Posted in Of Psyche

Of Being Nice

A while back, I got a call from a shopping website I often buy from. Usually, I exit such calls as soon and as politely as possible, but the caller expressed concern in great detail over a review I had written about an item I’d purchased. This was refreshing, at least in my experience, because it made the interaction personal and yet valid and professional. I was surprised at how inquisitive he was about some of the minor issues I had had with their products over the years. By the end of it, it was upto me to tell him to accept that positive feedback can also be a good thing, and help a company grow. Not every customer interaction has to be a complaint, and if a customer is actually taking the time to praise the service you provide, you should gracefully accept it. He was more surprised than me, for what was to be a simple customer care call turned out to be a philosophical argument on the dying art of being nice to people. Really, why is that so hard to be?

I do have some default settings in my personality that require me to be polite. First of all, I avoid confrontations as much as I can. I can’t handle it, I’d rather hide under a table than deal with even a mildly tense situation. Obviously, that doesn’t help much in making something out of my time in this world, but that’s the way it is. Secondly, I was raised to be that way. Any unpleasant behaviour wherever I went was frowned upon, no matter who did it. I learnt to say ‘Thank You’ too many times perhaps, instead of not at all. Even if I am a woman, I was taught to leave my seat for someone elderly irrespective of gender, to open doors for people etc.

Obviously, I am not saying that all such mannered behaviour makes me a better person morally. Such behaviours can often be passive aggressive, manipulative and affected. I do them genuinely 90% of the time, but there is the quite solid 10% when I want to express anger or frustration, but I can’t. Even if it is never anger, it is often sarcasm, which some even enjoy if it is done in a playful, teasing manner. But, I don’t make a career out of it, and I keep to being, or at least trying to be, nice all the time. Whether it seems genuine or a little too people-pleasing, you be the judge (but don’t tell me about it, because it is rather unpleasant to know). As I’ve said before, I have no interest in being a saint. I’d very much like to make it as a human being. And I believe ‘making it‘ in that department requires being nice to people, and pointing out what they do right.

Therefore, it completely baffles me when people are either too shocked to say anything when receiving positive behaviour from strangers, or are too cynical to buy it. I didn’t even need to please the company in the afore-mentioned case, I genuinely love their products. I’ve enjoyed seeing them grow over the years, and I’ve seen the hard work they put in. Have we really grown to be so indifferent that even in our consumerist affairs, we don’t actually care who we buy things from unless they do something wrong? Is it that we expect nice behaviour too much, but don’t make enough of an effort to do it ourselves?

I know all this sounds terribly sanctimonious. And maybe, that’s it. Maybe you can’t even talk about being nice without being thought of as preachy. Maybe, we appreciate ill-mannered behaviour because that is less likely to be fabricated. Everyone loves to watch a good fight, because anger seems to be the last publicly demonstrable passion. It is enticing, no doubt. There is great conviction in it, it makes you feel powerful, and you don’t even have to care what anyone thinks while you do it. The damage it caused maybe irreparable, but the sensations you felt were things that maybe get suppressed too much at other times. But, that doesn’t make it a desirable outlet, because we hardly have the courage to be angry at people who intimidate us. Anger, or even a mild form of rudeness is always the result of a pre-determined, highly-skewed power relationship. That is why it is often misdirected, because we hardly have the courage to let it out directly on who caused it. I guess, the question ultimately isn’t why aren’t we more nice to people, but why are we so rude.

I would love to be more blunt, more often. But, I can’t bear the thought of making anybody miserable, even unconsciously, which I’m sure I must do. But, there is absolutely nothing wrong with telling people they’re doing something right. If you love someone, tell them. If someone packs a meal for you, say ‘thank you’. If a woman accidentally steps on your toe in the train, accept her apology and don’t lash out on her, because your boss was beastly to you yesterday. Even though it is enormously uncool, hypocritical, and a real chore, be nice. It is so much easier, and better for your blood pressure, than being nasty.

