Did you know the word “nice” isn’t in the bible? On the other hand, “kindness” is used over a dozen times. The point being, that although I agree “nice guys should finish last” I also believe kind people should finish first.
I once shared a work cubicle with a person who was very blunt and forthcoming. She would often receive cold calls from all kinds of salespeople, most of whom hadn’t done their homework. By that I mean, they didn’t understand our business, they didn’t understand the customer they were calling. In short, they were a nuisance.
Unless the caller presented a promising opportunity, my co-worker was very abrupt. In under a minute, she’d professionally and respectfully explain they were wasting hers and their time. As an outsider listening in, I was surprised by her tone and bluntness. In hindsight I see I was shocked by her lack of “nicety”. She wasn’t nice to people, BUT she was kind.
I heard her one time explain to the caller was she was being so abrupt. She told the sales rep, in a professional, respectful, and kind manner, that she was already familiar with the “gizmo” being presented. She said in the interest of saving both her and the salesperson’s time, she was going to keep the conversation short and just say no.
This explanation of her reasoning and strategy woke me up. I immediately realized I was being “nice” to people, but I wasn’t being kind to them or myself. To the outsider, my co-worker’s bluntness seemed rude, but her actions were respectful. I decided to try and imitate her behavior when the next cold sales call came in.
Shortly enough, my phone rang with an unknown caller (cold call). This time, instead of passively/aggressively feigning an interest, I listened to their spiel long enough to “know” what they were selling and then I “kindly,” but assertively interrupted. I explained how I was already familiar with their proposed offering. In a few short sentences I explained why it wasn’t a good fit for the company, and that in the interest of helping the salesperson not waste their or my time, I quickly informed them as to why they did not have an opportunity. I waited for their response. They said they understood and thanked me for cutting to the quick! I was shocked at just how well it was received.
To that point, I immediately started to use this approach with almost all my cold calls. More often than not, the salespeople thanked me for being a straightshooter. They appreciated my candor. Suffice to say, this straight-shooting approach became my new M.O. What then surprised me is how it evolved into other areas of my life.
I found that, with some exceptions, people react positively to my respectful honesty. I’m not blunt with everyone about everything. I still discern the situation. It’s just that I’m just a lot less worried about being nice and liked. My focus is more about being genuine, respectful, and kind.
An example of discernment is realizing people often wear the same shirt for so long and for so often that they begin to identify themselves with it. By “shirt” I mean ideals or beliefs. Just because I don’t like the shirt you’re wearing doesn’t mean I don’t like you! For example, someone may have strong feelings about politics. They proudly wear their “political shirt” everywhere and are easily offended if you say anything that might be construed as negative. A disagreeing comment is taken as an affront to their very being.
In these cases, a little extra respect goes a long way. In other words, just because you have moronic political ideas, doesn’t mean I should need to be blunt or harshly critical. It’s a balancing act between being blunt and being respectful … aka kind.
“You only live once” is often bantered, but that’s misleading. The truth is you live every moment of your life, but you only die once. Everyone eventually dies, so use your time wisely. Pick your battles carefully. Pick your goals and aspirations carefully too and then give it all you got! Time is limited and there’s not enough to waste being nice.