Is kindness a weakness?

Dr Tony Bates argues it can be a powerful coping tool

Dr Tony Bates will be speaking at the Grand Hotel in Wicklow as part of the Healthy Town project. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Dr Tony Bates will be speaking at the Grand Hotel in Wicklow as part of the Healthy Town project. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Thu, Sep 5, 2013, 17:20

Kindness in Ireland is often seen as a weakness, but being kind to yourself is a powerful coping skill. That’s according to Dr Tony Bates, psychologist and Irish Times columnist who will be giving a talk next week on the issue in Wicklow.

“In Ireland where we often encourage competition, verbal banter and teasing, kindness is often seen as a weakness,” he says. “Hard words come more naturally to us.”

Yet, says Dr Bates, when we are hit by the various sorrows and disappointments we get in life, “ kindness to self is a powerful coping skill that can carry us through those dark times”.

Dr Bates, who is founder of Headstrong, the national centre for youth mental health, explains that our brains are “hard-wired” for kindness and that we respond to it whenever there is a kind word or deed. “In fact, we always remember someone that has been kind to us.”

But he says, the problem is that we do not know how to turn that same kindness on ourselves.

“People may say to us `oh don’t be so hard on yourself’, but no one gives us tips to soften the very harsh inner critic who reminds us over and over again how `stupid’ or weak’ or “inadequate” we are.” he says.

“This talk will look at what kindness is and what its benefits can be in your life,” he says. It will show you how to manage your inner critic and bring a genuine heartfelt sense of compassion into your life.”

The talk is one of a series of events which are taking place over the next eight weeks as part of the Irish Times/Pfizer Healthcare, healthy town project in Wicklow.

The talk will take place on Thursday next, September 12th at 7 pm in the Grand Hotel in Wicklow Admission is free, but you must register for it. To register: contact Niamh O’Keeffe, WHPR at 01-6690299 or email niamh.okeeffe@ogilvy.com