Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Flashback Tuesday: Does Being Nice Pay?

“Does Being Nice Pay?” Originally published 3/26/07

Over the weekend, I was in the van (alone, can you believe it? Yes, folks, I was without Girlie & The Great One!)

So I did what any self-respecting Bad Mom would do--I put on NPR.

And you thought I'd be cranking Ozzy! Hey, without knock-knock jokes and silly questions to drown out, I could listen to This American Life--sans interruption! This week's Episode was entitled, "The Allure of the Mean Friend", and Act II is what grabbed me, and is the topic of today's entry.

This segment involved two waitresses comparing their tips when they are super nice to half of their customers versus being rather aloof to the other half. The experiment was to literally see if Niceness Pays.

Well, if you listen to the show, you'll know that as it turned out, when aloof, the waitresses earned better tips. Now, the point Ira made at the end of the act wasn't that Aloofness paid so much as "Niceness" didn't. And, based on that experiment, being nice really didn't pay.

I thought about this on Sunday, and it bothered me. Mainly because I tend to be a "nice" person. I'm very polite, I'm always friendly to people out in the world because, honestly, it makes me feel good. I smile at the toll-taker and say "Good Morning," as I hand her the money. I say please when I hand my check to the teller for cashing, and I say, "Thank you," when the server at a wedding reception removes my emptied dinner plate or brings me the next course.

My philosopy is basically the "golden rule", and I do unto others as I'd have them do unto me.

But does it pay? Ira Glass might have you believing that it doesn't. And clearly in the scenario he presented on that particular day, in that particular instance, it didn't. At least not in terms of immediate financial gratification.

But on a personal level, I think it does pay.

It pays me when I'm nice to my fellow man and woman. Not always financially. Hell, rarely if ever, financially. But in terms of connecting with people--oh, yes, there IS a payoff. It's somewhat tough to put to words, but when I am kind...when I am simply "nice" to people... I find that even for that fleeting moment, there's a positive connection. I have seen many a toll-taker, used to so many drivers not even looking at them and just shoving their money out the window and driving off, do a double take before smiling back and saying "Good Morning!" right back.

And for me, those small connections, those moments when you connect with another human being, not so much out of obligation, but just out of a basic respect and appreciation for your fellow human...it feels good. It feels good to have that connection 'take'...to have the person on the other end of the human dance follow your lead, and be kind--be nice. You share a laugh, a moment, a smile.

That matters. That is the payoff. And sometimes...it pays off in ways you might never expect.

This morning, I dropped girlie off at preschool. The Great One and I drove through the Dunkin Donuts up the road from her school. When I got to the speaker, I placed my order for a large coffee and a frosted donut (yes, with sprinkles, please!)

I pulled around to the window, and the young woman inside gave me a huge smile. "You've won our nicest customer of the day award!" she told me, as she handed me the Great One's donut in a bag. I smiled back and said, "Wow...really?" Behind her were two other employees--both of whom were smiling and nodding at me. "And, because you are by far the nicest person we've seen all day, your donut is on the house!" I thought this might be a new thing going on at DD's, some sort of promotion, but as it turned out, in chatting with them, I discovered it wasn't.

They'd been open since 5 a.m., and apparently had dealt with more than their fair share of grumpy folks, who weren't particularly polite, or nice. The young women working there were all at the window, to say hi to me, the nicest person they'd dealt with since they opened four hours earlier. Mind you, I live in a small town, not some big city...only 5,000 residents, give or take.

And I hadn't really done anything out of the ordinary. It was just another Monday, being myself with people that I encounter in the course of living my day-to-day life.

Just another confirmation that being nice does pay. And I'm not talking about the 70 cent donut that I got for free. I'm talking about the positive impact that basic manners and a pleasant interaction over the speaker at a Dunkin' Donuts drive-through had on four adults, not to mention an impressionable three year old.

Karma, baby...Karma. Put it out into the universe, and it will come back to you. Sorry, Ira, but sometimes it does pay to be nice.

I recently applied for a waitress job at a restaurant in town. The fact that there is a restaurant in town is remarkable, given our size, and that it's a decent one is a bonus! Now, waitressing is good honest work, and the schedule can be pretty flexible. In a little twist of irony, I was preparing this entry last week, I got a phone call I had been hoping for. I'm going in to chat with the owner/manager on 4th of July. Time to harness some "Independence Day" spirit, and land this job as a step closer to getting us 'Independent' of "the Man", if you know what I mean...

I'll count on being nice paying off for me on Friday, and hopefully will have a job!


Bond said...

I hold doors, say please, thank you, you're welcome...

believe me...if you do these things, you are in the minority....

Bond said...

hummm thought i left a comment here yesterday

I am always holding doors and say please and thank you and you're welcome...

Amazes me how so few people do the little things anymore...

Just Margaret said...

Apologies for the delay, my friend. We were on a mini-vaca and then I worked all weekend long (I got the waitress job!)

We are in the minority, Bond, and isn't it a shame? :-( Although, truth be told, despite this entry, I've found folks in my neck of the woods are generally 'nicer' than they are in Boston or the surrounding suburbs.