Observations on being nice

Something has happened to me a few times in the last few days.  Something that has left me perplexed and a bit disturbed.  It is my normal practice to treat people the way I want to be treated.  That is what I was taught from infancy, an example set by my marvelous parents.  Whether it was passed down from their parents (which I know it was – my grandparents were just as awesome) or part of the Southern/Texan heritage I am so proud of, I don't know.  I just know that it is embedded deep in the fibers of my being.  To be pleasant, courteous or at minimal civil to everyone I deal with.  Do I always succeed – no, we all have our really. really bad days, but the good ones occur significantly more often.

I have noticed more often, recently and especially in the last few days, a difference in my interactions with sales clerks and other service providers – fast food servers and store clerks in particular.  Today for example, I was at the drive-thru at a fast food restaurant (yes, I know it is very bad for me, but sometimes, you are just in that much of a hurry), the server took my order through the little speaker board.  She politely repeated my order to make sure she had it correct, gave me the cost, thanked me and told me to have a nice day.  My response, which is what I generally say to everyone in this situation, was to say "Thank you and you have a nice day".  She responded with "thank you", but it was in a flustered, surprised tone.  I then pulled up to the window to pick-up my order.  Again, the window server was polite, handed me my order and thanked me.  Again, I said "Thank you and have a nice day".  Again, the server was a bit taken aback. 

On the drive back to my office, it occurred to me that this has happened to me several times in the last few days.  I was courteous and polite to someone waiting on me ( just recently, a store clerk, a waitress, a fast food server, a customer service rep with a major cell phone provider).  All of whom were at minimum polite and courteous, some who were downright friendly.  I treated them as I would anyone else and they were surprised and grateful.  I know we complain often about the poor rude service we receive, but do we really stop and think about how many there are of those people in comparision to the total number of service providers we interact with on a daily basis.   Have we also stopped and thought about how we treat these people?  How often do we take an unconcious attitude of superiority?  Or maybe more accurately, indifference.  A "these people are here to wait on me so they should be the one nice to me, not me to them" type of attitude.

It is both disturbing and perplexing that someone waiting on me should be surprised and so grateful that I was nice to them.  When did our society get to a point that it is not a normal practice for everyone to be nice or at least polite?  In my eyes (and in my heart), it is the way it should be.  So I send you out with this reminder, we are all human, we have extraordinary strengths and foibles. The young man serving your fries or checking you out at the grocery store may be a math whiz.  The girl working at the local discount store stocking shelves may be supporting her family working 3 jobs.  Don't these people deserve the same courtesy we extend to everyone else in our lives?  Of course they do.  And maybe, just maybe, if we start treating them a little better, they will start treating us a little better.  The old theory that a smile gets passed on.  Smile, say "thank you and have a really great day" to the barrista fixing your coffee tomorrow morning, then step away and watch how they treat the next customer.  There will be a difference.  There may only be a subtle difference, but there will be one.  And for each smile and courtesy that gets passed on, several people's days get brighter and the circle continues.

So to all of you, I say "Thank you", "you are welcome" and "have a great day" and am leaving you with a smile.  It made me feel better, I hope it made you feel better too.  

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4 Comments

  1. Gloria,This was a great, thought provoking observation that you made. I find it interesting having lived in the "South" for many years (16 years after high school) and then moving North first to Michigan and then to Indiana, that people in the "South" are more polite outwardly. Usually they are more gentile in there behavior and manner when in public. But the interesting thing is they appear to be nice, when deep down they usually aren't. You never know how they really feel about you or the situation. After moving to Michigan, it took some getting used too, people were abrupt and rough, but you always knew exactly how they felt, they never hid it away to talk about when you weren't there.But we have for whatever reason lost that gentile nature, that politeness and thankfulness that we once had. I always try to be thankful even for the little things.Great post.Jeff

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  2. I too had the same upbringing, since we're cousins and all, but I have noticed that people in the south are generally in much less of a hurry and tend to be more laid back. I'm glad to say that most of the "Northerners" we see as "Winter Texans" enjoy their time here and many speak highly of us. If it weren't for this blasted HEAT in the summer,this would be the best place in the world to live!!!!! As a nurse, I'm glad to say that most of my patients from the northern states are glad we Texans are like we are, that's what makes us, well….US.
    I don't want to start anything, but I heard a comedienne say the other day that New York doesn't have any Wal-Mart's because "they can't find a greeter", those who are in New York that are civil and polite, forgive me, but I found it to be a hilarious observation.
    We miss you, Glo, and wish you and the boys were back in Texas where you belong!!! But are very glad that you're spreading your "Southern Upbringing" around a bit.
    Luv ya!
    'Lesti

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  3. I've heard many people echo what jmadison says, that people in the South are outwardly polite but really not nice. I moved to the South from California 16 years ago. I've lived in Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina and I have to say that while I have met some gossiping backstabbers, I don't think I've met any more of them here than I have back home or in other places I've visited. Most of the people in the South I've met who act nice and polite are actually, really, nice and polite. I'll take that any day over rudeness disguised as "honesty."

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