Many people do New Year’s Resolutions. I usually don’t, but this time will be different. This time, I decided to continue being nice in 2017.
A long time ago, I worked in a call center. This may be surprising to those who know about my hatred of phone calls, but I needed the money for the first of my many moves abroad, and for someone who spoke multiple languages, call center jobs were easy to come by.
Of course, I hated the job. But I came in, did my best and then went back home. I knew I’d quit soon enough but I just wanted to do my job for as long as I would be there. I was kind to my customers. I did my best to help them and always tried to make them feel good. Well, as they say, no good deed goes unpunished.
One day, my supervisor told me that I would be a part of a group who would take on more challenging clients. They had me go through training for that. Said training included being yelled on by my supervisors who wanted me to grow a thicker skin and teach me how to react when people would offend me. From their point of view, it made total sense. An employee was showing promise, and the supervisors decided to challenge her. From where I was standing, it looked like they were punishing me for being nice, by having me talk to people who were yelling at me, with no reason whatsoever.
I quit shortly after that. I was about to move to Canada for four months, and besides, I was done being a waste bucket for my customers. But I never quit being nice, and neither do I intend to stop now.
I know that “nice” has a negative ring to it. Nice people are seen as spineless, boring, or even inauthentic. Instead, many women say they want to stop being so nice all the time, because they often feel used. And usually, I’d agree with this sentiment. After all, women are often told to be nice and to smile, while this is not expected of men in the same extend. I understand why women want to stop being nice. They’re tired. It’s emotional labor, and it goes totally unrecognized.
But who is to tell us that we’re in the wrong? It’s not our fault that so many people are jerks. We shouldn’t be the ones to change our behaviour. There is nothing wrong with being nice. There’s everything wrong with being a jerk.
Being nice to people is not a sign of weakness. It takes hard work to smile at people if you don’t feel like it. Especially when you don’t feel like it. From what I’m reading I get the feeling that the consensus seems to be that only a highly selected number of people are worthy of your niceness.
That’s wrong. Your approach should be that everyone is worthy of your niceness until they prove to you, very strongly, that they’re not.
I was often told that I was too nice. That I put aside my needs to serve the needs of others. That’s not true. I think about my needs, too. I honestly have no choice but to do so lest I end up overwhelmed and overstimulated. But other than that, I feel it’s my duty to be nice. Whenever I’m outside, I try to see where people may need help, and do my best to make their days a little bit better. I try to notice people and smile and greet and acknowledge them.
I know that many of them won’t pay me back. But everyone struggles and if all they see every day is just a sea of tired, unhappy faces, how will that make their days better? But if they saw someone smiling at them for a change, wouldn’t that help? A smile costs nothing but pays back in a million ways.
Being nice is not easy though, especially if everyone tells you it’s not a good trait to have. But it pays back even more.