Understanding Kindness

March 9, 2016

Understanding Kindness

I had a conversation with my partner and colleague Robyn Velik

Klein this morning over breakfast. This was what emerged:

  1. What is kindness? Kindness has two elements..
  • Kindness = the kind person (individual kindness) + the kind culture (Collective kindness) . We could use the word ‘organisation’ instead but we find the word culture is more generic and universally applicable.
  • We should not seek to define the kind person more specifically. Every body knows what this is and if we try to do this we will divert ourselves into long and basically pointless conversations around which disagreements can arise. Not good at the beginning of any conference.
  1. However what we do need to say is that kindness is made up of more than an absence of its opposite namely cruelty (or callousness? I prefer cruelty), just as prosperity is more than an absence of poverty, wellness is more than an absence of illness, democracy is more than an absence of autocracy, and peace is more than an absence of war.
  2. We also need to understand what kindness in action and what cruelty in action is.
  • Kindness in action or kind behaviour can have many manifestations including caring + protecting + nurturing +?
  • Cruelty is action or cruel behaviour can have many manifestations including bullying + intimidation + threatening +? .
  1. A kind culture on the other hand could have many descriptors.
  • However what we suggest is to try to keep it as simple as possible.
  • Therefore a kind culture = kind behaviour (individual kindness) + the golden rule.
  1. We can have kind people in cruel cultures and cruel people in kind cultures. The strength and resilience of the dominant culture, kind or cruel, will determine whether the minority culture survives, grows and       thrives , or dies .
  2. Kindness is the first step for initiating trust in all relationships. Trust in turn requires that we answer yes to three questions
  • Is the other honest?
  • Is the other reliable?
  • Is the other competent?

Trust is basic to creating long-term interdependence which is in turn based on mutuality and the seeking of win/win not win/loss outcomes in relationships.

  1. What should be in our strategy to :
  • transform cruel cultures into kind cultures?
  • maintain and strengthen kind cultures once they have developed?.
  • facilitate continuous innovation so that kindness continues to be uplifted through continuously creating emerging exemplary kind cultures?.


Peter Ellyard

1 March 2016


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