What have you done recently to make someone feel better about themselves? Maya Angelou said it best; “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” My most recent posts have been about communication. This post is also about communication, communication by behavior, and specifically, the behavior of being nice. Yes, you read that right, being nice. Now, I think most of us know this, but too often we fail to show that we really know it by our behavior.
It is wonderful to be smart, but that will not generate good will in others. Being nice will. Now, I can hear some reading this thinking, “I don’t care if people like me; it matters more to me that I have respect!” Well, even if that is true, being respected and being liked often go hand in hand, and even if they don’t for you, where does respect get us if we aren’t liked? While it may have been easier to accomplish results as an individual in the past, that is no longer as true today. We are living in a team based world, where how we get along with others matters a lot. Yes, even if you are the top dog; and maybe especially if you are the top dog! You may think you are the leader, and you look around and they aren’t following! You are only a leader if you have followers. You may have position power, authority, but that is so different from being a leader. People follow leaders because they want to, not because they have to.
Well, if this is a true scenario for you, pause and look within. How well do you treat others? You may be telling others how smart you are and how incompetent they are, not of course using those words, but they get the point. You may even think, “Why are people so (meaning “ too”) sensitive?” Some people are too sensitive, and need to toughen up, but not most people. Most people respond very well to appreciation and recognition, and benefit greatly from the occasional praise. When we are so focused on results that we fail to remember that life is a human business, we miss the opportunities to make people feel better about themselves. When people feel better about themselves they are able to do better work, which helps us accomplish our goals. That really is how it works easiest and best.
Well, how do we describe being nice? There are so many ways. Smiling, greeting others when we pass them, and calling others by their name are examples. Also, asking others for their opinions, and not replying in a manner that tells them they are wrong. If/when they are wrong, saying so in a manner that maintains the dignity and respect of others. Not calling others out in front of or to others. Using the third party endorsement, which is complimenting someone to another person even when they aren’t present. (If you really aim for a firestorm of good will, try this one. The rumor mill will carry your positive message about others in such a manner that it will generate even more good will.) Use objective and positive words, a pleasant tone of voice, and friendly body language. Avoiding using the “but” word, or when it is used, placing it in a sentence in the proper place. An example of this is, instead of saying, “That is a good idea, but it won’t work here,” say, “While that won’t work here, it is a good idea.” Hopefully you can hear how reversing where the “but” is matters. Usually the person hears and remembers the words that follow the “but,” so when using that word, ordering the words in this manner helps them remember best what you said about them that is positive.
Then there is the power of thank you notes. In an era of explosive email, with even party invitations sent through electronically, do we really need to send (at least important) thank you’s via email? Think about the joy of receiving a handwritten thank you note. When a rare one is discovered in a stack of mail, it is often opened first, for it is known to be something special. My husband recently received 10 personalized thank you notes for a presentation he made to a college class. He was so touched that he left them out on the kitchen counter for me to see, and told me how touched he was to receive them. Now, he has spoken to many college classes, and this is the first time that he has received personalized thank you notes. Of the 10, 8 were handwritten and 2 were typed, and even those two typed notes were signed by the sender, and were in a handwritten envelope, so I consider them all personalized. And, each one was obviously written for his presentation; for they mentioned specific things they received from it. So, they were not “cookie cutter” thank you’s. Now, it is likely that the teacher of the class suggested the notes, which is great, for this represents leadership! That in no way detracts from the power of the notes. Being nice also includes showing appreciation to others in tangible ways, and this is a powerful example.
There is more that I could say about being nice, and more examples that I could give, but I must close. There are a few thank you notes that I want to write that are long overdue. This is about me too!