“Sometimes it’s better to be kind than right. We don't need a brilliant mind that speaks, but a patient heart who listens.”
This inspiring and anonymous quote got me thinking:
As a husband and parent, I can think of little else I wish I’d done better than to have been — and to be — more kind. So often, what my wife needs is just for me to listen and validate her. My son is in graduate school, living in another state. I wish I could say I have no regrets, but I do. I regret every unkind thing I ever said to him. I am grateful that all evidence suggests, he is a bigger man than I and forgives my failings.
A friend recently asked me for tips on how to communicate something she felt she must say, despite the fact that the person to whom she felt compelled to speak would not like the message. After reflecting for some time, I offered this advice.
“Don’t say it. I have often justified saying impertinent or even mean things believing that some greater good justified or required my saying it; I have often regretted saying them in the end. On the other hand, I have never regretted not saying something.”
It’s true. I cannot think of a single unkind thing I wish I’d said in hindsight. For all the times I suppressed my anger and said nothing — or said (as I often have to my wife) “I love you” I have never regretted not saying the thing I was tempted to say.
On the other hand, I can remember countless times I have expressed my righteous indignation over some perceived sleight or insult or a simple error and come to regret it.
Most of us are pretty good at attributing bad behavior in others to their poor upbringing, low intellect or general disregard for others. At the same time, we excuse our own bad behavior as justified by some exigency of schedule or circumstance.
If we flip that practice and look inside for character flaws evidenced by our bad behavior we may get to the root of the problem and be able to purge not only the bad behaviors but also their cause. Similarly, if we attribute the bad behavior of others to the time pressure and circumstance in which they find themselves we will see them in a whole new way.
In most cultures, there are power norms that seem to establish hard to define and yet observable rules about acceptable behavior. Many of these change over time. In patriarchal cultures, men often seem entitled to be unkind to women; vestiges of this norm remain in the U.S. Kind people, of course, will choose to accept no justification for belittling another person.
Devin Thorpe, husband, father, author of Your Mark On The World and a popular guest speaker, is a Forbes Contributor. Building on a twenty-five year career in finance and entrepreneurship that included $500 million in completed transactions, he now champions social good full time, seeking to help others succeed in their efforts to make the world a better place.