Do you think being nice is a dying art?


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

29 thoughts on “Of Being Nice

  1. Whenever I start to believe kindness is a dying art, someone surprises me. For all the really awful things there are to hear about, there’s that story that reminds you that there are decent people out there that care about the feelings of others. So we should just keep on being nice and we’ll hope it’s contagious šŸ™‚

  2. No I don’t think it is a dying art but I think it is harder to work into our daily lives these days. It feels like so many of us are just angry these days for no particular reason. We don’t seem to cope with society as much as we used to which I think leads to more of an aggressive stance in our daily lives. When you can separate that stance, take a deep breath and be more in tune with how you are acting, the niceness will come out of most people.

    1. Very, very true. I think it is easier to be nice when you are younger or in more positive environments because you are more hopeful about the future and secure about yourself. People are more angry under pressure now because the particular reason for it is simply paranoia or insecurity. I suppose what we need to do is try and create better environments around us, no matter how angry we feel about things. There’s either that, or being angry, and both are a lot of hard work!
      Thanks for reading! I hope you are well.

      1. I think that is it exactly. I think so many interactions go from mildly pleasant to hostile so quickly because of that pressure. I think ease of technology aids that aggression too. Why have interaction with a person when you can do what you need on your smartphone. I agree with trying to foster better environments where that type of interaction isn’t so quick to surface. I’m doing ok thanks. Couple of things going on that are clouding my mind but I’m okay. Speaking of that, I meant to email you. I haven’t forgotten about that thing we discussed, I just haven’t been able to wrap my head around it quite yet.

      2. Oh, that’s totally okay. I’ve been caught up in a number of things as well. If there wasn’t a lot of poetry spontaneously occurring to me this month, this blog would have gone totally quiet! You take your time, and do think about that guest post as well.

      3. Thank you I will. Sorry I haven’t commented on your excellent poetry. I have read them all I just haven’t read them in light of making a meaningful comment.

      4. Oh, that’s totally fine! I’m so shy and secretive about it, I don’t know how to respond even if something nice is said! I’m happy with the engaging commentary on my essays for now.

      5. Poetry is tough to comment on I think. Not just yours, and not just here on WordPress but in general. It seems to be more of a solitary interaction in many ways because of the sparse phrasing. It seems like the more words there are the easier it is to form an answer!

      6. Ha ha! I’ve learnt to turn that analytical button in my mind off when it is poetry “for fun”. I’ve had to analyse so much of it for so long, it is hard to not even unconsciously analyse. With essays, it’s like an open discussion. With poetry, it isn’t a dialogue, but presenting things as they are in that situation, and leaving the reader to make whatever they want to out of it. If I had to censor them as much as my essays, I wouldn’t have put them up at all.

      7. Exactly-“it isn’t a dialogue, but presenting things as they are.” I think that is it precisely. I know when I read poetry I think about it a lot, but I wouldn’t say I always understand it, or as you say, I get out of it what I want.

      8. That isn’t the point either, is it? These films – Dead Poets Society, The History Boys and Bright Star – speak of what you are to do with it, to “luxuriate” in it, instead of trying to figure it out. I’m sure there is a ton of other literature, films etc, that say the same about it, but these are the ones that came to my mind.

      9. I only know Dead Poets Society but suspect you are right-luxuriating but not necessarily figuring it out.

        I feel I must apologize for causing your comments about this post to drift off course. Sorry!

      10. Nah, that’s okay. I love to talk about poetry, just not my own! And certainly not about writing it. Keats says in the film Bright Star, something that has been paraphrased from his actual writing – “The point of diving into a lake is not to immediately swim to the shore, but to be in the lake. To luxuriate in its senses.” That’s his way of approaching poetry. He was a poetic genius, of course, but he was also a great lover of poetry, and often wrote about how it should be experienced. I highly recommend Bright Star, a great sensory experience, whose cinematography I’m sure you’ll appreciate. And the music is beautiful too, as is everything else! The History Boys is a more British, ironic approach to some of the questions posed in Dead Poets Society, and it makes you laugh, while giving you a lot to think about.

