making and holding eye contact is a critical part of listening (or, at least, appearing as if you are listening). If you struggle with this, try looking at the speaker’s mouth. Sometimes this alleviates the awkwardness of eye contact, but still appears as if you’re interested.
- Smile appropriately. You need to be careful here, because you don’t want to look like a lunatic; but smiling at people when you pass them in the hallways or when they are relating something humorous (or something they think is humorous) is a great way to make others feel the kindness just dripping off of you. There have been studies that show women are X times more likely to get married in Y months if they smile at every man they meet. Smiling, you see, is primal. It lets those you meet know if you’re friend or foe; it allows babies to know you won’t eat them; and it allows the opposite sex to know that you’re interested.