I owe this phrase to John Kerry whom I had the privilege of seeing on his London tour promoting his latest book ‘Every Day is Extra’
He was making a point. Our dislike for the other, the one who does not think like us, wear like us, pray like is, looks like us ,is something that we learn. We are not born haters. Our tribal membership comes later. It is learnt, not in the DNA. Un-learning is hard but not impossible.
We could start by suspending judgement. Perhaps putting ourselves in somebody else’s shoes. See the world differently.
I am not Pollyanna. All this is not straight forward. I am very intolerant for some things and very tolerant for others. I often surprise myself a posteriori. Why did I get so irritated with that incredible piece of mediocrity, and was so casual about that person who did not deliver? It’s all in my mind, my mental frames.
The world is more polarised than ever. Them and us. Me and the rest. Intolerance is growing. I find solace and comfort in places or institutions that could not simply survive without tolerance and care. The Health Service is one of those places. We criticise the systems, the delays, the bureaucracies, and rightly so. But these places are factories of kindness and compassion. Christian churches are other. Beleaguered sometimes, unfashionable frequently, their soups in the food banks of the streets of rich cities, still go daily with a smile and no questions.
I have a theory, a semi-Pollyanna one, perhaps. Many of our business organizations, where we spend most of our time, could be incubators of those values of tolerance and respect. Many of those organizations have ‘respect’ in their value system. Respect breeds listening; listening brings new ideas; new ideas bring business success. Do you want me to calculate an ROI for this? I can do it in 5 min.
And what would be the ROI of kindness for society?
Good and bad habits are formed at work. Work is the school of values for the rest of the day. Good or bad. Work is a gym for behaviours. If you want diversity, start with diversity of ideas, then you’ll get to other diversities. If you want equality, start with universal respect to others in the organization, then you will get to other equalities.
All this, many years after you hated the broccoli . Maybe that was the beginning. But it does not have to be the end.