It’s easy, popular, and fits on one of those oblong bumper stickers: JBN – Just Be Nice. Be nice to yourself, be nice to other people, when it’s time you stand up for yourself do it in a respectful manner, and play by the rules. JBN.
That’s it. That’s the entire philosophy that gets me from day to day and job to job in my working life. Just be nice. Obviously I’m not always right on the money here, I have bad days like anybody else does, and I am a girl from Southern California so I obviously know my way around a mean-girl moment, but I do my very best to be nice and apologize when I’ve been nasty (which despite my efforts still happens more often than I’m comfortable with). Of course I will gladly elaborate ….
Well meaning friends and advisors have often told me to look out for myself because people were going to try to hold me back. I appreciate that they want me to succeed, but I struggle with the idea of a world out to get me. I also disagree that looking “out” is the always the way to go.
When looking out for oneself, it’s easy to miss what’s going on with the people working around you, and it is also easy to make the assumption that you need to take constant action to avoid the evil that others have in store for you. While bad people do exist, and while you should always avoid putting yourself in a dangerous situation, or one that doesn’t feel right (more on that in another post), I find that I do better when I look “in” for my own actions, instead of “out” for my own interests.
I find that looking “in” tends to lead me to consider fairness and manners. My father is a big fan of Miss Manners, and manners generally, so at every possible moment during my childhood he encouraged me to consider them – even if it meant giving up a win or a starring moment, to ensure that I gave things that merited attention their proper due. Thank you notes, for example, are not an outdated tradition reserved only for weddings and Bar Mitzvahs, they are an important proof that you appreciate someone spending their money on you, and a reminder to yourself that you don’t take that for granted. And just look at the apology: Apologies are not a rhetorical device to get you off the hook, they are important tools to acknowledge that you may have been wrong/unkind/rude etc., and which may cause you to feel some discomfort before forgiveness comes around.
The deep understanding of the importance of traditional manners, and the role they play in our development as business people has been a tremendous boon to me in my career. I’ll tell you my “Thank You Note Story” some other time, it’s one of my greatest hits.
And so we come back to my strategy – which I try to allow to guide my actions and reactions, and which protects me from many sticky situations that are easily avoidable by stepping up before things get bad. Just Be Nice. People are usually not out to get you, and if they are it has to do with them and not with you – by being nice to everyone else around that meanie giving you a hard time, you will make a larger and longer lasting postivie impression than you would have if you went to war.
Write it on a sticky note that you can see when you look up from your computer and consult it every time you’re about to answer an email that had a nasty tone, or when you’re on the phone with someone exasperating. Look at it when you’re gossiping with your colleagues (which is fun and addictive and awful), and try your best to live by it…
Just Be Nice.