One of the primary tenets during our initial education as children is the concept of ‘being nice’. Manners, disposition, behavior, etc. However, being nice is more of a blanket statement tucked neatly in the right corner, on the bed of propriety. It is often taken for granted, yet so vital to healthy relationships. I thought I might illuminate some of the more critical aspects of ‘Niceness’…
Prince Patience – Among the easiest ways to exercise your nice, is to try your extraordinary best to be patient with people. Human beings are complex; we tend to have an amazing amount of seafood swimming around the ocean of our minds, often reminiscent of a bait ball of sardines. Thus making it critical when dealing with people. Give them a minute to process issues, and situations. Allow people the space to figure out wether they are predator or prey. I’ve found it helpful to give people time to squeeze you in between consternation about the high price of their morning latte’, and wondering if they locked the dead bolt, or set the house alarm when they left this morning. In addition, it’s important to remember that some people are a bit sharper than others. Therefore, much like a traffic signal, some of them are quick, and some take a minute. In either case, the more patient, the less frustrated you’re likely to become, the less frustrated, the more nice.
The Buzz Kill – Let’s keep it simple. Don’t be this person. When amongst friends, family, loved ones, and/or co-workers, the very last thing you should want to be is the person that negatively changes the mood of the room. The person who sucks the joy out of a room is as popular as a broken vacuum cleaner. Often times, the person with the biggest mouth in the room, also has the biggest audience. Therefore, whatever pollen they emit from their mouth(s) has a direct impact on every flower within earshot. It’s important to remember, ‘Sticks and Stones’ is a myth. Words matter. Big mouths have plenty of room for big words. Big words have big consequences, and they need to be owned. Avoid the temptation to ‘cause a scene’. Why? Because more often than not, you’ll end up being the villain in the film, without the benefit of a cool fedora. If you’re going to say things about other people, make sure that it’s positive at best and neutral at worst. Making a habit of throwing shade on other people makes you untrustworthy. The feeling of superiority you get when you do that, is fool’s gold. People will rarely admit it, but secretly, they’ve lost some trust in you, even if they participated in the yarn. It’s just one of those things, trust me on this. If people have to worry about what you might say about them, in their absence? Well you do the math. Besides, it’s just not nice.
Which brings me to directly to my next point…
Self-Aware-Are-You? – This is perhaps the most important factor in not only being nice, but in being a better, if not magnanimous person. Understanding how your words, actions, and/or behavior impact those around you, as well as how others see you, is the ‘Arc of the Covenant’ of human understanding. Advice: Take the same care as you would in a movie theatre. Monitoring how loud you are speaking, and if you are disturbing other people. Trust me when I say that people would rather not overhear your conversation, no matter how compelling it may seem to you. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but in general people watch plenty of reality television, your unsolicited contribution? Not so much. When moving around this mortal coil we call earth, try and avoid getting in people’s way, slowing them down, and/or obstructing their view. If there’s nobody behind you then by all means, move as slow as you want. Conversely though, if there is a line of people behind you, keep it moving! (Yeah you, Mr/Mrs. Express line with 44 items in your cart) People usually have things to do, and they’d like to get them done, don’t hinder them with nonchalance. It’s alright to be the center of the universe in your own mind, but not at the check out counter. (Below: Not seen, man with 44 items in basket at the checkout)
The Silence is Golden-Rod – ‘Loose lips sink ships’, and friendships. When a friend or family member tells you something in confidence, it’s because they have confidence in you. They believe that they can trust you with the information. They chose you over FaceBook. Don’t screw that up. Have you ever repeated something that you shouldn’t have? That uneasy lingering feeling in the back of your mind, and/or tap dancing in the pit of your stomach, can usually be diagnosed as betrayal. Is it a capital crime? Espionage? Treason? Not really. But it’s another little piece of your nice eroded away. You always feel that nagging guilt. Know what I’m talking about? Yeah you do. There are of course exceptions, but relatively few. For example, I’m not going to go to jail for you on obstruction of justice charges. I don’t love anybody more than my freedom. Then again, if you confessed to me about that murder you committed, you probably shouldn’t have. If it’s a matter of life and death, then obviously you gotta spill the beans. But outside of that, and I can’t stress this enough, a secret is a secret.
Academy Award Extras – Your ‘Mailman‘(Postal Carrier). Seriously, these people couldn’t be more important, when you’re waiting on a check. The person making your double fat soy latte at ‘Starbuck’s’, and/or ‘Coffee Bean’. I think they call themselves ‘Barsitas‘ according to the union paperwork. The building ‘Doorman‘. This man has probably thwarted hundreds of B &E’s over the years without us even knowing it. The ‘Maintenance Guy‘ in the same building. (Ok admittedly, this one depends) In my case, he fixed my air conditioner in July, so yeah, he’s good in my book. That awesome ‘Server‘ at your favorite restaurant, who remembers the extra lemons with your water, every time. The ‘Bank Teller‘ who actually remembers you, and doesn’t hassle you with soul crushing procedural nonsense? Thank them. Any Military Service man or women. For enforcing the will of rich, and powerful old men. Oh, and for serving our country, and protecting our freedom(s). Definitely thank them all. These people are all indispensable extras in the movie called ‘Your Life‘. I find that these people not only really appreciate it when others take a moment to say a kind word, and/or acknowledge them with a simple hello, but they also make your life, and by extension the world, function more efficiently. Besides, you’ll feel better when you do, I promise.
