That is so gay

This is the #1 result of a google image search using the title of this post. Image source: http://beinglatino.wordpress.com

Have you ever gone to therapy? I have. On three different occasions.  I don’t remember every tool I learned there off the top of my head, but I do remember my counselor saying this: you cannot make anyone feel anything. I was feeling guilt, assuming I made people feel badly even though they probably weren’t feeling anything bad at all, and my counselor was trying to help me realize I shouldn’t hypothesize constantly the impact my words have on others. He said,  “We all choose how we feel when people say things, whether we feel good or bad. We are responsible for our own emotions, not for everyone else’s. If we hurt someone’s feelings, they have a responsibility to tell us so.” But that got me thinking (probably way off of where the counselor was going with his point, but whatever! It’s still an interesting thing to consider…). Is that always the case? Am I never to blame for how others feel as a result of something I said or did?  If I cheated on my husband and he felt hurt, angry, dejected, and insulted, does this mean I can release some of the blame for the way he would be feeling? I don’t think it works quite this way, and while I know I would never take advantage of this perspective, I am sure there are thousands of people out there who would.

Like this guy I knew once upon a time, who regularly said unnecessarily cruel and critical things to unsuspecting people, all-the-while using the disclaimer, “Hey, don’t get mad at me. I’m just being honest.Yeah right. My theory is this guy got sadistic pleasure out of making people feel insecure or miserable. Messing with people’s heads was this dude’s personal enjoyment. I imagine he was doing it because he  wanted others to be as miserable as he was; or maybe that was just his personality; or maybe he really did think that was how psychology students were supposed to behave, as he said on many occasions. But the truth is, what he said made people miserable and it gave him pleasure. Whether or not what he said was true was not nearly as important as what were his motives. And those were selfish and unkind in nature. Lucky for us, there aren’t too many of people like this guy wandering around. No,… I would say, mostly all of us do our fair share offending and being the offended.

People say and do things that hurt people’s feelings all the time. Often people hurt others without the self-awareness to realize why they behave as they do (like girls in junior high who rip on other girls because deep down they are insecure about themselves).  They don’t fully understand why they are doing it, and don’t necessarily care to find it out. It’s just easier to keep doing what feels good.

And more commonly there are people who hurt others’ feelings without ever intending to do so, and without realizing what they said could be hurtful. Many times they are ignorant of what they are saying. Take the people who say, “That’s retarded,” or, “I jewed him down,” or, “I got gypped,” or, “That’s so gay.” Now, I’m not trying to be the language police. Matter of fact: I am a major user of swear words–it’s a vice I try to avoid but cannot eliminate, and often it’s one that I indulge pleasurably. In issues of language there are people on both sides of the fence (homosexuals who say, “That’s so gay,” and so on), but depending on your audience, those phrases can offend people. And this is something we should try to be aware of. My swearing offends people, and presents me in a less-than-flattering light, so I need to choose my audience carefully. And what the offended folks must remember is: some people don’t realize what they are saying is offensive. It might be a cultural thing, it might be badly phrased, it might be slang.  So before reacting, try informing them first. We’re all guilty of this offense in some form at one time or another.

And finally, there are the people who say 100% innocent things that are only offensive to a particular person with a particular point of view or private history. Everyone has had experiences we cannot know ahead of time that shape their attitudes and perceptions, and often something we say innocently can offend others.

So how can we manage this fact in a world where people are (endlessly!) offended by any number of things?

First, have compassion if you have been offended. You’re no perfect plum yourself.

Second, I say operate on this principle of forgiveness: unknowing offenders should be forgiven immediately–and when worthwhile–the offender should be informed of your feelings (nicely!) to help them avoid repeat occurences. Try not to judge their character, when it could be a simple issue of misinformation or ignorance. But do take note of those who are continually offensive, mean, or corrosive to others’ self-esteems and identities. Those people are toxic and should probably be called out on their behavior, or avoided. In those cases, chalk it up to their personality, and don’t waste time or energy being hurt by their musings. State your position, be open for a good dialogue, and if all else fails, deny that bummer-of-a-being your totally awesome friendship! There are tons of people out there just waiting to offend you unintentionally! Better you spend your energy on them!

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A little surprise can brighten a day

Love notes on the fridge

Little notes filled with amorous words

My honey and I recently got hitched. It was a pretty great time, and we were blessed with a huge amount of family support. One of my favorite things was the advice that I was “showered” with for my bridal shower. All my aunts and grandmothers wrote me little tidbits of advice for a long happy marriage. My grandparents have been together for 55-60 years each. My aunts and uncles, 30 or so.

What was great about the advice was the surprise that my husband and I already do some of the things. A few times this year, I’ve been taken away on trips–one for business, one for family. We spend a lot of time together, as we have worked with one another (so to speak) for three years. When I left both times, I had the opportunity to slyly leave Jake little notes for him to find later.  A note in the coffee can, one on the TV, one on the computer, in the shower, on the fridge. Each one said something different–something sweet, cute, funny, and dirty (of course!). It was fun for him to find all the notes while I was gone–especially when one was evading him even upon my return! 

