⚖️ Honesty vs Kindness: a 25-year study

do you have to choose?

“A woman checked into the hospital to have a tonsillectomy, and the surgical team erroneously removed a portion of her foot.

How could this tragedy happen? In fact, why is it that nearly 200,000 hospital deaths in the United States each year stem from human error?

In part because many healthcare professionals are afraid to speak their minds.

In this case, no less than seven people wondered why the surgeon was working on the foot, but said nothing.

Meaning didn’t flow freely because people were afraid to speak up.”

- Crucial Conversations, page 25

The authors of this same book did a 25-year study of 20,000 employees to figure out what makes a great leader.

They'd go to an organization and simply ask team members who the most influential leaders were at their organizations.

Oddly enough, their nominations always lead back to individuals who seemed very... ordinary.

Their very first case study was a guy named Kevin.

After following Kevin for a week, they could not figure out why his team members chose him.

Day in and day out, there didn't seem to be anything special about him - until a meeting was called.

Everyone gathered to discuss where the company headquarters would be moved to.

Pretty quickly, the CEO suggested moving it to his hometown (even though that was obviously a terrible choice).

Everyone could tell he was not thinking about what was best for the company, and a few posed questions or doubts on the idea - which were instantly shot down by the CEO.

He raised his voice a bit and reaffirmed this was the best choice.

Then Kevin spoke up.

He didn't yell. He didn't throw a fit. He didn't call names.

Instead, he asked, "Can I check something with you real quick?"

In the most respectful and kind way possible, Kevin explained that it seemed like the CEO was violating his own policies for decision-making and stifling the discussion.

After a (probably very intense) silence, the CEO said "You're right. I apologize for trying to force my will on everyone. Let's try this again."

And just like that, the entire trajectory of the company was altered by a single well-worded and tactfully-posed question.

Kevin was a leader simply because he was the only one who refused to make what the authors call, "the fool's choice".

You’ve probably experienced sharing your honest feelings before and seeing that person choose to take offense and have hurt feelings.

So despite your moral compass valuing honesty AND kindness, past experience says "being honest isn't kind".

Kevin showed clear as day how it's possible, even in tense corporate situations, to be both kind AND honest.

(and have a seriously positive outcome)

The researchers went on to find hundreds and even thousands more individuals like Kevin at organizations around the world.

We can improve EVERY relationship in our life when we stop asking "should I tell the truth, or be nice?"...

...and instead start asking “how can I be 100% honest, and 100% kind?”

Next time you're in a tough conversation and find yourself about to make the fool's choice, PAUSE.

Breathe for a few seconds.

Consider how you could say what you need to say while also staying as kind and respectful as possible.

Like anything, it'll take practice.

As you make it a habit though, you'll feel lighter and freer as you realize you can express yourself openly while maintaining good relationships.

In fact, you might be surprised how much people appreciate your kind honesty.

When people purposefully withhold meaning from one another, individually smart people can do collectively stupid things.

Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron Mcmillan, and Al Switzler (authors of Crucial Conversations)

What the holy!

I just made up that word.

Thanks for reading!

- Kody

profile pic

P.S. I love this new song!