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0 Just Be Nice

As I was researching subjects for this month’s newsletter, I found myself in a deep state of writer’s block. It seemed that any subject I felt strongly enough about to commit a couple of hours, and 1,200 to 1,500 words to, had been used before. I write these newsletters in hopes of sharing insightful nuggets that I have learned over the course of my 40 plus years in the workforce. I’ve written about leadership, perseverance, overcoming obstacles and other subjects along those lines. Diving deeper into those waters is something that I will continue to do, but I wanted a different ocean experience for this newsletter. I wanted something bigger, and something to challenge my style, but I had a hard time finding that “something.”

So, eventually, I did what I never like doing, yet knowing full well that I should; I asked for help. I told my wife that I couldn’t come up with anything that I thought was exciting or inspirational, and I asked her if she had any ideas. She replied to me with a question, “Why does it have to be exciting, or inspirational?  Why not use a subject from your blog page, everyday day life navigation stuff, like just being nice?”

This is what I said in response, “Okay. Thanks, Baby. I’ll look at something like that.”

But this is what I thought, “But I WANT to be exciting and inspirational!”

Nothing was written that day. Nothing exciting, nothing inspirational.

The next day I called my mentor, let’s just call her Kathy, for the sake of this newsletter, and I said, “Hey Kathy, I’m stumped. I want to write something a little different, but I want to keep it exciting and inspirational.”

It was as if my wife called ahead and spoke to Kathy, because after very little back and forth exchange, spit balling ideas, my mentor suggested that I, “… revisit some of your blog page subjects. How about writing something about the power of simply being nice?” Even though it was a phone conversation, I could see the smile on her face, as that light bulb flicked on over her head.

Two out of two people, whose opinions I sought out, suggested that I write something about “being nice”. So here we are, and my initial question as I sat in front of my computer screen was:

Do we really need to be reminded to be nice?  My immediate reply to my own question was, “Yes. Yes, we do.”

I see it almost every single day. When I’m not writing exciting and inspirational newsletters, I’m a traveling salesperson. I travel by plane just about every week, almost always making a connection, so I’m in (at a minimum) four airports in a typical work week. As a society, airports do not bring out the best in us.

When things go exactly as planned: flights on time, the weather is nice and turbulence free, and the seat next to you is empty, it is still stressful. I’ve been doing it every week for over 25 years, and it’s still stressful! We could point out all the stressors, but those points are not pertinent to THE point. We, as passengers, have almost NO CONTROL over the things that create the stress and anxiety when flying. And, for the most part, the people on the ground managing our flying experience have no control either.

I can assure you, the gate agent who just informed us that our flight was cancelled, due to a mechanical issue, was not the last mechanic to work on that 737 bound for San Antonio. She is not in any way trying to prevent us from attending an important meeting or stop us from seeing our beloved but cranky Aunt Edna. In fact, she is trying to get us there. So, it is in our best interest to just be nice.

On a Thursday in December, I was standing in line for over 45 minutes at the United Airlines help desk in Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Several flights were cancelled due to weather. I watched person after person curse out the staff at the help desk. I’m pretty sure the good folks at the help desk did not create the weather, I doubt very seriously that they even forecasted the weather, yet here they were taking all the blame. Just a thought: The one person who can help you get to where you want to go is standing in front of you AT THE HELP DESK!

Be nice.

I didn’t get to go home that Thursday… well, you know…weather! But I did get to go home Friday morning in a first-class seat. Just because I was nice. It doesn’t always work out that way, but it did on that day. I see problems at the airport, at the rental car counter, at the front desk of hotels, even at the grocery store… all the time. What I have never seen, is an anger reaction that solved one of those problems.

This being nice strategy doesn’t just apply to travel. We need to employ the strategy in the workplace, at school, at home, and throughout our daily lives. We are all “influencers.” We always have been, in some way or another, and not through TikTok or Instagram, it’s in our daily behaviors.

We see some paraphrased version of this quote, all the time: “We can’t control the actions of others, but we can control how we react.” It is about as basic as any common sense, self-help, enlightenment kind of quote there is, and yet, it can be difficult to adhere to. When someone at work is being difficult, whether it’s a boss, a coworker, or a client it is hard to just let it go, to let it just roll of our shoulder, but you need to find a way. Being nice and being pleasant in our response doesn’t weaken us. It makes us stronger.

If someone is knowingly and willfully pushing you, pushing your buttons, to get a reaction, responding with kindness, in whatever form you put it in, shows that you’re not going compromise a value that is yours. You’re not avoiding confrontation, or backing down, it’s actually the opposite. Think about that: By reacting to someone’s aggression by being nice, you are imposing your will into the situation. You’re rewriting the script and steering an ugly or uncomfortable setting out of their darkness and into your light. That’s power, that’s leadership, and that’s influence.

It takes practice. You need to employ proactive exercises to make “just being nice” part of your daily life. Compliment a friend or a co-worker…I have found that everyone appreciates a nice comment about their shoes! Buy a cup of coffee for a stranger. Finish a conversation with, “I appreciate you”, instead of a simple “thanks.” You might be surprised to find out how good it feels to make someone else feel better when there is nothing in it for you. (But there is something in it for you!)

When being treated aggressively or unfairly, practice a calm kindness in your reply, “Okay Aunt Edna, I understand that you’re upset. I can see that you were passionate about my arrival on a Thursday. I can’t help that, because of the weather in Chicago, but I bet if we talk calmly with each other, we can figure out a way to make the best of it and still have a great visit.”

Being nice won’t always put you in a first-class seat, but it will always make you look first class. At first, just being nice might seem cheesy and maybe even a little weak, but it’s not! Actually, it is the opposite - it’s quite powerful. In fact, just being nice, is exciting and inspirational.


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