compassion-by_susan_von_struenseeI was reading an article by Bruce Kasanoff this morning, titled Honesty Without Compassion is Cruelty.  Then a little while later, another newsletter came in which explored the concept of CAREfrontation.

It looks like the universe is trying to get my attention.

Some people tend to equate kindness with being weak and evasive.  But that’s not the case at all; there’s a strength in kindness which can punch through even a strong defense.

When someone states that they’re going to be brutally honest with you, unless you’ve specifically asked for it, your defenses immediately shoot up.  You expect that your feelings will be hurt, and that person’s version of “honest” may be quite different to your own.  You expect to have to deflect their criticism.

Imagine instead that you hear a sigh, and, “Well, I’ve got to be honest with you…” said with a weak smile.  In this case, you know that the person is edging into a conversation that may be even more uncomfortable for them than it is for you.  They’re showing vulnerability, and a desire to be sensitive to your feelings as well.

You’re much more likely to pay attention, to take any advice given, and to do it without being offended.

The interesting thing about changing your approach is that, unless you’re a totally unfeeling person, you also feel better about the uncomfortable exchange.  By showing that you care, you’re much less likely to damage the relationship.

And to get results, by the way.

One thing to watch out for is authenticity.  I wrote an NCBR column about this, which included describing the “feedback sandwich.”  This is a technique where you give an employee some good news, then the bad news, then some good news again.

It’s not a bad technique, or wasn’t when it was created.  But now we’ve all been trained to notice when it’s happening to us, and it makes us feel manipulated.  Instead of just being honest, the person is following a formula which is supposed to make us feel better.  But we don’t think they really care about us.

It’s much better just to be honest, but kind.  It’s messy because you’re dealing with human emotion, but it’s better.