"Nice" is a word with an image problem. Say the word out loud and you can’t help saying it with a sarcastic grimace: “Yes, I went there; it was nice.” Yes, the hotel was nice. The food? Oh, yes, nice, too.
Poor nice. On the spectrum, it falls at the OK end of the scale and definitely not at the brilliant end. It’s a little bit meh. Plus, when it comes to talking about people, it can sound a bit derogatory. No one wants to be called nice. They want to be called lovely, amazing, brilliant, a good egg.
But nice is a good word and I have decided to reclaim it. It’s especially good in the more active sense, although it regularly gets a kicking by the endless “Do you want to be liked or respected at work?” debate. It so shouldn’t be, because selfless acts of doing something nice or putting someone else first aren’t things that should ever fall out of fashion. Why can’t you aspire to be a nice boss or manager? Why is being kind to people (Trump, I’m talking to you) seen as such a weakness? And why is such a basic human quality that is drummed into us at primary school – “Be kind to the guinea pig, children” – forgotten about and not considered a priority once we’re in the adult world?
Every year, there is a World Kindness Day (this year 13 November). It’s a day that tends to attract a lot of headlines; a nudge – a “Come on, guys, stop barging in front of that person in the bus queue; be nice and let them go before you.” And it’s a start. But, while I think it’s a good idea, I also think it shouldn’t just be confined to one day. Kindness is like a muscle – the more you use it, the easier it gets. And it does you good, too – research has proved that it can make a busy day more bearable, boost your immunity and give you more energy.
But – and here’s the nub – being kind takes effort, sometimes even a lot of pre-thought and planning. Things like offering to do an elderly neighbour’s shopping or volunteering at a local food bank can take time to do and eat into a hectic week and it can be hard when you’re busy. Plus, and let’s be honest, it’s often hard to think about others when you don’t feel like it, especially when you’ve had a stressful day and you feel all snappy and grumpy and just want to go home and drink a gallon of wine.
But kindness doesn’t have to be big, elaborate round-the-clock displays of selflessness and generosity. It can be quick, little things that take no effort at all, such as:
- Changing the toner in the printer when you can see someone is struggling
- Asking a cashier or someone in a ticket booth how their day is going
- Taking a colleague who’s having a bad day out for lunch
- Letting someone else take your parking space in the supermarket
- Making a round of tea for everyone in your office
- Endorsing a skill for someone on LInkedIn
- Spending a day with your parents. Slowing to their pace. Giving them your time
- Finding out something new about someone – a co-worker, friend or loved one
- Buying someone cake. Cake makes the world go round
If you want more ideas, head to Pinterest, which is marking Kindness Day with their own Kindness Week. To kick things off, they have enlisted four ambassadors: broadcaster Gemma Cairney; adventurer Alastair Humphreys; fitness guru Sarah-Jane Crawford; and little old me. We were tasked to pin our own ideas of what kindness means to us on one big board that you can see here (and below). Follow it and you’ll find ideas on everything, from how to be kinder to the environment to being kinder to yourself – and mine, which is how to be kind when you’re busy. Please, go take a look, or create your own and pin your own kindness resolutions and share them, using the hashtag #BeKind2017. Believe me when I say it’s a really nice thing to do.