What makes conflict in human
coexistence bearable: Kindness
Isn’t life a struggle? It really is a competition. But the competitors should treat each other fairly and respect each other. In competition, athletes give each other nothing, yet they can be friends. But you should treat other people with kindness outside of sports, too. And if this results in friendships – even better!
You will be treated by others the way you treat them…
When I think back: We had a neighbor we kids avoided because he always looked so angry. Our mother called him Mister Grumpy. One of my uncles was always in a good mood. We were happy when he came to visit. One of my friends was very hard to sadden. If I ever had a downer, she cheered me up very quickly. One of my friends was handicapped. But he still was always in a good mood. My friends and I liked taking him along on our adventures even though he was a burden. I decided to go on a group trip without knowing any of my fellow travelers. I had to decide after a week whether I should hate or love the fellow travelers. I decided to go for the latter – that seemed easier to me.
My mother used to weave many aphorisms into her upbringing, among them: What goes around comes around. Try it out and approach your fellow men kindly! You will experience that your kindness is usually reciprocated with kindness.
Which of the following statements do you agree with, and which ones do not apply to you?
I am empathetic to everyone.
People are fickle for me. This is why I prefer
sticking to the facts.
Most people are reckless and rude
when it’s about getting an advantage for themselves.
When I meet someone new,
I always ask myself: What does he want from me?
When I get to know people, I appear to be
interested and accommodating.
You have to be able to judge people correctly
if you want to get along with them.
I used to always trust people.
But now I tend to be reserved, since I have been bitterly disappointed
multiple times in the past.
I refrain from judging people.
Even if I have known them for a long time.
When I think back to my school days,
I remember our teachers first,
and then the individual subjects.
People are moody. Therefore, I prefer to hold back.
What are the results of what you have marked: Are you rather skeptical or trusting towards other people?
Object-oriented or person-oriented
US psychologists roughly divided employees at companies into object-oriented and person-oriented individuals. They found out that employees who maintain both in a balanced relationship are the most likely to contribute to achieving company objectives.
My experiences at companies largely match the findings made by psychologists: Employees who have excellent subject matter expertise often compensate for weaknesses in their communicative behavior with their performance. And employees who like to talk a lot try to hide their sometimes lacking professional qualifications behind their talk. Company managers should keep this in mind, especially when filling management positions. After all, when managing employees, it is particularly important to strike a balance between fact-oriented and communicative behavior. This is why leadership must be characterized by kindness that is transferred to the employees. This is the only way to achieve joint, goal-oriented work.
Here is an example. To increase productivity, management had the performance of five assembly groups analyzed. The groups and the performance of the individual employees were compared, respectively. In one group – the group with the second-best productivity – it was determined that one member was by far the last in terms of performance measured in item numbers per time unit. The supervisor drew the conclusion from this that the underperforming employee would likely perform better in a different job. His position was filled with an employee for which management knew that he would hit higher unit numbers.
But lo and behold, the group dropped down to fourth place in the group comparison. Managers looked into the issue and found out the following: The low-performance employee was the communicator of the group, he was in charge of exchanging information, had ideas, and stayed in touch with the other groups. So it not only depends on the individual person to create a certain balance between their different orientations and skills, but also that attention is paid to a balanced workforce. This is the task of managers.
Executives who lack soft skills often only show a superficial, insufficient amiability that disappears immediately in conflict situations, in particular. Employees then talk about their superior’s true face. How would you describe your boss:
open and honest or reserved
imposing or giving free space
trusting or distant
empathetic or coldly egoistic
hard but fair or soft and slippery
polite and correct or unpredictable
How would you characterize yourself?
Free yourself from your fears!
People who generally show kindness toward others can be characterized roughly as what?
- show interest without being pushy;
- pay respect and deference in the form of politeness;
- can express appreciation and praise when they find something good;
- give confidence with the risk of being disappointed;
- can bear objective criticism and contradiction;
- defend themselves firmly, clearly and distinctly against malice;
- are capable of reliable and lasting friendships;
- are happy to share what they have with others as long as they do not feel taken advantage of.
What prevents you from becoming a person who exhibits kindness towards others? This is usually due to fears that were not overcome due to a lack of self-development. These fears include:
- Fear of doing something wrong;
- Fear of not being taken seriously;
- Fear of being disappointed;
- Uncertainty toward strangers;
- Lack of self-confidence;
- Fear of being recognized in one’s weaknesses;
- Worry about coming up short oneself;
- Fear of being overused.
How kindness is trampled on
The misery in the world makes many children become serious and closed. Not only in countries of the so-called Third World. Children and young people experience the quarrels of their parents, suffer from their separation, become neglected because the single mother is overstrained, feel pushed back, excluded. There are not only these blatant forms that make it difficult for adolescents to grow into society, to find their way in it, to receive recognition and affection. The other extreme, excessive care, constant precautions and restrictive protection, also prevent children and adolescents from having the experience of having to get involved with other people in order to be accepted.
