Be nice

February 11, 2010

Wow, what a rollicking comment section I have!  Problem is that most of the discussion goes out-of-band.  i.e. people email me instead of posting comments.  Which is fine but then no one else gets to see what you have to say.  Some people wrote some very personal things to me.  That is cool,  but post under a false name.  I’ll never moderate you or give away your true identity.

Anyway, I had some emails from people who were concerned about me.  Well don’t be.  The whole point of the post was of a guy who is successful in not only understanding himself but using it to his advantage.  In response to XUP, there is no fear of me “hurting” myself.  I have too much to live for and I have too many people depending on me.  And I know that no matter how low it gets…it will pass.  Besides I have lots and lots of coping mechanism which I can use.  Some as simple as going for a walk in the woods or as elaborate as going to talk to a professional.  I have found that as I get older the downs get less deep but do tend to last longer.  The benefit to that is that the highs last longer too, just not as high anymore.  And I am ok with that.

Anyway, on to the new post!

When I was growing up my father was always trying to make me “be tough”.  Tough it out, walk it off, suck it up.  And being 5 I bought into it.  I bought into it well into my adult life.  And I knew it went against who I was and my personality but when your Dad says to be a man, you be a man.  I have never seen him cry so I thought to be a man I would never cry. 

I compounded this by being a Trekker.  I wanted to be both Kirk AND Spock.  A true leader…..with no emotion.  And for the most part I succeeded.  My nickname in University moved from “Old Man” (I liked to go to bed before 11 PM) and “Asshole”.  I wore the asshole badge with pride.  I didn’t give a damn about anyone’s feelings and I didn’t care what anybody thought about me.

And it seemed to work. I had a few good friends.  I had some great experiences and I have a good career etc.  Job done right?

But now I look at my kids, and I see what they do and I see the effect I have on them.  And it is quite an effect.  It was about this time that I came to work for a guy who was a bigger asshole than me.  Quite a feat I assure you.  And for the first time I had to deal with this asshole instead of what I usually did when I met someone like myself.  If I met an asshole, I would be a bigger asshole until he gave in or went away.  If he pissed me off too much I went away.  Not a problem, what did I care.  However this time I had a family and couldn’t just pick up and run.

Instead I started looking to see how I could operate under him.  And since my way wasn’t working I started to look at how other people dealt with him.  Basically there were 3 types of people.  Those who stood up to him, were fired. Those who rolled over, are his employees.  And those who he could control, are his friends.

But there was a sub-set of people who actually ran the company and did all the work and were able to deal with all these people.  These people I watched closely because they not only had a great work experience, they also seemed….happy?  How the hell was that possible?  They had happy family lives, lots of happy friends and they were successful.  They made more money, seemed to do more, be more.  How they hell were they doing it!  I worked harder that they did.

Then as I watched and as I worked with them I saw it. They were nice.  That’s it, that’s all they were.  They said nice things, did nice things and they were happy.  But that isn’t they way I did things and maybe the way I did things was wrong, maybe?

So I went home and saw my kids playing with each other and when they fought I brought out the big guns and told them what for!  And it worked didn’t it?  Or did it.  They just seemed to go back to fighting when I wasn’t around.  So I decided to experiment with my kids.

I changed tactics, I taught them to be nice.  Say nice things, do nice things.  When someone is mean to you, be nice back.  And you know what?  It worked.  Most fights stopped, they started sharing, negotiating and my house actually started to have some harmony.  Whoa.

The next step was to apply that to my life.  And after three decades of being the tough guy, that was hard.  So I started small.  There was this mean old lady at the post office and I had to deal with her everyday.  Some days it got downright nasty with my just asking her to “do her fucking job”.  Postal employees, what are ya gonna do?  Well I started being nice.  I started small, by saying “good morning” on my way in and ” have a nice day” on my way out.  And in a nice tone of voice, like I really meant it.

The results of this campaign of niceness, this change of heart, change of tactics?  She was nice back to me almost immediately.  She went out of her way to help me, to let me know when I got a package.  Whoa again.  All I did was say “good morning” and look at the difference.

