Ruinous Empathy

Mickey Mellen
2 min readNov 21, 2023

I talk on here a lot about empathy and kindness, which are both great virtues to embrace but both of which can be troublesome if overused.

The idea I’ve shared a few times comes from Gary Vee’s concept of “Kind Candor”. If you’re simply kind to everyone and never speak the truth, it can be big trouble. In her book “ Radical Candor “, author Kim Scott has a similar term that she calls “Ruinous Empathy”. From the book:

“Ruinous Empathy-you’re so fixated on not hurting a person’s feelings in the moment that you don’t tell them something they’d be better off knowing in the long run.”

She gives a great example on her website:

Ruinous Empathy is seeing somebody with their fly down, but, not wanting to embarrass them, saying nothing, with the result that 15 more people see them with their fly down — more embarrassing for them. So, not so “nice” after all.

I had a similar situation come up a few weeks ago. A friend of mine was repeatedly mispronouncing a word, and I wasn’t sure if I should say anything. I didn’t want to come across as being a jerk in pointing out the flaw, particularly because I’m sure there are various words that I consistently mispronounce all the time. In the end, I let them know, they fixed it, and all was good. It wasn’t a big deal in either direction, but I’m glad I was able to help.

If I’m mispronouncing something or if I misunderstand a situation, I hope you’ll take the time to let me know. If you do, I’ll be less wrong than I was before, which is always good. Just be sure to leave a bit of kindness in there when you straighten me out.

Originally published at on November 21, 2023.



Mickey Mellen

I’m a cofounder of @GreenMellen, and I’m into WordPress, blogging and seo. Love my two girls, gadgets, Google Earth, and I try to run when I can.