At this time of year many bloggers feel the need to put ‘pen to paper’ for the noble cause of commenting on New Years resolutions. There are tomes (do we still have tomes in this digital world I wonder?) of blog posts about how to lose weight, get fitter, stop smoking or just be a nicer person than we were last year.
So what about ‘being nice’? It may surprise you to learn that the current day meaning of the word is the exact opposite from when it was first conceived, when it meant foolish or silly (for all you “word buffs”, here is a lengthy explanation of the etymology of ‘Nice” : “The Meaning of Nice”). This word is the bane of a writers life. It is seen as a rather boring word. A word that we use when we can’t think of a better adjective. “He was a nice chap”, is almost a damning indictment of the fellow who can rise only to being ‘nice’. Even my fancy piece of software that I use to check for cliche’s tells me ‘nice’ is one and to find an alternative. But I beg to differ (cliche!) ‘nice’ is a good word to use, a positive word, used as an adjective it means to be pleasing, agreeable or delightful (Oxford English Dictionary). Who wouldn’t want to be nice?
So in 2016 I am going to be nice. That’s it. That’s my one and only New Years resolution. I’m done with not being nice, that would make me unpleasant, disagreeable and ‘undelightful’. Surely no-one would ever have described me as such in 2015? Well not to my face anyway!
When I researched this post (ok, I just Googled “being nice”) I got lots of results, many articles on how to be nice or to be a nicer person to your partner, to your friends, to your colleagues and so on. Does that mean we all harbour a desire to be nicer than we are? It would be an interesting state of affairs if that were true. Imagine supposedly hard-nosed businessmen, used to outdoing each other in the tough guy stakes, trying to compete with each other by being nice – in a friendly rivalry of course. Amazingly there are some examples of really nice businessmen – I came across a number of articles about the US supermarket giant Costco or more specifically the CEO Craig Jelinek, calling for the minimum wage in the US to be raised – this against the backdrop of Costco bucking the trend and paying its CEO a lot less than Wal-Mart, but paying its employees a relatively high basic wage. That’s nice business leadership. There is a false perception that you have to be cut throat – and therefore not nice – to succeed in business. Look at TV shows like “The Apprentice” where Alan Sugar in the UK version and Donald Trump in the US version pander to that stereotype, and contestants try to outdo each other in what ends up being a competition to be disagreeable, unpleasant, and anything but delightful. I’d love to see Craig Jelinek take over the duties!
There is even a website where you can sign up to “choose to be nice” – choosetobenice.com! I’m not sure that’s totally necessary but it won’t do any harm – certainly a lot of people seem to have signed up as part of their New Years resolutions. When I thought about it in more detail, it seemed to me that being nice is down to just a few things:
Empathy – the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is not natural for all of us, but the more you try it the more you begin to see the world from other’s viewpoints.
Friendliness – it’s far easier to be friendly than to be unfriendly. It won’t always be paid back, but in my experience most people tend to default to friendly if that’s how they are approached.
‘Smiley-ness’ – there is actually a lot of scientific research that shows the more we smile, the happier we are and that there are real health benefits.
Patience – For most of this this is a learned skill (I’m still learning!), the phrase “don’t suffer fools gladly” should be rarely used as the fool maybe you if someone just doesn’t see the world as you do. Used together with empathy, patience can help us see new perspectives and even learn something.
Good humour – This seems obvious, but if we can approach all that we do, and all who we meet with good humour it sets a much more positive baseline than to approach life as a ‘grump’ (yes, I am working on that one too!).
Tolerance – Goes hand in glove with patience. If we consider the reverse – ‘intolerance’ – meaning a lack of respect for opinions or behaviours that you disagree with – it’s fairly obvious that tolerance is the better position to take.
Of course with all of the above it does not mean that you have to be a pushover in any walk of your life. Principles are important, and you don’t have to tolerate poor principles, bigoted opinions, or bad behaviour. Not putting up with those things, and making a stand on principles, contributes to making you a nicer person.
I’ve met lot’s of nice people in 2015, I wrote about friendships in my last post, but there are others that come into our lives, sometimes just for a brief time but these genuinely nice people can have a very positive impact on our own perspectives and values. So here is my own New Years honours list of some people who have nicely and positively influenced me in 2015:
Karen Hobbs – friend, colleague, blogger, stand up comedienne and all round nice and very smiley person – check her out here – quarterlifecancer.com Twitter: @karen_hobbs
Paul Geen – golf coach, probably the most patient person I met in 2015! I will be back for more coaching in 2016 Paul! http://www.paulgeengolf.co.uk, Twitter: @PGGOLFTIPS
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (Specifically Mareike in the library) for answering many of my research questions for my novel in such detail – I will be visiting soon! www.shakespeare.org.uk, Twitter: @ShakespeareBT
BMW Motorcycle Club (East Anglia Section) – looking forward to some great rides in 2016. Thanks to Dik Langan for his friendly, smiley and enthusiastic welcome! www.thebmwclub.org.uk/eastanglia, Twitter @BMWClubEA
Wishing you all a happy and really nice 2016!