Kindness is a bit of a dirty word in HR. People talk endlessly about team working and relationship building. I imagine this is to distance themselves from what that actually entails. We want to sound rational, pragmatic and business-like. Well, that doesn’t mean you can’t be kind.
Often when I say I work in HR the person asking looks uncomfortable when I tell them what I do. The same reaction that the police get when they reveal their profession. The person asking feels guilty even if they haven’t done anything. It inhibits conversation. Another reaction is that HR are watchers; they are on a separate team to the rest of the organisation. I often wonder what experiences they have had of HR to make them feel like that. Surely if we are kind, they would approach us differently. They would know we are worth talking to because of our consideration and respect. They would feel the love (and no, I am not going to say valued, because it makes them sound like a well-loved sofa).
Often trouble in relationships happens because we feel misunderstood and disrespected. Somehow that superior so and so facing you, who has made a thoughtless remark, has made you feel so insignificant that the valuable thoughts you have never get expressed.
This makes me angry. What a waste and a lost opportunity to learn something new. The most important thing to me is that I learn. Now I read, I study but that isn’t always the same as learning from another human beings experience face to face. That is when I feel most alive (apart from when I actually get a yoga pose right). It is when another human being knows that they are understood, and more than that are really cherished for who they really are. It can be too easy to hide at work. Not really, be your true self for fear of offending or of being wrong in front of a bunch of people who won’t hesitate to tell you that you are.
It’s like that feeling when about two minutes after a moment has happened in a conversation you realise that you had the perfect answer but it’s just too late to say it. If you are given enough space in a conversation, and the other person makes you feel unrushed, your opinion comes forward unforced and fully formed.
So listening, time for the other person, these all make a difference in showing that you wish the other person well. What else? Another dirty word coming up…… humility. I realise that I know so little. So although sometimes I don’t want to make an effort, I know I have to because of how little I know. Some days not making an effort can seem very attractive though. So many people want so many different things from us. It can be more comfortable to stick with the list of things to do and not go the extra mile it sometimes takes.
I suppose the example that comes to mind for myself is when I was due to have a conversation with someone who was extremely slow at delivering work. Everyone liked her, when she did deliver what she delivered was great. It just took too long. I had the morning from hell and really just wanted to escape at lunch with a copy of Hello and some chocolate. Anyway, I promised to meet her so we began our chat. She looked like she would love not to be talking to me too. We talked about deadlines and time management and all the stuff that you are supposed to and when I looked at her, I could see that she was nursing a secret. So I just looked at her and said that I thought she seemed really unhappy and no one wanted that. She was well respected and liked and we were just sad we weren’t helping her. Then one solitary tear escaped her eyes and she told me. She was dyslexic. She’d never told anyone apart from her husband. We talked about how she had been managing and I was in awe of how she had coped. Obviously, the practicalities took a while to get to grips with but the thing she said after the conversation stayed with me.
She looked me in the eye and said ‘You’re kind you are. That’s why I told you.’
Well obviously I’m not all the time but boy was I glad I wasn’t found wanting on that occasion. I didn’t assume anything about what her problem was. I just said that I wanted to help.
So next time you have an opportunity to be kind give it a go. It works.
Julia McFarland has worked in HR for 30 years and is still learning!