Be Nice


You may have big plans on where you see yourself in 2, 5 or 20 years from now. Conversely, you might not have a clue where life will take you; you have no idea what you’ll be doing in 3 weeks let alone years into your future. No matter what might be ahead in your future, one of the best things you can do now and along the way to wherever you land, you can do no better favour for yourself than to be nice along the way.

Now, already the ‘A’ type personality folks are assembling and some among them are saying that being nice gets you nowhere; that it’s a dog eat dog kind of world. Nice people are fodder to be chewed up and spit out, walked over and left on the lower rungs of the corporate ladders. They might say that nice guys finish last, that you’ve got to claw and fight your way up to every hand-hold you can clasp on the way up because nobody but nobody who amounts to anything will reach back and give you a hand up.

I suppose there are people like that; well let’s be entirely honest – there’s no supposing about it. Yes, there are people and professions that attract those kind of people with those kind of mentalities.

For the majority of us however, what is the price of being nice? Weigh any answer you come up with against the question, what is the price of not being nice? There’s the little gestures and the big ones of course. The big ones are the ones that most often make the headlines; the customer who drops a $3,000 tip for the waitress, the celebrity television host who treats the entire audience with gifts and goodies, makes wishes come true for ordinary people on the shows etc. They’ve got the untold wealth and corporate backing to be the face of niceness.

You and me though? Well, we’re likely just your everyday people; folks who work regular jobs, won’t ever gain widespread recognition. The emergence of social media has given us a platform to share our smiling faces with the world, and that’s likely the most public exposure we’re likely to garner.

Being nice can be self-serving of course and let’s be honest, it sure makes us feel good to do good for others. Drop some coins in a panhandlers cap, open a door for someone, give praise to someone who guts out a personal challenge and part of us feels good inside for doing so. Nothing wrong with making yourself feel good. Do more of it I say.

When you’re nice it can have some ripple effects too. You smile at me and I smile back. A few steps later, I give that smile to someone else and like the wave at a sporting event, it catches on and gets shared. Being nice is like that. I’ve seen first-hand people in cafe’s buy a drink for a stranger in line behind them and then that stranger do likewise for someone else. These aren’t just stories of the goody two-shoes types; these are real people. Sometimes the beneficiary of an act of kindness isn’t thankful true enough, but then again sometimes the beneficiary receives an unexpected act of kindness right at the moment when they needed it most; that reminder of the good around them. It can pull people sharply into the moment if they’ve been wandering around in their own little world, feeling ignored or invisible.

Being nice doesn’t have to cost any money whatsoever though. It can mean asking a co-worker how they’re doing and actually stopping long enough to show you really want to know. It can mean recalling something they told you two days ago and then following up with an inquiry about how that evening went or how that trip with the kids to the theme park turned out. Being nice could mean investing a tad of yourself in what that other person shares as important to them or meaningful to them.

Being nice might mean things that never get seen, never get recognized but nonetheless make things better for others. Maybe you do up a few dishes that aren’t yours at work, you make sure the toilet seat is clean every time you leave the washroom, you sharpen a few pencils at the Reception desk or keep the stapler stocked each morning so someone never gets frustrated looking for a pen.

I was saying to a colleague just yesterday that it was ironic that I was interviewed for a job years later by a woman whose children I supervised while working in a Boys and Girls Club decades ago. Good thing I was nice to both her and her kids! Who could have predicted that life would bring us back into contact that way in a completely different city and context?

Want to shock the person you’re in a relationship with? Send them an email or instant message that reads nothing more than, “Thinking of you just now.” Nice!

Yes, what if you did the odd thing or two simply with a goal and nothing more beyond being nice? You’d better watch out; you might develop a reputation for being a nice person!

Should you find that your acts of kindness go unnoticed or you get taken advantage of, be nice anyhow. We need more people like you.

 

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Our Small Deeds Define Us


When we are bucking for a promotion or want to be assigned some project or assignment, is it at these times when we suddenly change our character, act kinder to those in influential positions or conversely do we stay true to whom we are throughout?

Having just had Christmas pass, in a few of the movies I watched recently some of the characters in the shows mused openly about how kinder people were at this time of the year; why couldn’t people carry this kindness and thoughtfulness with them throughout the balance of the year? Usually these people wondered about others instead of turning the question inward and asking it of themselves.

Have you ever noticed that a child who wants something often is on their best behaviour? That an adult who wants a change in behaviour from a child often says something like, “Remember Santa’s watching”, or “Somebody is having a birthday soon aren’t they?” and the hope is the child is angelic henceforth. Thing is those strategies do work most of the time but only until the birthday or Christmas morning and then what? And are we really wanting our children to be on their best behaviour only under the threat of no presents on Christmas morn or no party to celebrate?

Why then should we ourselves be any different in our workplaces? Imagine if you will that you are told the person who currently holds the position you covet is close to retiring or some other scenario that creates a vacancy; a vacancy you’d like to take over. Okay now ask yourself honestly if you would say your current production, your attitude, your leadership etc. has put you in a position to be a logical candidate? Would you do more, do things better, put out a better attitude, be more cooperative, strive a little harder? Are you doing enough?

Some of us of course can honestly answer that we do invest ourselves in our work and were such an opportunity to arise, we would feel confident in being able to point at our record with pride. On the other hand, you might be doing exactly what is in your job description and not an ounce more. How you are doing that work might be suspect, but you meet the minimal requirements of your current job. Ask yourself, “Does my employer want to promote those who do the minimum in their jobs or those who perform at their best routinely and excel?

Of course you might argue that you have no further career ambition; that you are in the very position now that you have always wanted to be in and are content to remain so. That in my opinion is a wonderful thing and you are to be congratulated for finding your ideal position. Well done! Would you like to keep it? Or would you like to inspire others with whom you work, who do what you do in the organization to work with as much zeal and honest effort as yourself? These are reasons to invest yourself each day and throughout each day.

One of my valued colleagues who works in another city contacted me before Christmas and requested a previous article I’d constructed to share with a new colleague. He is concerned about him and his development, not wanting him to burn out early in a field where it is critical to have the stamina, endurance and positivity to continually make an impact. Dave is a shining example of a person doing his best and working consciously to be a positive role model through his daily actions for the benefit of a peer.

It is the small deeds we do, the words we choose, the actions we take, the time we give that make the biggest impact often on others. It’s when we are observed by others as we go about our routines, habits and the courtesy in our requests for help and appreciation for help given that impact on others. It’s our dependability when we show up each day for work and others view us as reliable. It’s when we stop and consider rather than impulsively decline to give more of ourselves that tells others we sincerely can’t take on something or rather that we can.

When we do small things like consider the workload of others when we ask them to do something for us, albeit a small extra thing, that we grow respectful in their eyes. When we send an email of thanks or acknowledgement, put a chocolate in their inbox or mail slot, maybe just ask how they are doing and actually wait for the answer.

One small deed may be nothing more than a single act. Two acts may be nothing more than a coincidence and three the start of a trend. Four small acts the start of a reputation and continuing small consistent acts solidify your credentials and character. In every day we have opportunities people to do the small things that really matter and make a difference. If you are waiting for the really big opportunities to demonstrate your attitude, leadership and character, you may find those moments few and far between.

Today start with a small act of kindness and thoughtfulness. Say thanks to a colleague, ask about their workload – their interests, their health. Send an email to a colleague and introduce yourself to someone. So many ways to do small things that collectively mean so much.