Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Act nice or be nice?

A recent study showed that Houston has some of the nicest drivers in America. How did they come to this conclusion? They measured the amount of time it takes for someone to honk the horn when the person in front of them didn't go at the green light. THey found that Houston had some of the longest times. Some people would wait the entire cycle and let the light turn red before they honked the horn.

How is that being nice???? It's not being nice! It's ACTING nice, at the sake of giving someone else the opportunity to BE nice. When I am at a light and I don't notice that it turned green, I don't want to miss the green light either. I want someone to tell me that the freaking light has changed and I should get off my inattentive butt and get a move on! I'm being a jerk and someone should tell me about it. I don't want people to think that I am a jerk. I want to learn my lesson so I'm not a jerk the next time.

I don't know why I'm surprised at this study though. It is the way the world works now. We act nice instead of be nice. Someone cuts you off in traffic, you honk the horn, and you are the jerk. They almost killed you, and you are the jerk for complaining about them almost killing you.

Let me ask you something. Someone does something to you, but you don't tell them about it. Why?

Is it because you don't want to rock the boat? Is it because you want to be nice? Is it because you don't want people to think that you are a complainer? Is it because you don't want people mad at you? Is it because today everyone is supposed to just let things go and "be nice?"

Or is it because you are afraid of conflict?

Be honest.

It's probably a mixture of any of the first ones and the conflict one. Just think what goes on in your head when you decide against responding to them. When you decide to let it go, don't you feel a sense of relief that you don't have to confront them, risk antagonizing them, and make them mad at you? If that's you, do you hold their actions against them? Do you keep it inside and just hate them, and don't tell them why? Is that you being nice? Do you honestly think that you are being nice by getting mad at someone for doing something that they don't know was wrong? You aren't being nice because you aren't nice. You are angry. What you are doing is ACTING nice, but inside you hate them.

This postmodern world we live in today advocates letting things slide and acting nice, but is it really good? Think about this. When you throw a party and your guests make a lot of noise and your neighbor comes and pounds on your front door (because your party is so loud that you can't hear the doorbell) to shut the *beep* up, do you think the neighbor is a jerk? He should just let it go and relax a little, right? But come on! If you are being honest with yourself, you know that you and your friends are the real jerks.

So what is the neighbor supposed to do instead? Ideally he would be right there with you partying, right? But you can't expect every one of your neighbors to be a party animal. Some of them just want to sit back, relax and watch a movie in the peace and quiet of their home. So what would you have THOSE people do? Just suck it up? Wouldn't that make them dislike you? But if they come to you and ask you to be a good neighbor by being quiet, then the dialog of cooperation can begin. Perhaps the two of you can come to an arrangement. Maybe if you give your neighbors some advance notice, they will schedule their vacation for that time. Or they might decide to go to a movie, or visit friends or relatives. The point is that the two of you should be able to figure something out that works for both of you. It would have been best if you warned them ahead of time, but you don't know who will complain and who won't. So if you don't do that, then you can't blame the neighbors for complaining. If they don't come to you, but they still don't like the noise, then they are probably just going to hate you and not let you know that they do.

Is that what you want? Do you want a world that encourages people to hate one another and not tell each other why? That is the world we live in today, and I hate it. I don't like hating people. And I hate it when people hate me and don't tell me why. Acting nice leads to passive aggressiveness. This is a passive aggressive world now. We still complain about people, but we do it in our heads. We hold people's actions against them and we don't tell them about it. How is that right??? That is the definition of passive aggressiveness, and it is just plain wrong. Wrong wrong wrong!

Am I advocating being a complainer? Sort of, yes I am. Not necessarily a person who just loves to complain. But don't be a coward about complaining either. If someone does something to you, don't be too afraid to speak up about it. They are guilty and they should be allowed the opportunity to rectify it. If you don't complain, then they don't have a chance to make things right.

What would the world be like if we weren't afraid to complain? You probably think that a world like that wouldn't be very nice, everyone complaining all the time. But if you really think about it, would everyone be complaining all the time? I don't think so. What would realy happen is that the people who walk all over other people would hear about it. It would be a world in which everyone expected each other to be nice. Today, we don't expect people to be nice. We expect people to ACT nice. Big difference. In order for the world to BE nice, we would have to hold one another accountable for his or her actions. We would not let anyone get away with anything. People would be more considerate, not less considerate. I honestly believe that it would be a nicer world if everyone was more courageous about interpersonal conflict.

Some of us get a bad rap of being a complainer. But if everyone complained when someone did something that they didn't like, then the people who did those things would at least know what they are doing is bothering someone else. And if everyone complained, then the people who did those things would know that they were the problem and it wasn't just one person being a jerky complainer. The people who are unafraid of complaining today wouldn't have to shoulder the entire load of complaining. They would have to complain LESS.

I know, there are extremes. There are people who like to complain and no matter what people do they will find a reason to complain. I'm not talking about those people. I'm talking about people who have legitimate complaints once in awhile and aren't afraid to speak up about it.

There are also people who would continue being jerks no matter how many people complain to them about their actions. I'm not talking about them either. I'm talking about the average person who today doesn't really think about how his or her actions affect other people. I'm talking about the person who talks on the cellphone at the stop light and doesn't notice when it turns green. I'm talking about the person who moves over to the right lane at a stop light and doesn't consider the people behind him who might want to turn right at that red light. I'm talking about people who do throw loud parties and don't realize that they are being loud. I'm talking about people who whisper just a bit too loud at movie theaters. I'm talking about you and me.

If you have a complaint about me, I want to know about it. If I do something that you don't like all the time and you never talk to me about it, then you have no right to complain. Don't hold grudges with people who don't know what they are guilty of. You are just being a complete cowardly jerk.

So please everyone, stop being a jerk that acts nice. Complain but BE nice!

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