Thursday, January 21, 2016

It Pays to be Nice

One of the fun concepts of Sho-Gun is that the Japanese are inordinately polite. A daimyo could be telling his samurai that he should commit seppuku, but they will be awfully civil about it. No screaming. No name-calling. A lot of "Please" and the honorific of "-san."
"Being nice" is relative. My nice is not your nice. Heck, forget about nice—feigning decency is too much to ask. B'H I don't have this problem, but many suffer in intolerably stressful work environments, Christine Porath reports in "No Time to Be Nice at Work." What I find upsetting is not only is there such bad behavior is supposedly professional environments, but even employees feel that being nice is a sign of idiocy.  
Many are skeptical about the returns of civility. A quarter believe that they will be less leader-like, and nearly 40 percent are afraid that they’ll be taken advantage of if they are nice at work. Nearly half think that it is better to flex one’s muscles to garner power. They are jockeying for position in a competitive workplace and don’t want to put themselves at a disadvantage.
Why is respect — or lack of it — so potent? Charles Horton Cooley’s 1902 notion of the “looking glass self” explains that we use others’ expressions (smiles), behaviors (acknowledging us) and reactions (listening to us or insulting us) to define ourselves. How we believe others see us shapes who we are. We ride a wave of pride or get swallowed in a sea of embarrassment based on brief interactions that signal respect or disrespect. Individuals feel valued and powerful when respected. Civility lifts people. Incivility holds people down. It makes people feel small.
I believe that those who think nice = stupid are insecure. They do not believe they are worthy of being treated nicely, and so feebly attempt to boost their own egos but putting others down. Judgement on you, bro, not on me. 
Incivility often grows out of ignorance, not malice. A surgeon told me that until he received some harsh feedback, he was clueless that so many people thought he was a jerk. He was simply treating residents the way he had been trained.
Ah-ha. Sure. His mother never taught him to be nice? 
Technology distracts us. We’re wired to our smartphones. It’s increasingly challenging to be present and to listen. It’s tempting to fire off texts and emails during meetings; to surf the Internet while on conference calls or in classes; and, for some, to play games rather than tune in. While offering us enormous conveniences, electronic communication also leads to misunderstandings. It’s easy to misread intentions. We can take out our frustrations, hurl insults and take people down a notch from a safe distance.
I hate texting since I feel that without the nuanced delivery of tone and body language, there can be major misunderstandings. At least read texts over before you send them (a nicety my niece found laughable). 

If you're looking at your phone, you aren't looking at anyone else. 
Although in surveys people say they are afraid they will not rise in an organization if they are really friendly and helpful, the civil do succeed. . . What about the jerks who seem to succeed despite being rude and thoughtless? Those people have succeeded despite their incivility, not because of it. . . . Sooner or later, uncivil people sabotage their success — or at least their potential. Payback may come immediately or when they least expect it, and it may be intentional or unconscious.
The impolite win the battle to lose the war. 
Given the enormous cost of incivility, it should not be ignored. We all need to reconsider our behavior. You are always in front of some jury. In every interaction, you have a choice: Do you want to lift people up or hold them down? 

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