Be kind or be right: What’s your choice?

You’ve heard it, right? That tug of war inside your head when you have to decide which is a better road to take?

About sixΒ weeks ago, I was trying to teach my daughter something in math and was getting exceedingly frustrated by the fact that she couldn’t understand such a simple formula. In exasperation, I remarked: “You know, I’ve taught so many students and have never faced this kind of resistance from any of them. Not once!”

In a quiet voice, she remarked: Did they like you?

Kind or right- what do you choose

Stung by the implication, I got up and walked away, not trusting myself to answer the question, perhaps worried that I wouldn’t be able to face myself as a result.

Time passed and as my thoughts returned to the topic, it appeared as if she were right. I was so insistent on being right and having things done right where she was concerned, that I’d given up kindness in favour of being right.

As it turned out, that seemed to have seeped a good deal into my social media persona as well and the realisation shook me.

As a blogger/ writer/editor, I don’t always read with my heart, especially when it concerns written material online or in books. Let me explain.

If I love a book/author, the writing will reel me in, hold me in a vice and not let me put the book down until I’ve devoured every sentence on every page and can breathe the essence of the work into my being. Here, the heart holds sway.

If, however, a piece doesn’t speak to me or is badly written, poorly edited and turns me off, I confess that I feel anything but kindness towards the writer. That’s the head at work. It’s also another reason I rarely do book reviews on my blog. A part of me wants to steer clear of wilfully hurting someone through my words.

For a long time, I justified this by saying that this is necessary and to a large extent, as an editor, it still is. In good faith, I cannot let a badly-written copy pass on to the published page. The same is true of myself as a blogger.

But, as a reader, I must distinguish the head from the heart. It’s imperative that IΒ try and read for the effort and perhaps skim over errors here and there, if the writer has taken a piece of her soul and put it down for the world to see. That takes courage, more than we care to admit.

So, as I see it, there are four quadrants to the kind/right permutation.

Kind or right quadrant

A) Being kind but not right: This is where we’re usually trying to make people feel better butΒ we’re actually wrong in our assessment.

B) Being right but not kind: Here, you’re obviously right, but you’ve got a bad way of showing it.

C) Being neither kind nor right: This is the worst probably and is best evidenced by troll-like behaviour on social media.

D) Being both kind and right: This is ideal and probably the most easy/difficult thing to get right depending on who you are.

I find myself staring down that fork in the path almost everyday now.Β It’s a truth universally acknowledged that everyone today has an opinion and doesn’t shy away from expressing it. Well, that’s what we bloggers use as an excuse to say what we have to say, most of the time.

If I had to be honest, I’d say I mostly fall in the ‘B’ quadrant but keep aspiring to be in ‘D’. Perhaps , with practise and conscious mindfulness, I can be there more often: the kind category, always. Because, as Wayne Dyer said:

Wayne Dyer quote

So, tell me, given a choice, what would you choose?

Being kind or being right or both?

48 thoughts on “Be kind or be right: What’s your choice?

  1. I might sound stupid but I dont see a co-relation between kind and right. I dont have to be unkind to be right. If my client is wrong, I’ll kindly tell him so. I don’t have to be rude. Similarly, if I need to discipline my nieces, sometimes one has to be strict but doesn’t have to be cruel (opp of kind, for me). I don’t know of this is making any sense to you.

    1. Yes it does make sense. But,my point is this: Do we always pause and think before we react or respond to something? My guess is No. We do most of it on instinct. So while we’d ideally like to be kind all the time, sometimes it doesn’t happen. Cultivating it as a habit helps, is what I have found.

  2. Hi shailaja, lovely post as usual

    I am not qualified to talk about book reviews…but on the aspect of being kind or right…I think for me it is very case dependent….in my job 95% of the time I will be in B quadrant….with my personal equations I try to be in D quadrant but end up being in B mostly…with daughter I have chosen to be in the A qudrant when I am in thick of things and explain the right stuff to her….I know its sounding complicated but its all about the situation and the audience you are dealing with that should determine our reaction I think…

    1. Very well put, Gowri. I agree we can’t always be in the same quadrant for every situation, not when we have jobs that depend on our being firm and right, of course πŸ™‚ The audience is usually the best determinant but we need to balance it with our own personality as well. Thank you so much for reading!

  3. I don’t know where I fit in either. But I guess, I am kind and honest, esp when it comes to reviewing a book.
    Such a thought provoking post, Mam. I am still thinking which quadrant I belong to.

