Growing up I was always considered a “nice” person. As a child, I had (fortunately) never really experienced what it felt like to be left out, or actively disliked. So when I arrived at University, it was a shock to learn that not everyone was as nice as me. That just because I was kind, did not mean others would be kind back; a lesson I’m sure we all have learned along the way. As an adult, I was even more shocked to learn how often rude and patronizing people somehow ended up as managers. This made me wonder, do nice girls and guys really finish last?
Over the last few years, I have unfortunately heard stories and seen firsthand adults be publicly embarrassed in the workplace, only to be left on the brink of tears. I remember earlier this year on my Monday commute into work, I had a similar instance – albeit not in the office. There I was, smiling and standing patiently at Marylebone Station on a cold Winter’s morning, completely unprepared for what was to happen next. There had been issues with the ticket barriers that day – a nightmare for any London commuter. As a result, this meant pandemonium erupted among the hundreds of people who were rushing to get to work. When it was my turn to go through the gates, the employee checked my ticket only to realize I had the wrong one, and reacted as if I had tried to cheat the whole of Transport for London. She shouted at me as if to make an example out of me, utterly humiliating me in the process in front of a crowd people. I remember my face began to feel hot, my eyes began to well up with tears, and my blood began to boil. I was completely taken aback by her overreaction and this moment of humiliation. I then became increasingly aware of the eyes of onlookers watching this moment of drama unfold, all before it was even 8 AM.
It had in fact been totally her own fault, rather than mine (which I suppose so often is the case in these kind of scenarios) as I had told her as I approached, about the ticket dilemma. However I managed to hold it together, and calmly called her out on her behaviour. I stood up for myself, correcting her on what had actually happened with ticket-gate (excuse the pun) and told her there was absolutely no need to treat me, or anyone else like that. I then proceeded to complain about this to one of her team members. Whether this was taken seriously I do not know- I certainly did not receive an apology. Nonetheless, I was proud of how I handled this stranger’s outburst and that I had kept myself mostly together. In that moment, I empathized with those who may experience such behaviour in the workplace. Thinking about this now, I wonder how this kind of scenario may be playing out in a remote setting. I also wonder if I would have reacted the same way if it was my boss speaking to me in such a rude manner, rather than a complete stranger. How would I act, especially now, where there is an increasing amount of anxiety around job security? I sincerely hope that I would have the courage and resilience to deal with this, or that a kind colleague would step in and show me some support if needed.
2020 has been a tough year on many levels, and whilst I may not have all the answers, I know that being nice does not cost a thing. I remember reading an article on The Everygirl about protecting your heart at work, which emphasized just how important emotional resilience is. Although I still have so much more to learn and I know inevitably there will be more hurdles to overcome, here are some of the lessons I have learned in my 20’s so far…
- The company I keep both in an out of work is important
The people we surround ourselves with have a direct impact on our wellbeing and outlook on life. Take a look at those nearest to you and figure out if they add value to your life and if they build you up as a person.
- Other people’s opinions of me do not validate me
Whenever I catch myself ruminating about silly thoughts like what I said earlier that day, I stop myself. Instead I try to focus my energy on my own goals, rather than wasting energy on needless worry.
- Showing my “true” self can be daunting but liberating
I used to differentiate my identity between my “work” self and “true” self, and now count myself lucky to work somewhere where I feel I can and want to, bring my whole self to work. This also means I feel more authentic in my choices and am able to bounce back easier on days which are challenging.
- It’s better to be understood than to be liked
Not everyone will like me, and that’s fine, despite the people pleasing voice I have in my head!
- Not everyone shares the same ideas or outlook as me
As obvious as this, really taking time to digest and understand this has made a huge difference. This was also summed up really succinctly for me in the Everygirl article,
“Most people see interactions as swift, emotionless transactions ; whilst this is true in many businesses, it doesn’t mean you have to be the same, just recognize that there are others like that”.
- How people act and respond to you often comes from them projecting their own feelings from what’s happening in their own life, rather than in response to the actual content of what you have said.
- Being smart and kind will always be cool
- Always trust and listen to your gut
- Feel the love
- Nice people certainly do not finish last
Being nice isn’t a weakness, it is a strength.
I’d love for you to share some of your tips or lessons you have learned with me in the comments below!
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