Thursday, December 10, 2009

Being Nice

Today I typed “being nice” into Google and got a page of hits starting with the phrase “being nice gets you nowhere”.

Not very encouraging in a season that features goodness and giving.

I had just coached a young investment banker and remarked to the group that he exuded niceness. Hearing the comment, his colleagues around the table echoed my sentiments saying he was genuinely nice all the time. Not an easy thing to do in the cynical world of high finance.

Then I heard General Stanley McChrystal being interviewed by Charlie Rose on the radio. He was talking about his dad and how he never saw or heard him do a mean thing during his whole childhood. Not an easy thing to do since his dad was an Army man, used to ordering people around.

Then I thought about the pace of our busy lives and how hard it is to be genuinely nice to people all the time. We are always rushing to catch a bus or a cab or a movie or a sale, or to be at a meeting or an interview, or to shop and make dinner, or to answer an email or some other electronic poke or touch.

We always seem to be on the verge of completely losing our sense of calm and manners. As someone who has cursed traffic and standing in lines his whole life, I know whereof I speak. I know I’m not alone. I see plenty of people cursing in their cars and rolling their eyes in the queue just like me.

In this season of magic and wonder when bears dance in tutus on a grand stage at Radio City and lovers gaze at full moons while twirling around Wollman Rink and families put aside their gripes and griefs to share each other’s annual company, let’s remember to be nice – to ourselves and to each other.

You can be nice to yourself. Remind yourself that it was a very tough year, but you survived. Remind yourself that life knocked you down, but you got back up. Remind yourself that you never stopped trying even when you were crying. Pat yourself on the back for never losing faith and be nice to the face in the mirror. It needs some TLC. It got no help from the stimulus package.

You can be nice to the people closest to you. Be nice to the ones who had your back when no one else did. Be nice to the ones who made you great and never got enough credit. Be nice to the ones who gave you strength when you had doubt. Be nice to the ones who gave you hugs when you needed them more than money. Be nice to the ones who gave you love even when you were a jerk.

You can be nice to a stranger - even by opening a door to let someone through or with the wave of the hand to let someone change lanes or with a heartfelt hello or a gracious goodbye.

Our economy can certainly use a massive injection of jobs and renewed confidence and optimism. Our IM/Twitter/TMZ culture could also use a massive injection of manners and courtesy.

Maybe if we start really small now, someday a little kid will type “being nice” into Google 22.0 and the first page will be filled with hits starting with the phrase “being nice gets you everywhere”.

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