  4. So far, I have reviewed only four books on my blog. The fifth one will be up soon. And the person that I am, I prefer to be kind and rightmost of the time. Hence, I point out the negatives to the author privately and also subtly mention it on the blog post to help the readers. But I guess not many authors take criticism positively. Hence I rarely review books. I also prefer to purchase my copy instead of taking a free copy from the author which makes me obliged to him/her.

    1. Nobody takes criticism positively is what I have realised especially on the Indian author scene πŸ™ It’s a waste of time because they don’t pay heed anyway. I like the idea of purchasing too. I received a couple of books for review but I was honest with them. Haven’t applied for any more after that, though. Just felt too stressed about the whole process.

  5. Gy’s response is no natural, I liked it! Sometimes, children say something that makes you thinking, really deep, sometimes.

    I am, naturally, kind, even to those who have not been so kind to me. I know it’s not smart but I can’t help it. It takes a lot to enable arrogance and rudeness. But, I do believe that being right is important, even when we are dealing with children. Yes, keeping the touch of kindness is equally important.

    For book reviews, I write them honest. I can’t help it, yet again. I know it takes a lot of hard work in writing and publishing a book but there’re lots of good books, and we can’t call an average book ‘oh, so nice!’ Here, being right works. Being nice would be misleading. For kindness, I avoid being harsh/blunt.

    1. Agree that book reviews must be honest. I am too brutally honest there so I don’t trust myself to be kind there anymore. Which is why I stopped writing them. I admire those of you who can be honest and not say something for the sake of it. Truly an art. πŸ™‚

  6. I think I’m kind most of the times. Even when I have a difference of opinion I try not to push my opinion down somebody’s throat. But over the years I learned when the reverse happens showing kindness is unkind towards me. A lot of incidents are flowing inside my mind as I type this. The choice of Kind and Right changes with circumstance too, right? With my kid I am always kind first, letting him do his mistakes and encouraging him to learn from those. Now with my husband, I am never kind and always right. πŸ˜‰ It’s annoying, yeah! πŸ™‚ Thought provoking this one, Shailaja. Thanks to Gy. πŸ™‚

    1. I used to be that way with the husband but 15 years later, things have changed, I am glad to say. Now I am more happy with the pleasant disagreements we have whereas earlier I’d be yelling to make my point heard. Yes, Gy does come up with my best writing prompts πŸ˜‰

  7. Your post made me think about my self and take a step back to look at my actions. I am most of the times, kind. I want to be right and sometimes I get a chance to be that but where I don’t. I end up being kind. Here’s how I would put this behavior – I think kindness will be remembered and being right could be just a matter of perspective. Your right could be my wrong kind of philosophy. When I read something that doesn’t appeal to me, I would still be kind and may be put in right words softly. I think I am the same when I talk to. Gosh! As I said, I am thinking about myself through out post. What a fabulous proposition you got there!

    1. I think it’s important to examine ourselves at every turn as you say, Parul. We are after all living in a society and based on each situation we must decide if kindness or being right is more important πŸ™‚

  8. Your write up reminded me of a poem I had written earlier.
    Mother’s Dilemma

    “When all she knows is to love and care and love again
    She comes across as one says love and care
    Her mathematics of love and care all wrong…..
    In spite of herself, in spite of her will
    she hurts more than she loves
    in her effort to love and care.”

    Appreciate your self -introspective approach.

  9. I veer between A, B and D. I’d like to be a D always but I’m more often kind than right – I think. As always I’m struck by how insightful Gy is. How on earth does she come up with statements like these that can stump adults and make us all really think.

    1. She is like that everyday and at some point I know I am going to be even more stumped. But she is kind so I need to keep emulating that from her. You are always kind, so stop with the veering πŸ˜‰

  10. I’m not sure where I ‘fit’ in that quadrant, actually. Perhaps on the line between Quadrants B & D.
    As a general rule of thumb, I try to be kind to everyone. Even my enemies, and stupidly even to people who have literally reached into my chest and pulled my heart out.
    However, when it comes to the ‘written word’, I’m not always so kind. I used to be and I still try and keep it balanced when I have to talk about someone’s writing; It all comes down to the wording you use, but as experience has shown, sometimes that can really stab you too.

    However, being kind alone while giving feedback to writers is sort of what set off this circle of poorly written articles and blogs. At least I think so. So maybe we just need to be kind enough to give them the truth.

