Sun Sep 01 2019

Kindness is something that I’ve been thinking a lot more about recently.

I personally define kindness as being somewhere in the middle between empathy and patience - I don’t believe it’s possible to have one without the other. An empathetic person without patience may not be able to properly hear out the depth of a situation, nor would a patient person without empathy be able to connect multiple, foreign experiences back to their own. Only when we have both can we really begin to identify the quality of kindness.

In our modern society, we are constantly espousing kindness through various mediums, yet it somehow feels hollow. I’d like to believe that it is a result of a lack of empathy in those messages. The patient nudging of everyone to be kind is fantastic, of course; but without any real empathetic virtue backing the messaging, it simply falls flat.

It may be important to suggest that kindness is a practice, rather than an action. It should be a focused, deliberate practice, with the intent of being able to at least deeply understand another person. By treating kindness as a practice, as opposed to an act, it’s enough of a shift in meaning, which should allow us find opportunities to be kind.

I’m musing over the concept of kindness because I’ve felt that kindness is severely lacking in the tech industry. I suspect that the nature of our work lends itself to being relatively unkind - in tech, either the output is correct or it isn’t, so kindness doesn’t have any place there. This lack of kindness, in my opinion, begins a slow descent into incrementally optimizing each part of our lives. Within in the tech industry, even in non-technical roles, there seems to be swaths of people clamoring to min-max their lifestyles to achieve as much efficiency as possible. Popular small talk revolves around boosting efficiency, getting into “flow”, and producing as much “deep work” as possible. Our lives become not something to be lived and experience, but to be gamed, with our income and arbitrary work-related metrics reflecting our relative high scores.

I don’t believe this should be the case.

I firmly believe that we have an obligation to be kind to ourselves, especially those of us in the tech industry. We should be able to enjoy the small, fleeting moments that bring us joy, in spite of how embarrassing or mundane they may be. We should be able to enjoy the conversations we have with others, both familiar and strange, and feel a sense of companionship when we share our burdens with each other.

For the technically oriented, I believe that being able to understand the depths of human experience will help us design better technical solutions. I find that most technical solutions are mainly designed for the computer and other technical folk in mind - the average end user is usually an afterthought. But designing for more inclusive solutions is important! It shows that we care, and that can be a reason why someone continues to use your solution instead of a competitor.

I’m looking to expand my practice of kindness. The subject is near and dear to my heart; and the few days where I have actively practiced kindness have shown me some soul-enriching experiences.

To a kinder world.