On this daf, we find that while a talmid chochom should be as tough as iron, he should still comport himself softly. But how can one with such toughness treat others gently?
The Alter of Kelm gives a surprising answer: “The first yesod that a person must work to attain is love for his fellow man, even a non-Jew, no matter what his religion may be. Rav Yochanan would always greet anyone he encountered first, even a non-Jew in the marketplace. He wanted to imbue within himself the important trait of ahavas habriyos. The way one works on this is by learning a page of Tomer Devorah every day. The more he loves other humans, the better he will treat them.”
Yet, of course, one must be very careful not to be drawn after the ways of outsiders. There is an explicit Torah prohibition, lo seichaneim, prohibiting us from complementing in a manner that expresses admiration. In the words of the Alter: “Even so, one must not be drawn to emulate or identify with those who err. Inside, we must learn a dynamic process. We must learn to remain distant from their dei’os while still feeling love for them. In our dei’os we must be very distant from them” (Bais Kelm, p. 300-303).