It is criminal, for example, when children in Africa are not able to grow up into a world of trust but grow up as child soldiers and street children. Communities like the Salesians reach out to these children and adolescents by giving them attention and care and bring a little light into this misery. Africa, Latin America, Asia – far away from us? Or cities in our own country? Far from our daily lives? Do we look away in our neighborhood, ignore bullying at companies? Is everything really that far away? We should bring light to the misery that surrounds us – in our respective environment – by approaching our fellow humans with kindness. This includes:
- not letting yourself be pulled down
- being able to lose
- not always hitting back right away
- being understanding
- dealing with meanness confidently
- being able to forgive
- forgetting about past fights
Instead: create an atmosphere that supports everyone with politeness, respect, attention, grace and trust. Because today, more than ever, all people are fatefully connected to each other. Kindness starts in your head: How do I think about other people?
Which of the following statements do you agree with, and which ones do you disagree with?
Life is a struggle. This is why I make
between friends and foes.
I have no enemies. But I also do not have
that go through thick and thin with me.
You can read most
You can already tell by a driver’s
whether their behavior is timid,
adventurous, or cautious.
With a little knowledge about human
nature, you see which people
you can trust and which ones cannot be trusted.
I can sense whether or not people feel
favorably towards me or not.
When you no longer have anything
in common, you should
stop being friends – it’s over.
And now answer the following questions:
- How often was I wrong when judging a person?
- Were there people that surprised me positively
despite my initial reservations toward them?
- Am I prone to being prejudiced?
- Do I judge people even though I hardly know them?
- What makes me feel positive about a person?
Do you help others to show off their good sides?
Everyone strives to be seen positively by as many people as possible. And how do you get other people to judge you positively, respect you as a person, even when you are of the opposite opinion, or work for a competing company or a competing organization?
There is no way around it: You must continuously develop yourself in order to gain attention as a person. Only in this way will you gain independence and sovereignty from offices you hold and memberships in prestigious associations. Kindness is then not perceived as condescending or superficial. Self-confidence based on the ability to learn does not hide the fact that we are all imperfect and make mistakes.
As children, we cannot choose the people we live with and even as adults, our choices are limited. We are born into our families. My colleagues at work are predetermined. The neighbors are there when we move in. The only people we can pick are our friends. Strive to feel good about the people that surround you. This has the greatest chance of succeeding when you generally focus on the sympathetic sides of people that surround you. No one is entirely unpleasant and no one has exclusively unpleasant sides to them. However, some people may need help to show their good sides.
Exploring and ordering your personal environment
It can be useful to use a diagram to get a better understanding of the people around you. Write down the names of the people around you, similar to a mind map around your name in the middle of the sheet. Leave enough space to add notes about each name. Write down which of the following characterizations come to mind about each person:
- lives with a focus on people
- focuses mainly on facts
- is always friendly to everyone
- you can rely on him/her one hundred percent
- is very reserved, at least at the start
- suffers from severe mood swings
- does everything thoroughly and precisely
- is very helpful
- always has a problem
- steals other people’s time
- always up for a joke …
Add your own characteristics.
Then take a sheet of paper for every person and describe the individual person in detail. Also write down in a few words which relationship you have with the people you wrote down.
Then answer the following three questions:
- To whom do you find it easy to show kindness?
- Who would you like to cut off contact with?
- What kind of people are missing in your environment?
I recommend this chart to you because you can get a better understanding of the network of people you live in and which influence they therefore have on you. It is up to you how you integrate into this reference system and which impact you have on your part. If you come to the conclusion that your environment does not support you, but drags you down or keeps you down, try to get into a new environment doing so courageously, cleverly, and with determination, or try to establish a new one. Separate yourself from people who hinder your development.
Seek closeness with people who will stand by you, who will support the development of your personality and enable an environment of trust and mutual support. For your part, try to have the same effect on other people: in friendships, in the neighborhood, in the family, in the work group – wherever you are with other people. Become a source of happy coexistence.
Kindness proves its worth in the event of conflict
Kindness is expressed in thoughts, words, and deeds. You impact your thoughts by reflecting – in dialogue with yourself. There is no better method for this than keeping a diary, both as an event diary and a diary for writing down insights. Chapter 9 of this book describes how that works. Mentally processing insights from life shapes our attitude towards life and our view of people. Both are repeatedly put into question by constantly new experiences. Reflecting is a constant process.
Those who do not filter out or bend to fit everything that contradicts their views will increasingly reach spheres of cognition that lead them to higher and more differentiated views. A fundamental insight is this: Negative attitudes, words, and actions toward others sicken and lead to isolation, while kindness encourages and promotes, which in turn allows each of us to thrive.
Very few of us will be able to hide the thoughts we have for long. Over the years, they express themselves not only in what we say, but also in our permanent nonverbal expressions: facial expressions, eyes, gestures, posture and gait. One should be a person who radiates joy!
Paradoxical as it may sound, true kindness shows itself most clearly in conflict situations: Remain friendly and act with confidence. Suaviter in modo, fortiter in re – this is a piece of advice from Roman times. Kindness is not a fair-weather behavior according to the motto “peace, joy, pancakes”. But it helps against prejudice, intolerance and hatred. Kindness can disarm!