As a man who supports people in cultivating fulfilling relationships in all areas of their lives, I am often asked about the quality of kindness and how that fits in to our ideas around masculinity. Unfortunately, there has been a persistent belief that “nice guys finish last,” and that in order for a man to be successful, he has to act without regard for others, or “stop at nothing to get what he wants.” While there is success to be had by those who act ruthlessly, I have found through personal experience and in observing others, that a man who is compassionate and empathetic, can have a much greater impact than one who shuts people, and his emotions, out.
It is important to note that there is a distinction between nice and kind, however, and this is a trap many of us men fall into. The “nice guy” may finish last because he is more concerned with catering to others, and being seen as nice, than actually making a contribution. On the other hand, a man who is kind, knows himself, is assertive when necessary and considers the impact on others before acting. In short, a kind man may not always concede or accommodate, but he will always ask himself how he may provide for, and benefit, others
Kindness can be expressed in many ways: It may be as simple as holding a door open for someone, paying for one’s groceries if their credit card gets declined at the supermarket or sending cards or notes of appreciation to the people that he loves in his life. At his core, he chooses to do things that make a difference for people, that may bring a smile to their face or may bring them relief in some way.
One of the ways that I have personally taken on showing kindness is by listening. When people are going through difficult times, or even when they are excited about something, one of the most-gracious things we can offer, is our listening to them with no other motive than to hear their experience. If a person is upset or triggered by an event or exchange, my willingness to listen to them without having to fix anything or offer my opinion, is of far more value to them. Deep down, we all just want to feel heard, loved and understood. When we listen to fix, or with the intention of showing how smart we are, the other person does not have the experience of feeling heard; if anything, they generally feel dismissed. The ultimate display of kindness is to just be present and interested, with no further agenda. This is something that I teach, and something that I have brought into corporations, schools and organizations that have desired to create community.
What are some ways that you naturally express kindness? What are some practices you can develop to show kindness? And, who can you acknowledge today for having shown you their kindness?