    1. Amen to that. I still doubt it will change things drastically though considering how people like to hide behind convenience and ‘I blog not to improve my language.’ Then why blog? I don’t get it.

  11. This was so insightful and honest, but your posts always are! I think you are simply amazing to be able to analyze such a complex behavioral pattern into such a simple thing as quadrants. I agree that D is pretty aspirational, but that is just what we need to aim for. Isn’t spreading a little love, even undeserved at times a good thing?

  12. You know honestly, I don’t think ‘D’ can be a type at all. It is all wrong. I clearly am ‘B’ and I have no qualms about being so. Like you said once you have invested your time and have read a badly written piece, the last thing you feel is kindness. Pity, maybe.

    It is not that I cannot be kind, but if I have to choose between being kind and writing what exactly I felt, I’ll always choose the latter. Trying to sugar coat words to show case as kindness is something I don’t know. Even if I did, I would not do it because it takes away the person I am from it. I can’t fake it, and so can’t my writing.

    The ‘D’ type is something that can never exist. If it does then it clearly is contradictory.

    1. D can be a type, perhaps not in book reviews though πŸ˜‰ I know for a fact that my dad is always kind and right. It doesn’t earn him many fans though I am a great believer in kind and honest critique. You, my dear are made of different material and I love you for that πŸ™‚

  13. I sort of oscillate between the B and C categories. However, I want to be in category A. I cannot be right all the time; in fact, as a human, I will be wrong more often. And I want to learn to gracefully accept when I am wrong.

    I am working on being kind to people who don’t subscribe to my school of thought either, even if I have tried what they are trying and it hasn’t work. Lately in my desire to be right, I have compromised on modesty and humility, which has led to an ego the size of the Himalayas. It’s important to remember that many times, when we will be on the other side of the fence, people will extend this kindness to us. Hence, they deserve it too.

    P.S. Gy already sounds like one of the most intelligent children I have known πŸ™‚

    1. Now I know how people feel when their comment doesn’t go through! This is the third time I am typing this on my own site πŸ˜‰

      I actually like your choice, Vishal! I like the fact that you choose to acknowledge that one cannot be right all the time. That’s hard for most people to admit. As for the times that I am right, I hope to do it kindly from here on. We never know when we will need kindness in return. God knows we can use all of it.

      May Gy also grow with a lot of kindness. We need that more today πŸ™‚

  14. Being kind and right is the most desirable, of course. But often we all tip over to being right and not kind. This is exactly the lesson I’ve been trying to drill in my children. It can be annoying if someone keeps correcting you all the time. Not only in writing and blogging, this equation has the large ramifications in life as well. Over the years I’ve tried to tone the tendency to have the last word because I know that I am right. Sometimes winning isn’t all there is to life. I had a friend during my MBA. He was very sharp in financial concepts. I used to reach out to him very often. His most sterling quality was how he would explain without any superiority and with compassion. A rare quality because I see myself faltering with the same frustration that you feel with Gy. So much to learn we still have, my dear. Love the post!

    1. That person you speak of reminds me of my dad. He’s exactly like that in giving critique: helpful but kind. I have tried to be like that with my students actually so not a total failure. But as a parent I tend to be very short tempered and impatient with Gy. I know it’s not ideal and am working on it. The last month has been far better than the previous 9 years put together πŸ˜‰

      Thank you for reading. As always πŸ™‚

  15. I think I end up being kind over right more often than not. I have tried the reverse – to be right over kind and sufficed to say, it doesn’t end well πŸ™‚

    But there is a definite logic to it – sometimes the truth needs to be told even if it stings. I guess it comes down to the recipient too, right?

    1. I can’t imagine you being anything other than kind, Roshan πŸ™‚ Even meeting you I was assured of that! Then again we will have people taking offence at how we breathe these days so I don’t blame you for choosing kindness. Safer for us in the long run πŸ˜€

  16. Unless asked I don’t provide feedback… including book reviews. I have done few book reviews in the past. The struggle between heart and mind is difficult to resolve. These days I go ga ga over books I like, but the ones I don’t, I don’t even mention them . So I guess I like to remain kind than right. I can’t imagine what it must be for editors, to review and provide feedback, good or bad, with blunt honesty. I wonder if diplomacy works in this case? Or do they get hate mails from authors? πŸ™‚

    1. Ah, unless asked. I love that! Something I need to keep in mind more often to be honest. My grammar antennae go up and I automatically assume people want to be corrected and send out messages. Must stop doing that! As an editor I actually am quite merciless and snip and cut stuff down like crazy and I’m not sorry about it either. It helps in a tightly written piece. As a reader, ah, more moderation. Yes.

