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The Case for Being Good

Why people should want to be a "goodass" instead of a badass.

No author listed, pxhere, CC0
Source: No author listed, pxhere, CC0

Today, a number of books and gurus urge us to be a badass: aggressive, tough, even intimidating. But a case can be made for being a "goodass."

A core psychological tenet is that rewarding the positive yields more long-lasting change than does punishment. So being a badass may yield immediate compliance for fear of retribution but, in the long run, it's likely to yield antipathy, sabotage, and even getting fired.

Being a Goodass

Here are the keys:

Surrender some agency. There's no need to be a doormat, but allowing others some control increases their self-esteem, performance, happiness, and commitment to you. For example, before jumping in with your input, you might try, "What do you think?'

Be modest. It’s tempting to be self-aggrandizing, if only subtly, for example, by name-dropping, using big words, or taking undue credit. And self-aggrandizement is understandable: It makes you feel good and, you hope, elevates you in other people's minds. Alas, too often, self-aggrandizement has the opposite effect. Why? Because most of us want to feel good about ourselves and when someone tries to elevate him or herself, we may feel worse in comparison. Plus, in most American subcultures, self-aggrandizement is disparaged. It's usually wiser to be understated and give due credit to others. You’ll likely be perceived more positively, and at least in the long run, have more influence.

Argue less. Yes, even goodasses should, as appropriate, disagree, but a rule of thumb is to make your case once and if your conversation partner disagrees, let it go or at most, make one counterargument that responds to what she or he said. The odds of additional arguing yielding a positive change are smaller than the odds of creating enmity or making the person feel diminished.

This all distills to making other people feel good about themselves, and simply to be nice.

Overcoming Barriers to Being a Goodass

Some people resist the idea of being a goodass.

You may fear being taken advantage of. You certainly can’t count on kindness being reciprocated. But, per Raktivist, “Kindness is caring for others, even when they may not care for you.” Especially if you try to spend more time with goodasses and less with others, when day is done, your life will be better and your contributions greater.

We may equate being kind with being foolish. But I am persuaded by Abraham Joshua Heschel's statement, “When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people”

We may feel that we’re hard-wired to not be a kind person. It may help to consider that kindness tends to feed off itself—be kind just a bit more often and you’ll tend to be kind more often. As philosopher and Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Eric Hoffer wrote, “Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.”

It can be hard to be kind to certain types of people. For example, if you tend to be intolerant of the prepossessing or self-aggrandizing, it may help to remember Dr. Charles Glassman’s truism: “Kindness begins with the understanding that we all struggle.”

The takeaway

The zeitgeist encourages us to be a loud-and-proud badass. It may be wiser to be a goodass.

I read this aloud on YouTube.