Congeniality is the Enemy of Kindness

I don’t trust nice people in general, but if you’re truly kind, there’s a very good chance that we’ll become fast friends.

Because here’s what I know: congeniality is the enemy of kindness.

You might be pleasant to the point of charismatic, but the perkier you get, the more distrustful I become. Your validation of who I am only matters if you’ve been brave enough to disagree with me once in a while. If you aren’t willing to risk being seen, I’ll never be willing to risk a deeper connection.

Vulnerability is the core of kindness, and congeniality prevents us from tapping its potential.

This has everything to do with how we learn and how we work and how we lead.

Our profession is in sore need of people who are candid: people who know how to speak hard truths without injuring listeners. People who know how to distinguish fact from their own perspectives. Congeniality discourages us from sharing them at all.

Have you ever met someone so desperate to be nice that he seems afraid of his own opinion?

Have you ever met someone so opinionated that she seems afraid of the facts?

Here’s the thing: if I don’t know your opinions, I don’t know you, and I’d like to think you matter. Even if we disagree, I’m kind enough to appreciate the gifts that your dissenting voice provides. If the facts you share push my thinking, all the better. If the facts I share push yours, I hope you’ll see our exchange for what it is: another round in the fight against nice. We’ll both emerge winners.

Our profession is also in sore need of people who are strong enough to be wrong sometimes: people who know that if a few hard truths unravel their position, all is not lost. People who know how to promote their perspective without bending reality or sprinkling facts with misinformation.

Maybe we need to quit being so nice.

It’s preventing us from being kind.

These were the realizations that inspired my first eBook, The Teach Kindness Project: 52 Ways to Make a Colleague’s Day. I was thrilled when Mark Barnes choose it for the launch of the brand new Hack Learning app, which you will want to take a peek at today. The app is free, and my book is too when you download it.

I hope this text pushes your thinking about what is kindness truly is and how to go about perpetuating it. I also hope you’ll connect with me here, there, or through Twitter when you’re ready to talk more. I dream of a future where bumper stickers and other token reward systems aren’t necessary. How about you?

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3 Comments

  1. congeniality, another term that can describe the type of people that practice it are “go along to get along”people. They are Just plain scared as are the people that voice their opinions vehemently. It takes courage to be nice and truly authentic.

  2. Angela says:

    I agree with you Jackie. Something else I’ve been thinking about: how some people are so consumed by their need to “go along and get along” that they impose it on others who are very different. I can’t tell you how often I watch people take grief from those who are “nice” simply because they’ve shared unpopular opinions thoughtfully and respectfully. It seems that in order to be considered “nice” you must never be a skeptic or a critic. When I explored definitions of kindness though, this wasn’t the case. It’s more of a virtue that requires the application of ethics. Really interesting….

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