  17. I have barely done any book reviews and I totally get what it means! Being kind is the easiest way, but that welcomes a lot of guilt if not done right. Moreover, I don’t feel I’m the right person to review someone’s work, who is much more experienced than me. I read very less, and same with the books, neither is my writing a marvelous one and nor is my knowledge about it like a huge wide ocean, so yeah, I keep my hands off the book reviews. But the question you have raised is universal. It happens in so many situations. I get the fourth option looks fine, but again, choosing that and being able to make out this is the one!!

    Hush! too much confusion I guess!


    1. Ha ha I know exactly what you mean in terms of the dilemma. Yes, it’s hard being kind and right all the time. That’s not going to happen and if it did, universally, the world would be perfect and let’s face it. That’s never going to happen. What might help is we moderate our responses in general and say things only if we are sure that giving criticism is valid and justified and more importantly you’re willing to face the consequences of the said action.

  18. I love how you’ve dissected the proposition. I have been guilty of sometimes thinking with my mind – but once Vidur came along, I had no choice but to always choose kindness. I daresay my Mom was mighty pleased, because she always believed kindness ruled and love was the answer no matter what the question.

    I can only imagine your feelings when Gy. asked you that simple question. πŸ™‚ Missed your soulful sunday πŸ™‚

    1. I do notice that you are always kind and knowing you offline I know that’s true of you as a person too, not just on social media. Yes, LOVE is the answer to everything and I cannot help but agree. Wish my mind listened more often to my heart and I am sure it will. Soon and perhaps more easily too.

  19. This is a decision that I need to make – more often than I like. Every single time, I write a book review – there is this struggle between my head and my heart.

    This is also the reason – I take a long time to write a review, and I personally review the review – several times, to check if I am crossing a line.

    Honestly, I would like to be RIGHT and KIND every single time, but that is never going to happen. Also, who determines what is right? I might be honest- but not right.

    My aim is – honest, yet kind. But that is not easy to achieve either. So, I still go ahead and write my criticism, but ensure it is politely worded (from my POV, as polite as I can be). There is no such thing as a perfect balance, but I try. At the end of the day, that is all I can do.

    1. As I discussed with you, I completely empathise with you on this. It cannot be easy when you have to balance being right and honest with being kind, all the time. As an editor I know how hard it is to send feedback to someone saying their work sucks. But I grit my teeth and do it. Kindly. I also realise this has been built up as a result of my own ability to take hard criticism and take it on the chin, like a champ. So, if people misunderstand you (as they most likely will) there isn’t much you can do about it.

  20. I would always pick kind over being right. I do find men love to be right all the time. My hubs and one of my sons come to mind in that regard. And they’re not always kind about it and get so adamant about proving that they’re right. Let it go, I say. Kindness always wins out in my opinion.

    I must admit that sloppy, typo-ridden writing gets me annoyed, too and gets my anal editor in a flap. That’s when Kind Cate needs to step in and soften anal editor from being too mean. I don’t like it when people treat me that way. Empathy sure does help.

    Interesting analysis of the four quadrants of the kind/right permutation. Never thought about it in those terms. You are always so thought provoking, Shailaja and make me see something in a new way.

    1. I love what you said about ‘I don’t like being treated that way’. That’s exactly how I feel when I am shut down or made to feel bad about myself for my choices, whatever they are. If I am wrong, tell me nicely and I might listen. Be mean and chances are I will dig my heels in and be even worse at the task. Lose-lose situation, if you ask me.

  21. I would always pick kind over being right. I do find men love to be right all the time. My hubs and one of my sons come to mind in that regard. And they’re not always kind about it and get so adamant about proving that they’re right. Let it go, I say. Kindness always wins out in my opinion.

    I must admit that sloppy, typ0-ridden writing gets me annoyed, too and gets my anal editor in a flap. That’s when Kind Cate needs to step in and soften anal editor from being too mean. I don’t like it when people treat me that way. Empathy sure does help.

    Interesting analysis of the four quadrants of the kind/right permutation. Never thought about it in those terms. You are always so thought provoking, Shailaja and make me see something in a new way.

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