I was reading Billy Connolly’s fantastic book about his trip across northern Canada. It was one of those great glossy books that accompany a TV series and although I missed most of the TV programs last year, the book is fascinating, largely because Billy demonstrates a great understanding and deep connection with people…individuals.

The book is set out with lots of brilliant photos and direct narrative from Billy and although his thoughts on small minded and negative people (the beige people as he likes to call them) had me belly laughing, it was his take on Ugliness that stopped me in my tracks and made me think.

As he has grown older Billy says he has come to realise that there is no such thing as Ugly, …

Think about it for a while; why would you ever describe someone as ugly, just because they don’t look like you? or conform to some abstract idea of what is beautiful?

The concept of ugliness is quite abhorrent when you consider it closely; think how hurtful it can be and indeed how long lasting that hurt can be.

Of course ugliness can’t be thought of in isolation, it goes hand in hand with thinking about beauty; so when Billy says “there is no such thing as ugliness” you have to flip back a page to see who he might be thinking about; who would normally be labelled ugly by less caring individuals!

However, I think ugliness is just one of many negative things that some people think about others. Maybe these are the negative beige people.

It demonstrates a complete lack of empathy.

Feeling more beautiful than someone and showing it; kicking someone when they are down, getting one over on someone; using your power to win over someone weaker than you; taking advantage of someone else’s misfortune, these all happen because people don’t or can’t empathize with others. They simply don’t think about the question:

How would I feel?

This question is at the heart of all relationships and despite all of the thousands of business and leadership books that have ever been written they never seem to hit on this simple question.

It doesn’t even matter that much that this key question remains largely unanswered by the beige people; what really matters is that it remains un-asked.


The answer?

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

Ian Maclaren

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