expertise, creativity, and kindness? are you kidding?

Creedo by GM

Mean people suck.

We’ve all seen this line, right? There is even a movie with this title and it’s true: mean people do suck. But how often do we put up with them just because it is easier than calling them on it, or because we need something only they can provide?

Seth Godin recently wrote a post stating the time has come for this to end. In “The End of the Diva Paradox,” Seth writes:

The traditional scarcity model implied some sort of inverse relationship between service and quality. Not for service businesses like hotels, of course, but for the other stuff. If someone was truly gifted, of course they didn’t have the time or focus to also be kind or reasonable or good at understanding your needs. A diva was great partly because, we decided, she was a jerk.

When I see it stated like that I think what a fool was I to buy that kind of thinking, but it was the norm. Could that be changing? I have had reason to spend a lot of time in the company of medical specialists this year, and the Diva Doctor and their staff are alive and well.  As Seth puts it:

Great surgeons don’t need to be respectful or have a talented, kind or alert front desk staff. They’re great at the surgery part, and you’re not here for the service, you’re here to get well (if you believe that the surgery part is what matters). In fact, gruffness might be a clue to their skill for some.

I have to admit I bought into that thinking when I was choosing an Oncologist, but after several months of conflicting information, unreturned phone calls, poor service AND attitude, I am changing my tune.

Seth believes the time has come when scarcity of expertise is no longer an issue, and consequently bad behavior need not be tolerated for it. It seems to me that in the medical profession especially, kindness should be required. After all, if you are dealing with someone who feels poorly to begin with, how is being mean or just plain arrogant an asset?

On the flip side of this, feeling poorly can make one be less than their best. I can attest to this and so can my husband. However, when it comes to my work, I make sure that I am able to put on a smile and treat the people I deal with respectfully. It is not an option, in my opinion. I think I see evidence of this way of being spreading as Seth believes.

For example, this morning Steve and I were watching an interview with Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney of The Black Keys. The question was asked how do they remain humble in the face of fame? Auerbach said his family wouldn’t tolerate anything else. Why should they? Why should anyone? Are the days of rock stars trashing hotel rooms and requesting only green M&Ms over?

The “mission” in my photo up there was in the office of a neurosurgeon I saw recently. I was treated well in that office, and I love the mission, however I would like to see kindness be the norm without direction.

I would like to believe we can abolish mean people everywhere, but I don’t think that will happen.

In the blogosphere and artosphere, like anywhere else, we see both sides of this story. However, I think it is time we require it of the people we deal with in business and service of any kind. I do know that the next time a receptionist yells at me on the phone I will ask them please to have more respect. I suppose the challenge lies in not putting up with it while maintaining your own good behavior. In other words, not sinking to their level as a retort.

Have you found yourself putting up with sub par behavior from professionals? In what ways could you respond differently without being mean?

4 thoughts on “expertise, creativity, and kindness? are you kidding?

  1. Thank you for this thoughtful post, Gwyn. First of all, let me send my best wishes for your healing process.
    Your article struck a chord with me. Both as a nurse, and as a patient, I have been on the receiving end of the Diva Doctor. Not fun. However, in the medical profession, kindness IS required. That really is the foundation of care. It is imperative that as consumers we expect it and point out where it is lacking. Remember, Medicine is an increasingly competitive field and patients are seen as consumers. We can choose not to procure services from providers who do not meet our standards of compassionate concern as well as excellence in skill — it is true that we do not have to settle for less.

  2. I know I can be rather abrupt sometimes at work. Unfortunately I tend to lose my patience when someone doesn’t follow my advice or direction and then winds up with a problem. Next time that happens I hope I will remember this post, take a deep breath, and try not to suck!

  3. What you say is sooo true. Kindness in the professional sector is scarce and when you are ill you need it from the medicos the most.
    Kindness costs nothing and yet many measure how good they are in monetary values. How wrong they are, they are so busy being bountiful and successful that they forget that they are flesh and blood like any other. I think these people lose the ability to empathise if they had it in the first place. Me, I empathise too much and tend to internalise rather than upset anyone, which is not good for my own health either. Balancing being kind to others and kind to oneself is the key to a good life. (now all I have to do is follow my my own advice) Good luck with your new specialist and I wish you well. I love your writings by the way, very inspirational. x

  4. Due to a job reduction, I had to change medical insurance this year. I went from a standard, old-style company to Kaiser, an HMO. Contrary to what I believed about HMOs, the service has been outstanding. I’ve gotten better care than I used to, for less money, and every single person I’ve interacted with has been kind, patient, and helpful. I don’t know why I’ve put up with less for so many years. And it does make a big difference in the bottom line (my health). Because I don’t want to avoid an unpleasant interaction, I’m more willing to do the things I need to do.

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