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Creating Successful Leaders

We live in a world where kindness is often lacking. We tend to dwell on differences–the things that divide us–instead of finding commonalities or learning to listen to others’ points of view. The tendency to see people as “others” has led to many a fighting match on social media, and that tension is now reaching a fever pitch with the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

In this contentious and often heated atmosphere, it’s easy for people to lose their tempers, become defensive, and begin name-calling and initiating personal attacks. This kind of response will lead nowhere, of course, but it is a natural, knee-jerk reaction.

How do you step back from the fray and choose kindness over maliciousness?

1. See Humanity

Instead of making snap judgments and generalizations, I encourage you to pause, truly consider the other person’s point of view, and begin to develop understanding and empathy. It helps to view that person behind the screen as a HUMAN BEING–someone with a family, pets, a mortgage, grocery bills, and health concerns. Someone with hopes and fears.

When we start to see Twitter usernames and Facebook profiles as people (bots excluded!), we can begin to treat them with dignity. Surely, if you were having a face-to-face conversation with someone at a restaurant, you wouldn’t begin calling them nasty names (hopefully not, anyway!). You would do your best to keep the conversation civil or steer it in another direction.

2. Know When to Fold ’em

Sometimes, stating (or reiterating) your point of view is futile. If someone has demonstrated that they are wholly unreceptive to your perspective, gracefully exit the conversation. End on a high note; something like: “Thank you for your thoughts. I don’t agree, but I’m happy you shared them with me.” Then, leave.

Exiting toxic conversations isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s simply recognizing that you’re talking past one another and going nowhere. Better to excuse yourself and move on.

3. Take the High Road

When others resort to name-calling and shouting, don’t go there. Vow to take the high road and be the adult in the room. Hopefully, your behavior will inspire others to do the same but, if not, there’s no shame in ditching the conversation (see point #2). Better to spend your time and energy elsewhere.

4. Pay Attention to Tone

When you post something on social media, is your tone contentious and one-sided? Or is it respectful/factual? If you’re belittling or putting down a group of people, that will only invite arguments and cause contention.

Rather, stick to the facts and avoid personal attacks. No one likes to hear that their beliefs make them “evil” or “stupid.”

5. Engage Others One on One

The best way to truly understand another’s perspective is to engage them one on one, in private. Start a private chat, or take it a step further and invite them to talk over a video chat or in person (if they are a friend, and if you feel comfortable doing so). Let the person know that you’re aiming to understand, and you hope that they, too, will be open to hearing your point of view.

6. Make Kind Gestures

There is a big, wide world beyond social media. Let your kindness emanate beyond the screen, and practice little acts of kindness. Rake an elderly neighbor’s lawn, pay for groceries for the young mother at the grocery store, donate your time or money to a nonprofit, etc., etc.

If you’d like to show kindness to your colleagues or friends, send them personalized notes, telling them why you are grateful for their presence in your life.

In the world of social media, share uplifting, kindness-focused pieces of news and pictures. You don’t have to sugar coat things, but it IS an act of kindness to give people joy and hope every once in a while!

These actions (whether in person or virtual) have a way of spreading. Make an extra effort to be kind this month, and notice how it tends to comes back to you.

The world needs your kindness. Let’s all make an effort to find common ground. Take the high road. Reach out. Be a kind, decent human being.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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