Do you feel that this world is filled with not-nice people? Are you suffering from election fatigue? Are you covering up the ears of your little ones when candidates start to yell at each other on the tube? Are you finding yourself on edge and a tad bit more cranky than you generally are, because you have had it with the mean tone and word choices of common conversation no matter where you look and listen?
If you answered “yes”… especially if you answered an enthusiastic “YES!”… you are not alone.
In the past few years, I’ve had many requests for interactive presentations at worksites, because people are just not being nice to each other. Rudeness, inconsideration, coarse language, and – yes – eye-rolling are some of the most often discussed complaints. Without kindness, people are finding it difficult to work with others. Without being nice, people are losing the friendliness at workplaces, where people generally have common goals. It’s not just adults, though. I have trained school-age kids starting their summer camps on how and WHY to be nice.
There has been a lot of talk in this presidential election season, where people are defined by their differences. Far beyond Red or Blue, Republican or Democrat… It is common now to hear people defined by their religion, ethnicity, country of origin. It is common to hear these grown-ups hardly act like the adults in the room, demonstrating schoolyard bullying behavior as well as insulting others’ looks or attributes. A friend of mine told me about sitting down to watch one of the debates with her middle-schooler, as a shared experience in participatory government. Within 10 minutes, she turned the channel. “This isn’t a reality TV show!,” she thought. “This is the real deal, and I’m embarrassed for how this is playing out.”
The reality is that we are not as nice to each other as we should be. Here are some tips for both at home and at work that might help you re-center yourself, to find that niceness within and bring it out in the fresh air:
- Talk the talk and walk the walk – If you are offended by others’ behavior, think about the reasons why. Are you seeing yourself in them? Are you hearing your own words out of their mouths? The first place to start in regaining your niceness is to THINK about what you are saying. Are you spewing venom, gossip, prejudice? Are you saying “nice things” but acting in a way that betrays your words? Make sure that you align yourself with actions and words that portray the best person you can be.
- If there are issues at work where kindness and consideration have gone out the window, do your best to bring it back – We have all worked in a place where one or two toxic people have brought the level of kindness down to rock bottom. Sadly, the negative actions and words of one person can ruin morale at work. Assuming the situation is not one of sexual harassment or creating a hostile work environment, there may be things that you can easily do to create a safer, more comfortable place in which to work. If you are a supervisor or manager, can you find ways to head this off at the pass? Can you bring up the topics in a meaningful, non-accusatory way? Can topics of shared space and consideration be brought onto staff meeting agendas? Are YOU doing your best to lead through your actions?
- Control yourself – In two words: Zip it. Take a few minutes to assess situations and then react. Stephen Covey, in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, talks about the freedom we have to choose our reactions. Yes, you can take time to react. You can take time to let cooler heads prevail. You can show others that being calm is the first step to being nicer to others.
- Be Nice or Go Home – Last year I was teaching business etiquette at an office that was having serious problems with people throwing their ill-moods around at others. The supervisor made a point of telling me that one of their mottos was “Be nice or go home.” They encourage people to take the rest of the day off if they cannot be kind and considerate. In reality, that might not work at your worksite. What can always work is for you to be aware of how your actions and words impact others and the morale at work. If you can’t go home, and things are causing you to be less nice that you would like, be honest with yourself and others. Find a way to take a few quiet moments to chill, to regain your composure, and to focus on your better self.
We are all stuck here on this Planet Earth together. Take some time to be a little more kind, a lot more nice, and to focus on your actions and reactions. I can guarantee that you will agree that it is nice to be important… but it is much more important to be nice.