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Strength in Kindness

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”  

—Mark Twain

Historically, kindness has been mistaken for weakness. Only recently have we discovered the true superpower of kindness and how helpful this soft skill is when we’re communicating, negotiating, and even playing poker. 

Misconceptions

From a young age, boys are taught to be tough, while girls are taught to be sweet. This conditioning plays into the false narrative that women are the weaker sex. Further programming and influence from family, school, and religious institutions over the years reinforce this notion. Ever wonder why you see so many men at the poker table? Maybe because women are believed to be too nice to play. 

The entertainment industry also plays a role in convincing us that it’s weak to be kind. It goes out of its way to make the tough guy — yes, it’s usually a man — the hero. Kind characters are always portrayed as the ones that need rescuing and, unfortunately, these are usually women.

The business world has not been keen on tenderness. That’s slowly changing, but for far too long, climbing the corporate ladder meant getting comfortable and even welcoming words like “ruthless” and “cutthroat” as active descriptors. There’s a reason people don’t list kindness in the special skills section of their resumes.

Even looking at our current state of politics lays bare the perception that kind people are weak. Political bullies are often celebrated and their so-called toughness is used as successful fundraising fodder. Any public figure or supporter espousing kindness is trolled through social media as weak.  

It’s time to change this perception of warmth in society. This starts by educating people on what the attribute really entails and dispelling the notion that because they tend to be kind, women are more emotional than men.

Are women more emotional than men? 

When people ask why are women so emotional,  they are assuming long-held stereotypes are true. In fact, new research has debunked that outdated stereotype.

The differences in emotional responses from men and women tend to lie in the area of expression. While women are not necessarily more emotional, they are more adept at reading emotional signals than men. Why is this? To quote Lady Gaga, “baby, we were born this way.” 

Studies have proven that women’s brains are naturally hard-wired to practice quick emotional evaluation, whereas men’s are prone to less emotional evaluation. When it comes to emotional competence and understanding facial expressions, women outperform men every time. Being able to read someone’s poker face is a powerful strength to have on the felt and in business. Keeping up with someone’s tells is vital in your personal and professional life too. 

So the truth is that some women are more emotional than men, and some men are more emotional than women. And there’s nothing wrong with either. 

Setting the stage

Real kindness comes from a place of strength, not weakness. It requires a high level of personal integrity and honesty. The kindest thing you can do is tell a person the truth in a gentle, direct manner, and sometimes this can take all of our courage. What happens next is a miraculous thing. You earn the respect of that person. Honesty and integrity are not signs of weakness, they’re incredible examples of strength.

Empathy is another characteristic of kindness, and it’s becoming one of the highest-rated qualities people look for in a leader. In a recent report from Catalyst, 76% of employees surveyed said they experienced a higher level of engagement when they witnessed their leaders displaying empathy. 

Empathy gives you the ability to open up to other people and make them comfortable enough to open up to you. It challenges you to learn new things and look at the world differently. It takes a person that is strong in who they are to display a level of vulnerability that makes them empathetic. 

Kind people also tend to be trustworthy people, which is another amiable quality. Honoring your promises and staying true to your word takes discipline and consideration for the other person’s feelings. It takes a lot more strength to keep a secret, a promise, or a commitment than to bail on someone that’s counting on you.

Fostering relationships

Now that you understand why kindness is not weakness, you can use it as your superpower. Mother Theresa did. Princess Diana certainly did. Oprah? Yeah, her too. These powerful women yielded kindness as a shield of honor, and nobody ever described them as weak or asked why these women were “so emotional.”

There is strength in kindness, especially when it comes to communication and negotiation. In a recent article, writer Emma Seppala quotes Harvard Business School’s Amy Cuddy on kindness and leadership. 

“Leaders who project warmth —even before establishing their competence —are more effective than those who lead with their toughness and skill,” Cuddy stated. “Why? One reason is trust. Employees feel greater trust with someone who is kind.”

Kindness can also set the stage for strong negotiation and encourage favorable outcomes. When things get tense, the person remaining calm and kind holds all the cards. They’re the ones that can bring down the temperature in a heated discussion. The person being difficult, condescending, or using bullying tactics is operating from a position of insecurity and weakness. The person displaying kindness is negotiating from a position of power. 

Each time you pull up a seat at the poker table, you’ll have the chance to meet others from all walks of life. Someone with a valuable experience worth knowing, a funny story worth hearing, or a meaningful lesson worth learning. Poker is inherently competitive, but there’s always room for kindness at the table. Whether you’re bluffing, playing your best hand, or folding, the dialogue that happens in between can make a difference to you and your opponent. Most of us go to the table to practice, to play, to win, but what if, once in a while, we went to the table to start a conversation? Maybe to network? Maybe to build a connection? At Poker Power, we’re creating a space for women to find strength in their kindness while sharpening their other superpowers. Join our community of smart, talented, and extraordinary women when you sign up for our free online poker lessons.

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