In a world of hostility and cut-throat competition, most founders keep to themselves. They build their businesses in stealth mode, get defensive when people question their ambition, and rarely contribute to their communities, afraid to be called out or receive the wrong kind of attention.
But is fear-based entrepreneurship truly the path you want to go down? Is holding back and fiercely protecting your secrets a sustainable way to build something that truly serves and empowers others?
I don’t think so. It’s time to stop hiding in the shadows. Instead, we all should aim to be the kindest person in the room.
Creators have understood this.
Showing appreciation and gratitude, offering help and support, and being genuine and authentic can all help to build trust and credibility — much more than having the logos of a few well-known enterprise brands on your landing page.
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Business is more and more about the people behind the products. Never before have we been so close to the creators of the things we use and consume. We now have a live feed into their decision-making processes, and with that level of access come many expectations. When we see the founders behind the solutions we use as honest contributors to the communities we’re in, we equate that with the seriousness of their business.
Kind People Doing Kind Things
Look at Justin Jackson and his business, Transistor.fm. Every day, Justin is out there on Twitter and Mastodon, helping freshly minted podcast hosts figure out their first steps. He talks about building a bootstrapped business in a highly competitive space just as much. That helps other aspiring founders with insights and solace in the fact that it’s a challenging journey at any point. Justin is always kind, even when he argues with his peers about the nuances of running a business or growing a podcast.
This kindness is why you likely heard of Justin long before I mentioned him. Justin isn’t just “yet another expert” in self-funded businesses or the podcasting world.
He’s a friendly, supportive, and uplifting contributor to the communities he serves and frequents.
Justin is the kindest person in the room wherever he goes.
That attracts not just reputation; it also attracts imitation and reciprocation: people around a kind person will act more kindly towards that person and everyone else around them.
That’s also how I feel about my fellow creator KP, whom I talked to this week. When KP talks, there is no pretense: he is always just himself, a kind and supportive entrepreneur on a mission to empower as many other founders as possible. This kindness lights up every room he’s in.
And it lights up the work that these wonderful people produce.
When people talk about Transistor.fm, they speak of a great product created by founders who care. They mention how accessible the founders are —a sign of community involvement— and how they seem to truly listen to their customers. When people work with KP, they can’t help sharing their experiences of empowerment and service.
Kindness begets kindness.
Kindness and Self-Promotion
And still, many founders struggle to talk about their work. They fear that promoting themselves and what they do will make them seem needy and unkind. But in the attention economy, that perspective is entirely wrong.
When you have something truly helpful to offer, sharing it is an act of kindness. If you have something that can improve someone’s life or a valuable experience to share, others should know about it. By sharing what you have to offer, you’re empowering them, and that’s a kind and generous thing to do.
But it’s essential to be honest about what you’re sharing. If you’re promoting a product or service that you know isn’t going to be helpful to others —you know, these money-making grifts we see on Twitter every day— that’s not kind. Neither is spreading misinformation that only serves you. In fact, it’s dishonest and unhelpful.
Self-promotion doesn’t have to be selfish. It can be selfless: aimed at helping and empowering those who need it the most. But it still needs to happen in public. “Build it, and they will come” is a dream. In reality, people need to —and want to— be told about what’s available to them.
If you have something valuable to offer, let others know about it. You can’t expect them to find you if you’re hiding in the shadows, so be sure to share your offering and be proud of it.
The Limits of Kindness
But not all public kindness will be met with friendly acknowledgment. Sometimes, people will respond with vitriol, cynicism, and hate.
That’s where kindness alone won’t be good enough anymore.
Tolerance ends where hostility begins. Don’t get me wrong: it’s important to be kind and understanding of others, but there comes the point where tolerance is no longer appropriate. When someone is being hostile or abusive, it’s not kind —to yourself and others— to continue to engage with them. It’s the old adage: they drag you down to their level and beat you with experience. In these situations, protecting yourself and others in your community is vital. Remember that you communicating in public shines a light not just on yourself but also on those you’re interacting with.
But you don’t need to ignore people at the slightest sign of malcontent. Showing empathy is the key to defusing negative exchanges before they derail into outright hostility. When someone is upset or angry, try to understand where they’re coming from. You can help calm the situation and find a resolution by showing empathy and understanding. Be patient and kind, even when dealing with difficult people. This might not save everyone out there from being a jerk. But it will give them the experience of being heard and respected, if only for a while.
And it should only ever be just for a while.
Sometimes, blocking someone is a kind act toward your community at large. If someone is being abusive or toxic, continuing to engage with them will allow negativity to seep into the social streams of those who follow you for your kindness. Take action to protect yourself and others in your community. Blocking (or just ignoring) a troll stops their negative behavior from continuing to harm others.
Unfortunately, not everyone will respond positively to kindness. Some people may take advantage of kindness or use it to manipulate others. In these situations, it’s important to set boundaries and protect yourself.
Negativity bias —the tendency to remember negative events much more vividly than positive ones— is a strong force that keeps people from being kind to others after witnessing someone’s resistance to it. But look at people like Justin Jackson and KP: their thoughts and actions have been met with negativity hundreds of times, yet they are still carrying on empowering and serving founders and creators alike, every single day.
That’s because they know who to listen to and who to ignore.
Be the kind of person you want to see more of in your communities. Being kind, supportive, and empathetic can create a more positive and inclusive environment for ourselves and others.
Kindness and Beyond
Kindness is a powerful force that can change the world around us. It’s a simple act of compassion and understanding that makes a profound difference in the lives of those we care about. When we are kind, we create a ripple effect of positivity that touches everyone we encounter.
The effects of kindness are far-reaching and can be seen in every aspect of our lives. It makes our relationships stronger and more meaningful. It also changes how we see ourselves, giving us a sense of purpose and self-worth. When we’re kind, we inspire people to be kind in return, creating a cycle of positivity that can change the world.
Kindness is a color that touches everything it comes into contact with; a kind gesture can illuminate the darkest corners of the world. It is a simple act that makes the world a better place, one person at a time. It is a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is still hope. It is a color that we should all strive to bring into our lives and the lives of those around us. It is a color that can change everything.