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Why Can’t We Be Friends?

Being nice doesn't just happen for most people—obviously. It's a trait that can be learned and maintained for the good of everyone in your life, including you.

I have to admit I’ve been feeling a little let down by my fellow humans. I haven’t been this disappointed by how people are treating one another since my days working at the mall.

After leaving my post there, it took a while for me to retrain myself to not think everyone was horrible. Those of you who’ve worked in customer service know what I’m talking about. In that kind of position, it’s a barrage of nasty comments, strange requests and the feeling that you’re the scum of the Earth who can’t make anyone happy. At least that’s what I got out of it.

I’ve been going about my business as usual trying to just live happily and take care of my family and friends without bothering anyone; however, recently, I’ve had unexplainable incidents of mean happening to me—daily.

When did people decide it was OK to be jerks? Why didn’t they tell me so I could prepare myself?

Am I being too harsh? I don’t think so. Here are some examples:

Tuesday, I made a very nice phone call on behalf of my brother to check the rent on a house I saw in Plum. I figured I’d call right then since it was the first time I’d ever see that place for rent and thought it must be nice since it wasn’t available often.

“You’d better let your brother speak for himself, young lady,” said the man on the phone.

OK? According to this guy, I was doing something wrong, I guess. Sorry, I didn’t know that.

Wednesday, I called a local business for an article I’m writing explaining I was a reporter looking for someone in charge of hiring.

“Oh, honey,” the man chuckled, “we’re not hiring.”

“I understand,” I said puzzled as to why he thought my request was funny. “I’m not looking for a job. I’m writing an article. I’m a reporter.”

Silence.

“Hello?” I asked.

“NO. We’re not hiring, miss.”

Click.

“Hello?” I asked.

These two incidents might not have affected you the way they did me, but add them to the number of times someone left a stop sign when it was my turn, or when I got a cashier who didn’t speak to me at all, or my recent encounter with a satellite radio’s customer service department who didn’t listen to my problems (that they created), and I hope you see how I’ve come to my current state of disappointment.

Yes, there are wars and murders and a lot of bad in the world. My point is that I wish we would try to inject as much good and kindness as we can in our communities. Life is hard enough.

I’m no angel, but I do work hard to be respectful and treat others as I’d like to be treated. It's all a big deal to me.

No one deserves to be humiliated, embarrassed or spoken down to—no one.

Whether you’re the giver or receiver of unkindness, it’s affecting your health and happiness. Don’t you feel it? It’s icky.

According to Winn Claybaugh, author of "Be Nice (Or Else!) and What's In It For You," being nice is a learned trait and it’s an ongoing process.

"Too many people simply have bad manners, show no respect for others, fail to honor commitments or be on time for anything," Claybaugh said on his website. "They fear their needs won't be met or that nice behavior towards others won't be reciprocated."

Some causes of unkindness include stress, unhappiness, a misunderstanding, a bad day and a bad attitude. A lot of unkindness is misdirected. For example, yelling at someone because you’re angry at someone or something else.

You are completely in control of your actions and reactions. Before you say or do something mean, recognize it. Where is it coming from? Can you handle yourself differently? Do you understand the situation? Think before you speak unkindly.

Some people may think being nice is being a doormat. However, you can be nice and still be respected—respected more if you ask me. People appreciate a kind attitude, and are more willing to work with you if you’re asking for something or working with people on a task. The important thing to remember is respect yourself while respecting others. Claybaugh calls this “being nice to yourself.”

If you’ve been mean, please apologize without blame or excuses. Just say you’re sorry.

I’ve reacted to my recent unkind encounters by half-way crumbling and questioning my fellow man, but that’s not the way to go.

First, pause and take a deep breath. Then, try to understand. Is it you? Really?

The Institute for Management Excellence steps for dealing with rude people suggests politely confronting a mean person. They may not realize what they’re doing and letting them know—nicely—will help to change the attitude.

Usually, what I do is walk away—literally or figuratively. I excuse myself or call back to talk with someone else or hope (and pray) that the next time I talk to the mean person, he or she is having a better day.

It’s inevitable, through, that we’ll run into a meanie. Be nice about it and, hopefully, you’ll both have a nice day.

Julie E. Martin July 09, 2011 at 02:54 PM
Good points Erin!
Winn Claybaugh July 11, 2011 at 05:05 PM
Thank you so much for your very kind words about my book. You made my day and warmed my heart. But the most important thing for me was the fact that you are spreading the word and teaching others about this BE NICE easier way of life. I am very honored, to say the least! I'd love to share a story from the book about dealing with "not nice" people. Years ago, a friend attended a seminar where he leaned this formula for happiness: Mentally tell everyone you come in contact with: “I love you.” He thought it was silly, but standing in line at the bank the next day, he noticed the teller being harsh and abusive to every customer, so he decided to give it a try. Looking at her, he said in his mind, “I love you.” When his turn came, she looked up as if she was a different person, smiled her first smile, and asked, “May I help you?” My friend flew through the rest of his day, astonished that his simple gesture had impacted his OWN self-esteem. (If “I love you” feels too challenging for total strangers, try “You are important.”) The moral is, you get what you give in life. If you’re feeling a lack of love, understanding, or support, give those things to others first. And if you’re feeling that people aren’t nice, trying being nice to them first. Again, thank you for helping me spread the BE NICE message! XOXO, Winn Claybaugh Dean, Cofounder of Paul Mitchell Schools www.paulmitchell.edu Author of BE NICE (OR ELSE!) www.beniceorelse.com
Winn Claybaugh July 11, 2011 at 05:08 PM
Erin, I would love to send you a copy of the book. Would you please send your mailing address to my assistant at lizv@paulmitchell.edu? XOXO, Winn Claybaugh
Erin Hill July 12, 2011 at 07:46 PM
I'm thrilled you found my article, Winn, and thanks for that story. I'm trying to be nicer, I'm not perfect but I seem to be a lot nicer than some other people I've run into. HAHA I really appreciate your message and I look forward to reading your book!
Erin Hill July 13, 2011 at 12:54 PM
@Julie-Thanks!

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