I will be the first to admit that both things in the title can be incredibly difficult to achieve. However, channeling the ability to do both are highly beneficial, especially if one can manage to achieve both at the same time.
I know I am preaching to the choir on the “work hard” and “be nice to people” front here. Have you spent time in our comment section? It is one of the few refuges in the storm that is internet commenters. Even when we talk about religion or guns, for the most part, everyone stays civil and respectful. It is mindbogglingly awesome. And “work hard”? This is a phenomenal website run by a group of fucking amazing women who do everything on top of working full-time, going to school, parenting, or being all around general badasses. I also have the pleasure of working with fantastic people in my day to day life; people who give and give and then give some more, and yet, the amount of comments I have received on an item I just hung on my office wall has led me to realize that sometimes it is the most simple piece of advice that can have the most impact.
I saw a picture floating around Pinterest a few months ago that said this, so I made one for myself. I am not typically one to hang trite and banal statements on my wall, but this one spoke to me. I swear, this is the only one I have. There are no “Count your Blessings” or “Live, Laugh, Love” plaques anywhere else. Not that there is anything wrong with those, they just aren’t my style. Why this one, then? I think it boils down to noticing an increasing amount of inconsideration, buck passing, and insensitivity in my life, sometimes coming from me, and I need the reminder.
Here’s the thing — if one does these two things, they can accomplish quite a bit. It doesn’t matter what you do. You can be answering phones at a front desk somewhere, working retail and dealing with ungrateful and shitty customers, managing a staff of hundreds, going to school, or running a household. If you work hard and are nice to people, it can help to make you above reproach.
Hear me out on this one. I am not saying that this is a cure-all for everything. Some of us have shit bosses or co-workers that have it out for us. Some of us have to deal with the public, which is a constant source of outrage and frustration. This also doesn’t translate into “let people walk all over you and never stand up for yourself.” I just mean that if you consistently work hard and make the genuine effort to be courteous and friendly to those around you, it will go a long way. It also means that when you need to put your foot down, it carries more weight.
I know there are people in my life that don’t like me, and I know there are people who talk shit behind my back. However, because I try to follow this philosophy to the best of my ability, when they do so, they are the ones that look bad, not me. If I responded in kind to every person who was inconsiderate to me, I would look just as bad as they do. Because I am able to recognize when a battle is worth fighting, I get to take the high road (most of the time. Hey, nobody’s perfect) with people who try to bring me down.
It’s little things that make a big difference. Saying “thank you” when someone does something for you. Yes, it may be their job, or your roommate shouldn’t have to be prompted to do the dishes, but be thankful. It never fails to amaze me how uncomfortable some people are when you express thankfulness, and it is because, I think, it is pretty rare these days. No, we shouldn’t all need to have smoke blown up our asses every time we do something right or helpful, but is too much thankfulness really a bad thing? Is making someone feel appreciated really that hard? What point does it really prove to deny someone a simple “thank you?” Two little words can make a huge difference.
Tell someone you like something specific about them. Make sure a coworker receives credit for dealing with a difficult situation. Tell someone you love that you love them, just because. Send an old friend a note about some random memory you shared.
Again, this doesn’t mean let people take advantage of you. It doesn’t mean to shrink back and take abuse. It doesn’t mean to flash your pearly whites at the next stranger who tells you to smile. It doesn’t mean to make yourself weak or meek. I think there is great strength in kindness. It means to be more thoughtful and mindful about how we go through the world, what we are contributing to it, and how we can possibly brighten the day for others. One never knows someone else’s story, and a moment of random kindness can make a world of difference.