The Prepetit Column
The Unofficial Guide To Being Nice
By Ralphael Prepetit
One of the easiest ways to be nice is to try your very best to be patient with people. People are complex; people have an amazing amount of things swimming around in their heads, often in no particular order. This makes it important when dealing with people to give them a minute to understand who they are talking to and/or dealing with and why. Give people time to squeeze you in between the high price of their morning latte, and wondering if they locked the deadbolt or set the alarm before leaving the house this morning. You also must remember that some people are sharper than others, and therefore much like waiting for a traffic light, some are quick, and some take a minute. In either case, the more patient, the less frustrated. The less frustrated, and the nicer you will be.
The Buzz Kill: Don’t be this person. When amongst friends, family, loved ones or co-workers, the last thing you should want to be is the person who changes the mood of the room in any negative way. Sometimes the person with the biggest mouth in the room also has the biggest audience, meaning whatever comes out of his or her mouth has a direct impact on everyone within earshot. If you have a big mouth, just remember that big words come out of it, and that you’re responsible for them. Refrain from causing a scene because more often than not, you end up the star of a really bad production. And if you do that, you’ll find less people at the next show. If you’re going to say things, especially about other people, make sure that it’s positive at best and neutral at worst. Making a habit of speaking ill of other people makes you untrustworthy. You may not realize it, but it does. If people have to worry about what you might say about them, well, do the math. Besides, it’s not nice.
Which brings me to directly to my next point.
Be self-aware: This is perhaps the most important factor in not only being nice, but of being a better person. Understand how your actions and/or behavior impact those around you. If you want to be nice, then take the same care as you would in a movie theater. What I mean by that is monitoring how loud you are speaking and if you are disturbing other people. Trust me when I say that people would rather not overhear your conversation. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but in general nobody wants to hear a conversation from your life without care or context. When moving around, try to avoid getting in people’s way, or obstructing their views. If there’s nobody behind you, then by all means, move as slow as you want. Conversely, if there is a line of people behind you, keep it moving. People usually have things to do, and they’d like to get them done. Don’t hinder them with nonchalance.
Learn to keep a secret: When a friend or family member tells you something secretly, it’s because they have confidence in you. They believe that they can trust you with the information. Don’t screw that up. Have you ever repeated something that you shouldn’t have? That lingering feeling in the back of your mind, or tap-dancing in the pit of your stomach, is called betrayal. Is it like treason? No. But it’s another little piece of your niceness chipped away. Only you can feel it, and you know every time it happens. There are exceptions, but relatively few. If it’s a matter of life and death, then obviously you’ve got to spill the beans. But outside of that, a secret is a secret.
Acknowledge the extras: Your mailman. The person making your double fat soy latte at Starbucks. The maintenance guy in your building, and the landscapers for your lawn. The server at your favorite restaurant. Any military service man or women. These people are all extras in the movie of your life. I find that these people really appreciate it when others take a moment to say a kind word, an acknowledgement, or just a simple hello. You’ll feel better too, I promise, and your niceness wil grow.
Offer the apology: Always apologize when you screw up. It’s the right thing to do; it shows respect, contrition, and an awareness of the slight. Even if the person doesn’t accept the apology, which is their right, it doesn’t matter. By apologizing, you are doing as much as you can do on a basic level. It’s not always even about right or wrong; it’s about acknowledging that you are sorry about the situation at the very least. It’s also the high road, which is always better than the low road. You can always see better from the high ground. Always.
Integrity: if you say you’re going to do something, then you really need to do it. People need to trust and believe in your word. You will have a very difficult time getting people to trust and believe in you if your word is sh*t. It’s not easy. Things happen, and life is complicated. In fact, it’s not easy to have 100% integrity 100% of the time. Everyone has done or not done things that they regret. But the person with integrity steps up and takes responsibility. They understand where the shortcoming is or was, and make an effort to remedy it. In general, if you say what you mean, mean what you say, and do what you’ve agreed to do. Then you’ll be fine. And yeah, nice.
Have some empathy: Look, life is hard. Everybody has his or her own issues. Everybody has suffered loss. Everybody has a past. We are all human beings, and that very fact means that there is a complex web of past, present, and future woven within the fabric of each and every one of us. It’s important to have empathy for the plight of others; it’s the same thing you would want, right? The easiest way to have empathy is to, as trite as it sounds, imagine what it must be like to be that person. Then cut them some slack. Empathy means a great deal to me, because I like to think that I have a great deal of it–so much, in fact, that I usually try and take it a step further, and I am always trying to help the people around me. A kind word, sometimes with a big ear, and sometimes a small mouth. Highlighting possibilities for change that they may not have thought about. But most importantly, more understanding, and less judgments.
In conclusion, I think that being nice is a state of mind that requires all of the aforementioned thoughts, plus everything else that I haven’t learned yet, but will instinctively know the minute I feel it. Being nice makes you a person people want to be around. Being nice makes you someone that people appreciate. Being nice makes you a person whose back other people have. Being nice is the universal key to happiness in your life and around the world. So, I ask, why not be nice? It makes the world a better place, and it starts with one friendly hello at a time.