Since answering Nat’s questions yesterday, I’m surprised that people aside from Nat seem to think I’m “nice”. It’s not something I’ve ever aspired to. I don’t go out of my way to be mean or anything, but “nice” seems to require an effort I’m not always interesting in making.
I’m not actually sure what “nice” really means. I’m not sure I know any genuinely “nice” people. I know people who are always smiling and solicitous and doing stuff for others, but then I hear them grumbling about ingratitude and being treated like doormats, so that doesn’t seem nice. Or there have been people who seem really nice and then I find out some really distasteful stuff about them and I can’t think of them as nice anymore. Maybe I’m just cynical (and not nice), but it seems to me that people who put on airs of niceness usually have a hidden agenda.
Anyway, I Googled “nice”. Here’s How to be Nice and why I never will be:
- Smile. A smile will let people know that you are pleasant and inviting. I can’t. I’m not pleasant and inviting. I smile at people I know and/or like and sometimes I smile at a stranger if he/she looks like they could use a smile. Otherwise I go through the world looking unpleasant and uninviting.
- Say hello. When you’re walking past someone, even a stranger, try to acknowledge their presence with simple “hello” or “hi” or even just a wave or a nod in their direction. No. I don’t think this is a good idea. Because then they’ll want to talk to you. It drives me crazy when I pass the same person in the hall at work 20 times a day and each time they feel they have to say hello or make some inane comment.
- Ask people how they are doing. Also not a good idea. I never know what to answer when people ask me that. I usually say, “okay” and then they go into a big, “Just okay? Come on… life is good..cheer up…Smile!”. Then I’m annoyed. So I try to remember to just say, “fine”. No one can argue with that. I try never to ask people how they are. For some reason they never say, “fine” when I ask. They tell me exactly how they are and it takes a long time and mostly I don’t care.
- Be a good listener. Listen when other people are talking to you. It isn’t nice to just ignore other peoples’ opinions and stories. Ha Ha. It takes up a lot of time in your life to listen to other people. If I’m out relaxing and doing nothing but talking to people, that’s fine. I love to hear stories and opinions. Blogging is also all about listening and responding to stories and opinions. But, when people hang around your workstation blathering on and on about shit that’s going on in their lives or complaining about work or coworkers when you’re trying to get stuff done, I stop listening. Or when someone calls you and keeps you on the phone forever even after you’ve said good-bye several times… Or when strangers on the bus or train or plane or park bench or grocery store start bending your ear with some insane theory… (Of course, some strangers can have some really mind-bending things to tell you that are worth storing up for future reference).
- Be courteous. Always say “please,” “thank you” and “you’re welcome.” Well, okay. I usually say please and thank you. That’s not necessarily “nice” just polite and civilized. Just because you’re not nice, doesn’t mean you have to be a boor, right?
- Be positive. Don’t be negative or critical. Keep looking for the positive in any given situation. I have a lot of trouble with this one. I reckon if you keep your expectations low, you’re bound to be pleasantly surprised every once in a while. If you keep your expectations high, you’ll often be disappointed. Disappointment is depressing while pleasant surprises are fun. Ergo, it’s better to be negative because it’s more fun.
- Be humble. The key to being nice is remembering that you are not “better” than someone else. Huh? What kind of advice is that? So you have to have low self-esteem in order to be nice? I like myself better than I like a lot of people. I know there are lots of people that are better at a lot of stuff than I am and that’s okay. I focus on the stuff that’s important to me and I think I just may be better at that stuff than some other people.
- Offer to help. If you see someone struggling, even doing something as simple as carrying a bag of groceries, or holding the door for someone. You can also be nice to the community and the world by volunteering. I pretty much always do stuff like hold doors or help carry stuff if it looks like it’s needed. Again, I think that’s just polite. I don’t do a lot of volunteering though. There just never seems to be enough time. And I’m not nice enough to give up the little free time I have.
- Be sincere. Ah ha! That I usually am. But being sincere and being nice don’t always go hand in hand. If someone asks me for a favor and it’s a huge imposition, I’ll say no. Sometimes even if it’s just a semi-huge imposition and I don’t particularly like the person, I’ll still say no. That’s sincere, but not nice.
- Don’t be a jerk. That covers a lot of territory. I have my jerk moments. I’ve done jerky things. I’ll probably do jerky things in the future. That’s a whole other blog post – doing stuff you know is wrong or really not nice or even mean. Sometimes I feel badly afterwards and regret having been a jerk, but sometimes not.