      11. That is a wonderful quote from the film/Keats. Beautiful actually. I’ll have to see if both of those are available on Netflix. They sound interesting.Speaking of Netflix, they finally put Black’s Books back on so last week my wife and I binge watched the entire series! I also saw one of Dylan’s shows on there which I added (and thought of you while I did it!)

      12. Very good! Full marks from me! Which show was it? I’ve got a problem of quoting him all the time. I’ve been too much under the influence of him!

      13. I want to say it was Monster? I kind of just saw it and clicked without thinking! I watched a bunch of Bill Bailey videos the other day. If you haven’t seen it, look him up + Metallica. Too funny!

      14. I’ve seen Bill Bailey in panel shows besides Black Books. I like him, but in general I don’t watch stand up too often. Don’t have the attention span for a joke to be set up without visual aid. Dylan Moran doesn’t do jokes, just talks, but not in a podcast kind of way where you can just listen to it. He is the character, so every little gesture ends up being meaningful. It is comedy, but it is so much more.

      15. I understand the distinction. I enjoy Bailey as much for his musical skills. Remember the episode with the piano? He could be a great musician if he wanted too. People have asked him why he doesn’t release a real album. But it is a different kind of humor for sure. By description I get what you are saying about Dylan Moran’s standup. You need to see it. Somewhere deep in a stack of CD’s I have one by Eddie Izzard. I don’t really buy comedy albums but I like him so I gave it a try. It completely fell flat for me because I think it missed that visual element.

      16. Did you watch Craig Ferguson host The Late Late Show? I’ve watched videos of him for years on YouTube and he’s just great at doing observational comedy without needing to set up anything too much. I guess I just like rambling comedians who love to happily/angrily talk about nothing. Maybe because I’d love to do something like that!

      17. Never really watched him much. I stopped watching all of the late shows quite some time ago. I know he is very funny. Ah, stand up comedy huh? Interesting! You should try it!

      18. No no, not stand up comedy! I’m not funny, and I’d be too anxious anyway. Just that observational rambling thing, you know? Don’t have the confidence, but I can always happily fantasise! And you should give Craig Ferguson a try, maybe watch a few clips on Youtube. He’s very spontaneous and anarchic.

  3. I don’t know if it’s a dying art, but I know it’s an art I appreciate the heck out of when I witness it … and when I receive it. I try to practice it daily, though I certainly–daily–miss many opportunities to do so!

    1. Ha ha, at least I feel secure in my “niceness”. I won’t be able to live with myself if people thought me otherwise, though I’m sure there must be those who do. I’m grateful that they are too polite to tell me about it!

      And I appreciate the heck out of it too. I have a problem of falling idealistically in love with such people, if they happen to be single, male and attractive as well!

  4. Here in Canada it’s said that we are “too nice” and say “sorry” too much, even when it’s not our fault lol I’m not sure how true that is. I meet lots of nice people, but certainly I’ll come across a very rude person from time to time. I just stay far away from them and go about my day šŸ™‚

    1. Ah, now you’ve given me another reason for visiting! As if having all that spare, gorgeous landscape wasn’t enough! India too, despite being so busy and populated, has nice people, in the oddest of places. Maybe not in trains on morning rush hour!

  5. I actually think that most people are nice. But it may also depends on which part of the country you live in. People in the mid west and south seem to be more likely to be “conventional and friendly.” And apparently, people in the northeast — and I suspect more often the mid-Atlantic states — seem to be a little let’s nice on average. But having spent some time New York City, I have met plenty of nice people there (and some who weren’t.)

    1. Ah, but I do think it’s also come to be an individual thing. When I was a teenager, people always used to say teenagers are thoughtless, careless, brash creatures. I obviously agree, but now that I’m older, I do see it in many of that age group! I think people aren’t generally rude as a rule, but if you are at the other end of it, it can spoil your day.

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