There are lots of opportunities to show people how smart you are – how right you are – about something. And it’s tempting to do so, particularly when provoked by a colleague or loved one.
But consider this poignant example delivered by Jeff Bezos to Princeton’s Class of 2010:
He was ten years old when he heard (from an ad) that “every puff of a cigarette takes some number of minutes off your life” and proudly proclaimed to his grandmother, “At two minutes per puff, you’ve taken nine years off your life!”
She burst into tears and his grandfather took him aside and told him softly “one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever.”
And isn’t it, really? Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice.
It’s easy to win an argument or accolades when you’re clever – but you risk losing the relationship with a colleague (or even with a customer, as arrogance is not highly regarded by most people).
At Heartwood, a key founding principle for us revolves around the philosophy of being kind instead of being always right. Its how Neil and I try to operate as leaders of the company and it’s a culture we actively cultivate.
If a business promotes the aggressive “see how smart I am” mentality, it often has an equally aggressive turnover. It’s short-term thinking.
And have you noticed that staying quiet often works out? Taking a step back lends clarity. And when you know someone is wrong and DON’T publicly call them out on it, allowing them to have a moment, people notice. And even if they don’t, the universe notices (karma).
“Choose to be kind over being right and you’ll be right every time.”
― Richard Carlson, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
“Working with someone does not mean automatically acquiescing to their every whim. But your opposing must be done tenderly, without anger or condescension. This is a difficult art.
Go slowly. Remember that it is better not to react in the heat of the moment. Whenever time allows, don’t respond immediately. Speak and act when you can do so with patience and kindness. Remember, too, that the very best way to change someone is to embody that change with your own example.“
Regardless of whether or not anyone notices, it’s nice to be part of company that recognizes and encourages empathy and kindness.
What’s your company’s culture like? And do you value being kind over being right?