Kindness by default

(Fair warning: This is a non-technical post in which I essentially state the obvious.)

We've all gone through the experience of being new to something: a job, a business, a community, a project, a group of people or even a city or country. Anything from small and customary changes that happen every day to once-in-a-lifetime life/career turning points.

Everyone goes through these moments with different measures of excitement and apprehension, but those two feelings are always there. The first one is great and plays a key part in giving you the much needed strength to face any challenges. But the second one is a bummer, as it often makes people ask questions like:

  • Did I make the right decision?
  • What if I'm not good enough for this?
  • What if I screw up and let people down?
  • What if I simply can't deliver what I'm asked to do?

Is there a way to not feel like this? Is there a way to magically embrace new things like an invencible superhero? No.

However, I honestly believe that a very simple principle can make everything a whole lot easier: kindness. Whether you're the new guy or someone onboarding the new guy, you can make a difference by being nice, friendly, warm and kind.

If you're new to something, don't be afraid to say so — it's okay to say things like "I'm new to this" or "Sorry, I don't know how this works". It's easy for people to forget that some of the things they take for granted and consider obvious are completely new concepts to someone else, and by flagging that you're in that position you're alerting others to the fact that you could use some help.

If you're managing or supervising someone new, make an effort to make them feel welcome and valued. Things like "Good job!" or "Thanks for doing that" can go a long way. Saying "I could use your help on this" is a lot better than "I need this done". Hell, even using a friendly emoji when you're assigning a task or asking for something can make a difference — don't forget that chat rooms or emails are not the best mediums to convey emotions, so you do have to go the extra mile to properly express yourself.

If you have a colleague that is new, remember that you've been there once. Be cool. Tell them a funny story about someone else's fuck up or share some inside tips on how to avoid the queues in the cafeteria.

And being kind doesn't mean letting your guard down. Yes, you will find people that will respond to your friendly attitude with rudeness and negativity, and there's only so much you can do about that. But be kind by default and adapt to every exception individually.

Like developer-Gandhi would've said: Be the pull request you want to see in the world. ∎

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