Especially in the business world, too many people think it’s all about being hard, tough, ambitious, or having grit. Yes, these things are important, but trust me — that’s not where we’re lacking as a collective. We have the “hard things” down. I think it’s actually the “soft things” that are harder to master, and of all the traits in Twelve and a Half, I think kindness is a real foundation to why soft skills are so important in life and business.
I think my feelings about kindness can get lost in translation for some people who can’t look past my more “aggressive” communication style in speeches and videos. Fortunately, the people who know me best and who see me in my element both personally and professionally understand just how central kindness is to how I operate. Hopefully, this blog can give some more context into how I think about the trait and why I hold it so highly.
What is Kindness?
The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.
Like a lot of the emotional ingredients, we think of kindness as a “nice to have” when really, it’s a must. We don’t think about kindness as a fucking foundation to business success! We don’t think that being kind is going to make us rich, however, you’ll be surprised at how kindness can impact your business and career as a whole.
When you’re kind, you can deploy empathy and you’re less judgmental of others and yourself. In reality, I believe that kindness is what makes life and business more enjoyable.
What People Misunderstand About Kindness
A lot of it comes down to fear. People are scared that they’re gonna fail, that they’re gonna be taken advantage of, etc. So, instead of being kind, they throw their defenses up. Trust me, being kind isn’t a sign of weakness. The truth is, kindness is a strength that is greatly underrated.
“People confuse the definition of kindness with the definition of pushover — ‘a person who is easy to overcome or influence.’ They’re not the same at all. You can be kind, be candid, and hold your ground all at the same time.” – Twelve and a Half: Leveraging the Emotional Ingredients Necessary for Business Success
Being “cutthroat” isn’t cool — kindness is the real flex. Check out this video for more perspective.
The following video comes from an interview I did on the Drew Barrymore show and it’s a perfect example of how I choose to deploy empathy and kindness in the face of hate.
i have a lot of compassion, i think it really makes life better 💓☀️ https://t.co/pURaTYdHae— Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) January 15, 2021
So many people are concerned with “blocking the negativity” or blaming social media for being toxic. The truth is, there was “hate” before social media came around and there always will be. As long as people are hurting, some of them will use those insecurities as a reason to target or attack other people. If you find yourself on the receiving end of that, I say kindness is always the answer. There’s no point in getting angry, frustrated, or even trying to convince people to change. All you can do is have conviction in deploying kindness wherever you can.
If you struggle with choosing kindness, I have so much empathy for you, but I also want to challenge you. Ask yourself why you have that perspective, and when you bought into the myth that “nice guys finish last.” If you take anything away from this blog, let it be that kindness is so much more nuanced than people often think. You can be kind and still be respected and successful. You can be kind and still stand up for yourself and crush it in business. I’m living proof.
Why You Should Be Kind When it’s Hard
I say it all the time… it’s easy to be kind when it’s easy. What I mean by that is that it comes naturally to us to show kindness to people who are kind to us, people who give us what we want, or people who we know we’ve wronged. What’s harder is being kind when it’s hard.
Can you be the bigger person when someone has wronged you? Can you deploy kindness even when the other person won’t apologize or admit that they’ve done something fucked up? That’s when kindness really counts. Why? It’s not about letting people off the hook…it’s about understanding that we never really know what another person is going through.
In Twelve and a Half, I tell the story of when an employee I was close with stole $250,000 worth of wine from me. It would have been so incredibly easy to respond with anger, but instead, I chose to resist judging them and get curious about why they may have done that. I’ll leave the end of that story for the book, but it comes down to this:
“You don’t have full context on anybody else. You don’t have hundred-percent insight into what’s going through their mind or the events in their childhood that molded them into who they are today. So how can you judge them?” – Twelve and a Half: Leveraging the Emotional Ingredients Necessary for Business Success
You don’t know anyone else’s full story and they don’t know yours. If you messed up, wouldn’t you want others to give you the benefit of the doubt? Wouldn’t you want them to deploy kindness with you? The bottom line is that when you meet people on a human level and talk to them with kindness, you often get to the root of the problem quicker than if you dismiss them with anger or rudeness.
Kindness needs to be the formula! Unhappy people who were hurt along the way need compassion in response to their dark behavior, not more venom. 🔑
Balancing Kindness with Candor
That being said, remember that navigating these traits is all about balance. While it’s important to be kind to those who have wronged you, it’s equally as important to hold people accountable. This is where kind candor comes in.
“There’s a reason I added the word kind in front of candor. How you deliver the medicine matters.” – Twelve and a Half: Leveraging the Emotional Ingredients Necessary for Business Success
As many of you know, I identified kind candor as my “half,” or the emotional ingredient that I’m still developing. I won’t say too much about it here because it deserves its own blog, but what I will say is that learning to balance candor alongside my kindness has made me a better person and a much, much better businessman and CEO.
Kindness Starts with YOU
I think how kind a person is to others is a direct reflection of how kind they are to themselves. When we’re always judging ourselves, it’s easy to judge others…but when we show ourselves compassion, respect, and kindness, those are the things we give to the people around us as well.
I really need you to understand this one thing….If you’re always shitting on yourself or saying things like “I suck,” “I’m just lucky,” “I don’t deserve…” or any other things that are not encouraging or kind to yourself, you need to cut that shit out. Love starts with yourself! If you’re not kind to yourself, it’s because someone else instilled that in you. You weren’t born to think you suck, someone put it there.
Maybe it was your mom or dad being hard on you, or bullies at school, or some other naysayer that made you believe bad things about yourself. Either way, it’s up to you and only you to change that story. Realize that those thoughts are made up and they don’t belong to you, so you get to choose new ones. When you do, make sure they’re based in kindness!
When you figure out that kindness is the real strength, when you start leaving every interaction with the person on the other side feeling happier, shit gets a lot more fun. Trust me. Be kind and bring happiness to others…you’ll be shocked by what it brings to you. ❤️
Thanks for reading! If you got value from this blog, I’d appreciate it if you shared it on your favorite social media platform or with a friend.