I.3.5 Kindness is more than being nice
Within entangled organizations, there needs to be a culture of trust and respect. Showing respect means showing kindness. While it is nice to be nice, it is better to be kind. Being kind to another person is more than being nice, it includes saying things to the other person that might not be nice, but are kind. For instance, telling another person that he has a bad breath does not sound nice, but is “kind”, as it is in the interest of the other person to become aware of his bad breath and take corrective action, for instance brushing his teeth more frequently. It also takes courage to tell somebody that they have a bad breath, the willingness to accept pain to give the other person short-term pain and long-term gain – “no pain, no gain”.
The word “kindness” includes “being of the same kind”, as a synonym for “being related to”. Kindness means treating other people as if they were members of one’s own family, not just being nice in the moment, but showing lasting kindness that builds trust and relationships over generations.
Figure 6. Aspects of Kindness
Figure 6 shows what it takes to be kind to other people. It means showing respect to others, by being responsive and upfront and honest. It also means empowering others, delegating them responsibility, and letting them step up when it is their turn. At the same time, being kind also means to be fair, caring, and inclusive of all members of the team.
Showing respect to people outside one’s own in-group is the key to peaceful relationships. The BlackLivesMatter campaign in the US in response to the 2020 killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery and the earlier killings of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and Michael Brown and Eric Garner in 2014 illustrates the importance of showing respect. Compare the police response on May 30 2020 to aggressive behavior of protesters in Brooklyn NY and in Oklahoma City. In Brooklyn the police officers responded to threatening behavior of the crowd by first slowly driving their cruisers into the crowd, and then speeding up, sending protesters scattering. In a similar situation, the Oklahoma City police diffused the tension by “taking a knee”, thus showing their respect for the killed victims and solidarity with the crowd, leading to getting applause from the protesters.
In a very different story about kindness, a professor at a business school once told me that he was surprised how kind the Nobel memorial prize winners in economics were, compared to all other economists. Economists normally are more known for having huge egos, not for being kind. A few years later, when I had the opportunity to visit the Nobel prize museum in Stockholm, I asked the tour guide about her interaction with the winners. She told me that her job included interviewing all the Nobel prize winners and asking them for some artefacts to be displayed in the museum. She also told me how much she enjoyed the interaction with the winners, and how kind they all had been to her. She explained that nominations for the Nobel prize have to come from the peers of a scientist. This makes all the difference regarding kindness of the Nobel prize winners, as their peers are only willing to nominate somebody who is a nice guy and has been kind to others in the past. This means that super-smart jerks have a small chance to win the Nobel prize. It pays to be kind, even to potential competitors.