I just finished reading this story about a waitress who successfully handled a difficult customer with strategic kindness (via a tweet by @zappos).
To me, it’s both an encouraging, and discouraging story. I want to believe that kindness is gift that one gives without expecting an outcome; that it is selfless. At the same time, I also know that it can be the most gentle way to externally influence someone’s behavior.
Perhaps it is a means to an end, but the strategic application of kindness might also undermine its value and make gentle acts seem calculating.
In grade school we are taught to answer the questions that are asked. An authority figure (usually a teacher) poses the question and the students provide the information requested.
I think that it’s a sign of the autonomy of adulthood to resist providing the answer when the point of the question is unclear or misdirected. Asking about the context that a question is asked in can be the most effective way to determine if you are going the right direction.
Sometimes the best answer addresses a different question.