Browsing on Twitter I see a call out from a journalist looking for business owners to share their tips on how to manage competition and launch products into a crowded marketplace. In the melee which followed countless people were offering their services with one even promising to share their “end to end strategies for maximising cut through”.
It’s easy to forget, in a world obsessed with appearance and froth, that substance wins every time. No matter how well you dress something up, if it’s fundamentally substandard, you’ll be found out in the end.
Once a girl said to me, in the midst of an argument, “kindness is overrated” and went on to point out that achievement and success were of much greater value. It struck me as one of the most dispiriting things I’d ever heard.
You only have to look around you to see how badly kindness is actually underrated, so why is it so easily overlooked?
Maybe kindness is misunderstood. It is not a passive thing which lies motionless in the corner. Sometimes we describe people as “kind” in a way which sounds a bit meek and pathetic, as if we are describing something listless and without courage or backbone. But kindness, the real thing, is no pushover.
Kindness is deliberate, it is honest, even in the face of having an uncomfortable impact. Maybe most overlooked of all is that true kindness is, at times, extremely difficult.
In the face of conflict, when we are criticised, mocked or disrespected it is easy to send kindness over the side as if it were the heaviest bag of sand hanging from the basket of a hot air balloon hurtling towards the earth. It takes courage to maintain kindness and to recognise that it is a value, a belief we live by and not a mood which ebbs and flows like the vagaries of the weather.
Kindness isn’t showy or extrovert, and it isn’t always charismatic, or even attractive to other people. In fact, when it is working properly, it is like the heart it comes from. Always in the background, never obvious, quietly consistent.
Kindness is not a strategy or an abdication but a chosen path.
Later in the week, I found myself wondering about the myriad responses the journalist had received from business owners and entrepreneurs when the daily blog from Seth Godin arrived in my inbox. His theme was the indefatigable rise of AI and how it can now replicate human speech faster and more accurately than any human. The days when the creation of good products was enough is clearly passing too. It’s no longer even enough to be good at what you do. Godin writes, “The goal can’t be quality, not for people anyway. It needs to be humanity. The rough edges of caring, of improv and of connection”.
So kindness is not only underrated but it is a foundation of basic human connection. So our future success as a species, our ability to thrive and grow, is completely dependent upon it.