It probably comes as no surprise that I’m going to tell you to be nicer to people, right? It seems obvious. Being nice is a good thing to do. Easy enough?
But ask yourself, when’s the last time you got a little too snippy with a cashier at the grocery store or a customer service agent over the phone?
When’s the last time you cussed someone out from the comfort of your car because they were driving too slowly or going too fast?
It’s probably more recently than any of us would care to admit.
I’ve put together a list of reasons I think you should be nicer to people, as well as some scientifically proven health benefits that being a nicer person can have. This list also tells the stories of times I’ve been nicer in my life, and the joy it has brought me.
It is my hope that as you read this list, and as you carry on through your day and week, you remember that a little kindness does in fact go a long way.
It makes them feel good.
When I’m not writing for the West Island News, I am actually a musician.
This story comes in a couple of parts. First and foremost, it’s important that you know I play the same gig at the same restaurant every second week. A few weeks ago, I made the announcement letting the audience know I would do my best to play any requests they had. Not long after, a woman came up and asked if I could play “Hey There Delilah” by The Plain White T’s.
Unfortunately, I didn’t know the song well enough to play on the fly, but when I took a break between sets, I looked up the chords so I could play the song in the next set.
The lady was over the moon and really appreciated the gesture. So much so, that as she and her family were leaving, she left a 20$ bill on my guitar case.
Any fellow musicians out there know that this act of kindness is not completely unheard of, but it’s definitely rare enough to make you feel like a pretty big deal. I thanked her very much, and after my show slid the bill into my music binder and didn’t give it another thought.
A couple of weeks later, I was at that same gig. As you can probably imagine, my friends and family are very enthusiastic about the fact that I’m finally playing live again after a year and a half, which means that most nights I have someone I love in the audience supporting me.
For our waitress, it also means lots of silliness, inside jokes, special requests, and chairs being pulled in to accommodate additional guests.
Not to mention, these waitresses and bartenders at best haven’t been serving for almost two years, and at worst have never waitressed before at all.
On this particular night, our waitress went above and beyond to accommodate all our asks. She managed to have all our food come at the same time, even though a couple of us joined much later in the evening. She happily pulled chairs over as the crowd grew and was nothing but pleasant all evening.
That’s why when I saw a fellow restaurant-goer be less than pleasant with her, it upset me. It was nearing the end of the night, and I didn’t want this man’s attitude to be the last interaction she had.
As I was putting away my gear for the night, I pulled our server aside and handed her the 20$ bill I had been gifted just a couple of weeks prior. She looked at me, kind of stunned, and managed to get a “thank you so much!” out.
I thanked her for her undying patience and for being so helpful. The 20$ did more in her hands than it did in mine. It ended her night on a high note and reminded her that her hard work hadn’t gone unnoticed.
Essentially, it was 20$ that I never really had. It wasn’t a loss to pass the gift along to her. In fact, it was a major win.
It makes you feel good.
A few years ago, my mom and I went to a concert to celebrate my birthday. We saw Pentatonix at the Bell Centre in Montreal and made an evening of it. We took the metro downtown, stopped for dinner and coffee, and even took some photos along the way.
We had a wonderful evening and were on a high as we exited the stadium and headed to the metro. On our way out of the station, a gentleman was standing with a Styrofoam cup pointing concertgoers in the appropriate direction and asking for spare change.
As my mom and I approached the door, I paused and reached my hands into my pockets, and emptied them of coins and change. My mom and I continued on and didn’t really give the matter a second thought.
Not even 100 meters down the road, a young woman who couldn’t have been a day older than me (I was 21 at the time) approached me in tattered clothes and in tears. She was evidently in distress and looked incredibly distraught. In broken, breathy French she asked if I had any spare change to offer her.
I’m almost certain she thought I was lying when I said I’d just given all my change away just a few moments ago. I’d be willing to bet that wasn’t the first time she heard that phrase that evening.
Instead of change, I offered her the only thing I could. I looked her straight in the eyes and asked, “Can I give you a hug?”
She nodded yes and let more tears fall and without hesitating I put my arms around her. We stood there for a while before we finally let go and I looked her in her eyes and told her she was going to be okay.
I couldn’t offer her money that day. But I was able to offer her empathy, and I was able to show her that even a stranger on the street cared enough to want to give her a hug.
Even today, more than two years later, I think of that young woman and hope she’s doing better than she was that day.
As much as being nice to people isn’t about you, it does give you something back. It reminds you of your humanity. And it can truly set your entire day on a new path.
You never know what someone is going through.
It’s this tip that prompted me to write this article in the first place. The likelihood that a stranger is going through something is higher than the likelihood that they’re not. For the last week and a half, my grandfather has been in the hospital, and we’ve come to find out he has a cancerous tumor on his right kidney.
As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s not easy to have a sick relative and to not know what’s going to happen next.
I started to notice that in all my interactions, be it at the grocery store, pharmacy, or even the restaurant I was always saying to myself something to the effect of “she has no idea what I’m going through.” Or “if she knew what I had going on right now she wouldn’t have been so rude.”
But then as I continued to reflect, I had to remind myself that I probably had no idea what they were going through. And that’s exactly the point, isn’t it? We truly just don’t know what reality another person might be living.
They could be battling a mental health problem, they could be going through a nasty divorce, they could have an ill friend or family member, they may have recently lost someone.
I challenge you to remind yourself of this as you tackle your day-to-day. If you notice yourself getting irritable or on edge, take a moment to remember the infinite number of things another person might be facing in their personal life. I promise it will make you a happier (and nicer) person.
You might make a new friend.
Before COVID, I loved going to concerts and outdoor festivals. There was a period of time in 2018 where I was at a different festival in different parts of Canada 4 weekends in a row.
At one festival, in Kitchener, Ontario, a friend of mine was feeling a little overwhelmed by the large crowd and asked me to leave with her to take a breather. On our way back in once she was feeling better, a large (heavy) object got thrown as the crowd began to get rowdier.
That large object – I think it was a water bottle if I remember correctly – hit my friend in the head, and it knocked her to the ground. Thankfully she didn’t lose consciousness, but a bruise and welt started to appear almost immediately, and she was visibly in pain.
Like a scene straight from a movie, a gentleman pushed his way through the crowd and crouched down to get down on the same level as my girlfriend. Right away he told her he was a doctor and began asking questions about her symptoms and how she was feeling.
In just a few short moments he had her back on her feet and ready to take on the rest of the day. As we began chatting with him more, we learned he had come to the festival with a group of friends, but that he’d lost them in the crowd.
Without missing a beat, my friend and I invited our personal medic to join us and our group of friends who were further into the crowd. Arm in arm we slowly made our way through the hundreds of people and finally arrived back at our original destination with a new member in tow.
Eventually, his friends joined ours and we enjoyed the rest of the show together. He was so willing to be kind and help us, and in return, we showed kindness in having him join our group. The result? An unlikely friendship and memory.
You might even live longer.
According to Sociologist Christine Carter, Ph.D.,
“People who volunteer tend to experience fewer aches and pains. Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying early… This is a stronger effect than exercising four times a week or going to church.”
It boosts heart health.
That warm fuzzy feeling you get in your heart when you do something nice is no joke. Acts of kindness have actually been proven to release hormones and chemicals in the brain such as Oxytocin and nitric oxide which improve and encourage heart health by expanding blood vessels and lowering blood pressure.
There’s a reason you feel physically rejuvenated and at ease after you do something nice. It’s science.
How will you be nicer this week? Chat with us in the comments about a time in your life where you practiced being kinder to people!