So I changed my ways, when people call I sound like I am actually glad to hear from them.  When users email me I always answer back with a “HI!, How can I help”  and things just keep getting better.

Now right in the midst of all this I was going through a bad patch with the asshole boss.  He took an almighty swipe at me and that was the last straw.  I found a new job and was on my way out, but I didn’t want to quit, I wanted him to fire me.  Pure ego, nothing else. But this was right when I was changing my tactics, and that change was cemented one morning because I read a book to my oldest child.  It was from the movie Chicken Little.  He was imagining if he was big and strong and then he would go and beat up his enemy Foxy Loxy.  But then he said, how would that make her feel? Would I not be just like her?  Chicken Little was right……dammit.

So the asshole flies into town, he marches right into my office and I say…?

“Good Morning Sir!  It’s good to see you again, you are looking well.  Did you have a good flight?”  He was completely taken aback.  He mumbled something that sounded like a “yes”.  Then I said.

“Is that your broken computer there?  I’m sorry about the trouble it has caused you, let me take it from you and I’ll have it fixed as soon as I can”

He said ok, that would be fine and left my office.  The situation was totally diffused and remains diffused to this day.  He cannot be mean to me when I am being nice, it is just not possible.

Even Jesus said to turn the other cheek and he was right.  Being mean begets meanness, being nice begets niceness.  And since I have started my “new way” things have gotten better.  So I am going to teach my kids to me nice in the way my dad tough me to be tough. And I have a feeling they will be happier and more successful for it.

Now you go and have yourself a great day!  Thanks for stopping by.


  1. Okay. I’m glad you’re fine. I hope you’re fine. And I hope you can remember all the wonderful things in your life no matter how low you get…because I know that’s not always possible. It’s good to know you have a lot of people concerned about you. And yes, pretending to be nice does work wonders. Cool, isn’t it?

  2. Hey Old Man,

    I was usually in bed by then too 😉

    It was those bastards downstairs playing the stereo at 2 am we had to watch out for. The shotput and that short circuited plug on a wooden ruler in the electrical sockets seemed to work, eh?

    Anyway, back to the topic.


    This works.

    I have a simple trick of my own.

    You know how people say, “How are you today?” and most of the time people say, “Fine”, even if they are not?

    So I have been saying for a few years, “Hello – how is your day going today?”

    Because it is different, and I say it so that it sounds like I am really concerned, I usually get an honest response but in a positive tone – the person might tell me that the point-of-sale terminal they’re working at is half-broken, or that they lost their car keys, or whatever.

    But usually by the end of it, I get a smile and a “Have a nice day”.

    It worked for me at work too, in my last position.

    One of the chemistry techs is well known for being really tough to work with, he’s made some people leave work because he’s so grumpy.

    But you know…

    …the old “How are is your day going today?” worked on him, every time.

    I use it as a sort of barometer for how the person is feeling, then try and find out what’s bothering them, then work that angle.

    Yep. Worked on him every time, and he smiles when he sees me even today.

    Because I took the time to be nice to him, and ask him about his problems before going to him with mine.

    So Eyeteaguy, how is your day going today?

  3. Holy shit. Eyeteaguy POSTED something!

    It’s the fourth sign of the Apocalypse. The End of Time is nigh.

    (But hey, at least you write more often than Brett)

  4. @EyeLifeCoachGuy 😉

    When I used to work in an office I didn’t like the constant “How are you?” just passing in the hallway. I didn’t believe people really cared… it was just a script that most people said unconsciously in a hurry on their way by.

    When I was feeling low I just said ‘ok’ and even when I was feeling great I just said ‘ok’. Then it pissed me off when people’d come back with an “just ok?” like I’m obligated to say “I’m GRRRRR8!!!”

    I like how you diffused that situation. Totally stopped him in his tracks.

    PS I’ve been down before too and quite recently I was thankful that I didn’t own a car, a hose and a garage. It does pass doesn’t it?

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