Is It Better To Be Right or Kind?

Andrea Chilcote

With Valentine’s 2014 on the horizon this week, are you seeing yourself and your life experiences (and perhaps another’s) from a heart-centered perspective? Below, Andrea explores life’s challenges from a heart-lens perspective and asks you to consider how you choose to respond.

by Andrea Chilcote

This week, I’m reminded of the question, “Is it better to be right or kind?”

There are versions of this question. A client reminded me of one several years ago, as she was experiencing a conflict at work. She asked herself out loud: “Is better to be right or effective?”—and concluded that while the ego may beg to differ, “effective” was the only path in that situation.

Think about a time you were sure you were right about something large or small, but another person (or group), held an opposite view. I’m not talking about politics, religion or the stuff of conversational debates. I’m talking about taking a personal stand on a perceived injustice or criticism, someone else’s way of doing something, or any irritation that irks you in the moment but is insignificant with perspective.

I have one. Yesterday I felt compelled to express annoyance to my husband for changing virtually every setting in my car’s XM Radio. His response was that I had given him the wrong instructions for finding the channel he was seeking.

At first, I presented the logical argument. My instructions were “right,” and I had evidence in the text message explaining the step-by-step process. (Not to mention I was the one offering help for which he should have been grateful!) But something possessed me to stop, fortunately, and spend three minutes correcting the set-up.

Why is this so hard? At least part of the reason is that we have difficulty discerning between the things we can change by taking a stand, and the things that don’t matter. And, defending the things that don’t matter actually does matter in that we make mountains out of mole hills, as my Dad used to say.

It all matters to our ego. So we have to check in with our logical, objective-thinking self and ask: “Can I influence change here?” If the answer is no, stop. Influence rarely occurs as a result of telling (absent asking), and that’s especially true when telling involves making the other person wrong.

We also need to check in with our heart. Some motivation or unmet need on the part of the other person is driving whatever is making us crazy. Through a heart lens we see this, and the choice to be kind becomes viable.

As you choose your responses to life’s challenges over the next several days, consider these questions:

• Can I influence change (or will my response serve only to inflame)?
• What choice will bring peace to my heart (and perhaps another’s)?
• How can I be kind to myself (and thus spread the resonance of kindness)?

“Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.”
Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose

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This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger.

Imagine No Judgment

by Andrea Chilcote

Recently I had a fascinating discussion with a client. He and I have, it would appear on the surface, a very different worldview. He’s very clear and open about his perspectives, and quite committed to the principles they represent. Many of our spiritual, political and social beliefs differ widely, yet I have always felt comfortable as he discusses them. Today, I realized why. And, I learned that we share at least one common – and in my opinion important – viewpoint.

What I learned is that he possesses the ability to suspend judgment of others at the same time he takes a stand about his own life and what he believes will make for a better world. At the same time he firmly believes in his heart and mind that something is “right” or “wrong,” he appears to have no desire whatsoever to condemn or coerce. A rare quality in one so convinced.

As a leader, one of the things this client strives to build in others is authenticity. He believes that those on his team are at their best when they show up and reveal who they really are. It’s an admirable aspiration, and not always one people find easy to practice in the workplace today.

As tends to happen, the brief conversation led me to broader mental analysis. Clarity of our convictions and values, along with the congruence of “walking the talk,” is one of the things that makes us appear trustworthy in interpersonal relationships. Yet another component of trust is the ability to genuinely make others feel safe – safe to express themselves and their views, safe to contribute creatively without fear of ridicule or persecution. And that can’t happen when judgment is present.

There’s an obvious link between the suspension of judgment and the freedom of others to be who they are. If you believe, as I do, that most of us have positive intent and are fundamentally loving and compassionate creatures, being “who we are” is a supreme opportunity. In fact, in practice it might just change the world.

So back to the view my client and I share. We both strive to understand as well as allow the paths those around us choose. What he has more fully mastered (and I strive for daily) is the ability to love others even in light of what he might view as a flaw (or even a sin). If that sounds corny or trite, forgive me, as I do not have other words for it.

When I feel criticized, I am usually guilty of the same. Imagine what would happen if, when we feel judged or even persecuted for our views, we allow those around us to be as they are and we simply walk in our own integrity. Imagine that.