People are different. Sometimes opposites. Thankfully!
How we interact, connect and navigate those differences is the tricky part.
This post is about empathy, kindness and the often erroneous notion that being kind or non-confrontational equates to being weak, or even fake.
Don't get me wrong, fake empathy exists and it is really not empathy. It is a strategy or just civility. I confess it sometimes rubs me the wrong way. The compassionate words that comes with a price tag, an ulterior motive of a quid pro quo advantage may dilute trust and authenticity. Empty empathy disconnected to any feelings, preferably alongside a proposal of action in solidarity can be simply someone trying to feel good about themselves, or a reassuring "I did my part" response to a societal rule. Polite is indeed nice, but kind is even better.
However, some skeptics - by birth or by pain - frown and dismiss genuine kindness and curiosity as an impossible trait. They may reject, ignore or even push back when someone is kind to them. Jaded or not, the closed mind and the locked heart sometimes fail to accept a sweet word, a helping hand, a compliment or even reciprocate a "good morning" (it happened to me in elevators many times, and yes, they heard it).
What drives a defensive or aggressive attitude towards kindness? Is it assertiveness, criticism (self and towards others) or fear, disguised as straightforwardness? No-nonsense, drive, grumpiness, detachment, defense mechanism, stress, or a plain mean reaction? Bluntness is usually seen as synonym for sincerity, and kindness as sugar coating - but is it always so? Each case is different, each interaction unique and each person will give you a different version, of course.
I admire straightforward people, straight shooters who know how to focus and direct their goals appreciating everyone's time. They are the ones who generally won't betray or disappoint, what you see is what you get. Nothing wrong with that. But that doesn't mean there is no room in them for change, growth, listening and... kindness. Most will be open to that, to listen and benefit from interactions with people of a different style. Complementing each other and finding balance, that can make for a very interesting friendship, or professional relationship.
Speaking your truth?
You don't have to brutally honest to be fully honest. Again, if you don't build internal walls, stumble upon fake empathy, or immediately see the red road sign "weak person ahead", you can easily spot the sincerity in the kind delivery package. Empaths know how to argue too. The can get feisty, tough, assertive, passionate, take a stand and fight for their beliefs as much as anyone else.
Kindness does not exclude resilience. It is often born from it.
The strength that comes from opening up to possible rejection and offering your empathy, or choosing to pick your battles and turn a confrontation into a dialogue for a greater good is pretty impressive. It comes from a place of needing to connect with another human in a deeper level. "Needy," some may say. "Brilliant," others may conclude.
I hope this post provoked some thinking and self-awareness, not matter your personality type. Being empathetic, honest, and open can fit all types. Anyone can be a great kind of kind, in their own way.