No Limited Time, Offer the Apology – Always offer the apology when you screw up. It’s simply the right thing to do; it shows respect, contrition, as well as an awareness of the slight. It’s a huge part of ‘Self Awareness’ (we’ve been over this). Even if the person doesn’t accept the apology which is their right, it doesn’t really matter. By apologizing you are doing as much as you can do on a basic level. Olive branches pack a lot of bang for the buck. It’s not always even about right or wrong. It’s about acknowledging that you are sorry about the situation, at the very least. More often than not there is blame to be placed at both sets of feet, not always equal, but as long as there’s a fault to acknowledge, then you should do so. It’s also the high road, where the view is considerably better. Besides, life is too short, and the burden of grudge too heavy to carry around in lifetime backpack that’s often bursting at the seams. “I’m sorry that you find my prose so addicting, that it’s to the detriment of your work production.” See…don’t you feel better?
Smile, Your Integrity is Showing – Platinum Rule: If you say you’re going to do something, then you really need to do it. Seriously. People need to trust and believe in your word. You will have a very difficult time getting people to trust and believe in you, if your word is considered fecal matter. It’s not easy, things happen, life is complicated. I get it. In fact, it’s not easy to have 100% integrity, 100% of the time. Everyone at one time or another, has either done, or not done, things that they are sorry for doing. ($1 million for successful repetition) However, the person with integrity steps up and takes responsibility for any and all failings. They understand where the shortcoming is, or was, and makes an effort to remedy said issue. That’s realistic integrity. But in general, if you say what you mean, mean what you say, and do what you’ve agreed to do. Then you’ll be fine. And yeah, nice. Smiley face stickers for everybody!
Empathy is Human – Look, life is hard. Everybody has his or her own issues, on sale at bargain basement prices. Everybody has suffered loss. Everybody has a past, with closets, and skeletons. We are all human beings, and that very fact means that there is a complex web of situations and behavior, both past, and present, woven within the fabric of each and every one of us. It’s important to have empathy for the plight of others; it’s the same thing you would want should you sit in judgement, right? For people to try and understand where you are coming from and why? To understand not only what you are going through, but what you’ve been through to get there? The easiest way to have empathy is to, as trite as it sounds, imagine what it must be like to be that person. I mean really imagine. You can do it, and when you truly do, cut them some slack. Empathy means a great deal to me, because I like to think that I have a great deal of it. Probably because I haven’t always exhibited saintly behavior, and would need someone, somewhere to empathize with me. In fact, I usually try and take it a step further. I am always trying to not only help the people around me, but to try and understand. It’s not always easy, but sometimes a kind word, with a big ear, and a small mouth, is all it takes. Highlighting possibilities for change that said person may not have thought about. But most importantly, a world with more understanding, and less judgments, is a pretty good world.
Give a Hand Up – All of us have someone to thank for something positive in our lives. Many of us have many people to thank for many things. A few of us have one person to thank that we are still among the living. It’s critical that we do something positive for someone, or many somebody’s. Whatever that means, however much, or little can be given. Mentorship is a wonderful thing, especially for young people. Personally, I have very fond memories of the people who took an interest in me as a child. This had a lot to do with the fact that I was raised without grandparents, who by all accounts are the first human beings outside of our biologic parents to show unsolicited love, affection, and provide guidance. Even as an adult I still feel an emptiness about it. But I believe that anyone who has the ability to give of themselves to another person without the expectation of reciprocation, should do exactly that. The attention, and guidance an older person can give to a younger person has a value that cannot be quantified. It’s amazing some of the kind words, and gestures that I remember from people when I was a kid. People who can never know how it affected me. The bottom line is that it is worth doing. People draw influence and inspiration from the most unexpected sources. Be a positive influence to at least one other human being on this earth. There’s nothing nicer than that. That’s worth repeating. There’s nothing nicer than that.
In conclusion, I think that being nice is a state of mind that requires all of the aforementioned thoughts, plus everything else that I haven’t learned yet, but will instinctively know the minute I feel it. Being nice makes you a person people want to be around. Being nice makes you someone that people appreciate. Being nice makes you a person whose back other people have. Being nice is the universal key to happiness in your life and around the world. So, I say why not be nice? It costs nothing. It makes the world a better place, and it starts with one friendly hello at a time…
Thanks for Reading