Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.
Having spent a good portion of my professional life trying to be smart, I am now trying to be pleasant and kind, in my work and in the rest of my life. That’s not to say I’m abandoning smart—it’s just not my top priority, since I think, like Mr. Dowd, that pleasant trumps smart at the end of the day.
I’ve seen polls in which folks were asked, “Would you rather work with someone who’s really smart and difficult or someone who’s not so smart but is nice and easy to work with?” and the results show that people generally prefer the latter. I’m with them. (And before you say it, let me note that the ideal would, of course, be to work with folks who are really smart and really nice. When you get such an environment, cherish it!) The good news is that it seems that being nice to one another may be a trending quality in work environments; a quick look around the web found articles in a number of different sources that are basically talking about the value of being kind to one another in the workplace:
- Buggey, Hattie, “Small Acts of Kindness,” Training Journal, April 2013, p. 33–36.
- Butler, Kelley M., “You Get What You Give,” Employee Benefit News, April 2013, Vol. 27, Issue 4, p. 18–19.
- Feintzeig, Rachel, “When Co-Workers Don’t Play Nice—Hostile Work Environments Cost Companies in Productivity, Creativity; Using the ‘No Venting’ Rule,” Wall Street Journal, Eastern edition [New York, N.Y], August 28, 2013, p. B.6.
- Goulston, Mark, “Daring To Care,” Leadership Excellence, May 2013, Vol. 30, Issue 5, p. 9–10.
- Kozlowski, R. “Best Places To Work in Money Management,” Pensions & Investments, 2013, vol. 41, no. 25, p. 28.
- Lauer, Charles S., “The Power of Nice,” Modern Healthcare, October 10, 2006, Vol. 36 Issue 42, p. 22–-22.
In the course of my web travels I recently came across two sites that, well, simply made me feel good, and I think it will be kind to share them with you. The first is feelhappiness.com, which is a blog about “the “Happy Life-Expectancy”…[which is] the number of years a person lives happily.” Since I’d like to increase my happy life expectancy, I read on through a number of posts and found one that, funnily enough, sums up the approach I take to public desk work. The post is How To See the Good in Other People, and the relevant section is:
“Your Basic Social Skills: There are three very simple social skills that will help you see the good in others. They might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how often you don’t do some of these things:
1. Slow Down and Be Curious About Others
2. Look Them in the Eyes
3. Smile at Them”
I was lucky enough to discover how well these behaviors work at a reference desk fairly early in my career (I was so happy to be working at a reference desk that I was beaming 24 hours a day), but how I wish someone had tipped me off to them in library school—they truly are the “secret” to overcoming researchers’ reluctance to approach you at a desk. And I suspect that the combination of those three things is what has made my library life interesting, enjoyable, and fulfilling—talk about lifelong learning! I’ve met some astonishing and lovely people at the various public desks I’ve worked. Also some not so lovely people, but they, too, were astonishing in many ways….
The other site I enjoy no end is the Goodreads compilation of quotes from the Dalai Lama. Admittedly, you can also read the book The Art of Happiness, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, but this site is now my immediate go-to place whenever I need a pick-me-up: it puts things in perspective and has never failed to bring a smile to my face when I needed one. It also helps to remind me to be kind, both for others’ sake and for my own. As the Dalai Lama notes, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
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