Thursday, 14 August 2014

It's not hard to be nice, people.

When I was a university student, I worked part time for a year delivering pizzas, pasta, garlic bread and soft drinks for a large chain restaurant (being a girl, the tips were great). I was quite good friends with the other staff, and we’d hang out in our free time listening to music, seeing bands and drinking. The manager, head kitchen guy and I were probably the closest of friends there, but we all got on very well. Or so I thought.

Over a whisky one night, the kitchen guy told me how the kitchen hand had been talking about me behind my back. This was a surprise to me. The kitchen hand seemed like a lovely girl – she was friendly, happy, smart, physically gorgeous and understandably popular. She was quite young (maybe 16 years old, compared with my mature 20 years), but we chatted easily. Apparently, one night over a post-work ciggie, she’d told him that she didn’t like me because I was too nice. No one could really be that nice, she said.



I didn’t have a comeback for this. And it’s something that’s always stuck with me. I know I’m not a horrible person, but I wouldn’t say that I’m especially or unrealistically nice (actually, most of my friends are a lot more thoughtful, generous and kind than I am). I wondered if anything I was saying or doing was inadvertently coming across as insincere, but I was pretty sure I was just being me. I couldn’t be more sincere than that. Then I came to wonder how it is that someone could have such low expectations of their friends. Shouldn’t friends be nice to each other? Actually, shouldn’t people just be nice to each other, whether or not they know each other?

Back in the day, being nice was sometimes seen as a negative trait to have, a weakness – almost an insult. Nice girls or guys finished last. They didn’t get ahead in work or life. They were nerdy, unpopular, used and down trodden. They didn’t (usually) get lucky in love, or get laid. In fact, nice girls shouldn’t get laid until they’re married (but that’s a whole other blog post). And who hasn't fallen for a bad boy/girl who lived by the motto “treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen” at least once?
Now I have a few more grey hairs (carefully dyed red), it seems much more accepted that you can be confident, assertive, successful, popular and nice. These traits do not have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, being nice can actually help you to be more personally and professionally successful, and have more good friends. Given the choice, wouldn't you prefer to work with or for a nice person? Wouldn't you rather hang out with someone who was nice to you? You can still stand up for yourself and others and be nice – it’s all in the delivery. And being nice makes it a whole lot easier to meet someone, fall in love and make it work. 

With all the bad news reported, it’s pretty safe to say that we need more nice people, and more love, in the world. I light up with gratitude and love when other people are nice to me or someone else. I get that warm, fuzzy, goosebumpy feeling. Sometimes I even get a little teary. And being nice doesn’t have to be selfless – it gives me joy and peace to see people’s reactions when I do something nice for them. It’s a win–win feel-good situation.

Being nice to someone – even just smiling at them – can improve their mood and day. It might also inspire them to be nice to someone else, who might then be nice to someone else, and so on. In this way, you don’t just affect the person you’re nice to, but also the people they come into contact with. It can create a beautiful snowball or ripple effect.

And the best bit about being nice? It isn’t hard and doesn’t necessarily cost you any money. Smile at a stranger who is walking past you – or, God forbid, sitting near you on the train. Ask the cashier in the supermarket how their day is – and listen to their reply. Let a car pull out in front of you, and wave thanks to drivers who let you pull out in front of them. Hold the door open for someone walking behind you. Take your neighbour some surplus fruit, vegetables or flowers from your garden if you have one, or just say hello to them next time you see them. Pat the dog or cat who approaches you (if they look friendly). Leave your scraps of bread out for the birds. The opportunities to be nice are endless. 

Being nice doesn’t have to take much thought or effort, but can be life changing for you and the person you’re nice to, and the people who later cross their path. What’s not to like about that?

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