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You’re Too Nice: Can You Ever Be?

You’re Too Nice: Can You Ever Be?
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BY JILL MATLOW

“You’re too nice”.

Wait, what?

I remember one of the times someone said that to me when I first moved to NYC. I had held the elevator door for someone, who was literally less than a foot away.

“You’re too nice” replied the guy on the elevator, as I held the door open.

Excuse me?

I’m too nice because I held the door for someone approaching the elevator? Was he being serious? And was he so busy that this two-second delay would make a difference in his day? I highly doubt it!

But it got me thinking, can someone actually be ‘too nice’ and if so, what does that look like?

In the small PA town where I grew up, 99% of the people were ‘nice’. Now granted, it was back in the 1960s and 1970s so times were obviously very different. Maybe it was the slower pace, or the fact that you actually knew and liked (most of) your neighbors. Everyone in the town seemed to know each other and were genuinely interested in each others’ lives.

I realize this is often not the case in larger cities where sometimes you can live in an apartment building for years and still not even know your neighbors’ first names. City dwellers move at a much quicker pace too where time is of the essence. They are not from the “hi, how are yous” and small talk, because they don’t have the time (or interest) to listen to your answers anyway!

But really, how difficult is it to just be nice? We’ve all heard that expression “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” and you can be sure that’s true. But what unfortunately happens is that there is a lot of displaced aggression directed at the wrong people anyway.

How many times have you been in a store waiting in a long line that is standing still? In those instances, I have been tempted to turn to the person behind me and ask “Is this what they mean about time ‘literally’ standing still”? But then I look up and see the stressed look on the cashier’s face and make every attempt to garner some patience, which is difficult for most people (especially New Yorkers who always seem to be in a mad rush)!

In the drugstores and grocery stores where I shop, I often think about what the cashiers’ commutes must be like, especially in the winter months. They probably stand on freezing subway platforms at 6AM, only to arrive at a job that is paying minimum wage, where they stand on their feet for eight hours. I’m sure their jobs would be made a lot easier if people were actually nice to them during their transactions.

Now make no mistake, being nice does not mean being a doormat or pollyana either. But in the new year, I’m personally trying to reach a happy medium with this, especially during these trying times. I would like to think that being nice actually translates into having compassion and showing empathy too.

Sometimes, it’s easier said than done.

My patience was recently tested when I had to call customer service at Amazon. I had been waiting for a package that was ‘allegedly’ shipped out three weeks ago which still hadn’t arrived. My former self would have let my frustration get the best of me and then it would indirectly (or directly) be aimed at whomever answered the phone at Amazon. Admit it, you’ve been there too, right? Your blood starts to boil as you dial their number.

But instead, I thought about the types of phone calls they must have been getting around the holidays regarding the gifts that weren’t going to be arriving on time. I realized that we were not talking life or death with the arrival of my package, which wasn’t time sensitive. If getting a package late was my biggest problem in life, I was doing pretty well.

I guess it’s all about perspective in these scenarios.

I have found that aggression is always met with aggression, and when I’ve been nice and empathetic (especially to customer service personnel) I seem to have better results. I ended up receiving a follow-up call a few days later from Amazon. It reinforced to me why it’s so necessary to choose your battles. And at my age, sometimes I don’t have the emotional energy to fight most of them!

Hopefully, this ‘nice’ trend will continue through 2017. I will certainly make a valiant attempt.

What are your strategies for ‘attempting’ to be nice when your patience is wearing thin? Have you ever been accused of being too nice and do you think that’s ever a bad thing? And when did being “too nice” go out of style? Whether you live in a small town, the suburbs or a major city, please share your anecdotes with us as we love hearing your tales.

As for me, I’m hoping to embrace the message in the below quote as I move through 2017:

“You can only find comfort in being nice when you expect nothing in return”

 – Anonymous

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Jill Matlow
Jill Matlow spent much of her career working in many different facets of the healthcare industry writing marketing proposals, creative briefs and tactical plans. She is thrilled to now be writing articles geared to baby boomers who are nostalgic about their past but still hopeful about their futures. While music is her first passion, writing comes in a close second.