Love love love

Lots of ways to say it

Little things like that show a person you are thinking about them. Thoughtful notes now and again, out of the blue, can really strengthen a relationship and keep it fun and interesting. Who knows what a well-placed and cleverly timed note could do for a marriage? 

© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice. (somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009

Challenge: “Follow-through” style courtesy

Absentminded courtesy is commonplace in our society. How many times have you done this: 

Walking down the stairs at work, you see a colleague coming up the opposite direction, and you say,  “Hey, how are you?” without stopping to hear his/her response. 

It was your way of saying “Hello” right? Neither of you probably bothered to give or hear an answer because it was not expected.  There’s nothing wrong with this practice, but why not change it up? Here’s a good challenge:

Just for one day, follow-up your “How are you’s” with another question. It could be, “Is it supposed to rain today?” or “Is your work day going quickly?” or,  it could be, “Wow, you seem rushed. Anything I could do to help?” It could also be, “Did you cut your hair? You look different.” Anything will do. What it tells the person opposite you is: someone caresYou cared enough to connect with him/her past the typical “Hello’s” and “How are you’s” that are usually met with absent-minded (or inaccurate) responses. And that makes you pretty darn terrific!

Bonus: you will be amazed at the exciting new things you learn or the way it will make you feel. I recommend taking on this challenge when you don’t have a crazy schedule. You might find yourself in some lively, unexpected conversations that slow you down (worthwhile I promise)!

 

© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice.(somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.

AM I ANGRY OR EXCITED?

 

PEOPLE WHO USE CAPS IN EMAIL:

ARE YOU ANGRY?!

EXCITED?!

TRYING TO BE EMPHATIC?!

Sometimes, people can’t tell. So, remember folks: be careful with the caps usage in writing. People might end up taking it the wrong way.

 

© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice.(somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.

Little Tid-bits

I always feel extra special when someone remembers something about me I didn’t expect. It’s a wonderful way to connect with someone in a small, but sincere, way.

Remember little details about people and then followup on them later. This applies to everyone, from family to close friends, to acquaintances.  If my friend tells me about some concerns she has for her class, I try to ask about it later. Or if the same post office worker waits on me again, I might ask how his daughter is doing in art school.

Remembering things about people shows your interest in them and instantly bridges connections between both of you. It can transform mundane consumer interactions, it can brighten a day, it can overcome a previous negative interaction. Recalling the name of an acquaintance, the professional interests of a colleague’s partner, or the weekend goings-on of a friend or family member is a simple way to let someone know they are important to you–and worth remembering!

 

© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice. (somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.

Take the time, Make the time

Confession: I was a telemarketer for a few years back in high school. Don’t hate me! It was that (in air conditioning) or flipping burgers in a hot kitchen. I wasn’t a great employee I suppose–I always ended up chit-chatting with the people rather than selling the product. But I learned a few things from it:

Many of the people who I spoke at length with were elderly folks who, for whatever reason, were home alone most of the time. They wanted to share and talk and have a lively conversation with someone.  I was happy to talk with them too–I learned a lot from their stories.

Looking back, I always wish I would have listened better to stories my older family members told.  I would have asked more questions too. But I am changing that now when I talk with others. Everyone (not just our older family and friends) needs someone to listen to them, someone to relate to. And when we are capable of giving that gift, we should do it (there are times when we can’t put ourselves out there–and that is okay).

Imagine what we might learn from a stranger, or an old friend. What kinds of new conversations it would bring! I wonder how dulling romantic relationships might become re-energized with these kinds of discoveries, all from just listening and sharing things we assume the other might have known. My mom’s feet would still hurt her if she hadn’t shared it with my aunt, who then told Mom that her arches were probably falling. It’s amazing what we discover, and how we benefit, when we share. 

So, take the time to share. Take the time to listen. Take the time to gain a new perspective. Make the time to refresh old and worn out assumptions. It’ll do wonders. Sometimes people need to talk, and we all need to be willing to listen. One day, it could be the other way around… better have some good karma coming our way.

 

© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice. (somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.

Amicable Allegory #6: Kindness and enthusiasm

The other day I brought some Be Nice. pamphlets and postcards to Stuyvesant Photo while I also picked up some bulbs and batteries. My normal gal, Jen, was out that day, but working behind the counter were two other wonderful employees: Pete and Kim. I asked if I could put my stuff on their table in the entry way and they were thrilled! They loved the materials and got a real kick out of them. Pete said, “Hey! I do some of these things already.” That is something I hope a lot of people will say when they read those pamphlets. In addition to being a gentle reminder of things we can all improve, it is also an acknowledgement of things we do already! Kim went into the back and brought out clear plastic display stands and put the Be Nice. postcard into it so it would be more catchy in the entryway!  He then gave me another for use somewhere else. It was so generous and kind of him!

What was even better was the conversation that grew from that exchange. They were very curious about where I was from (Iowa), and what had brought me to Albany. They had very lively stories about their experiences with courtesy. We spoke about my art work, and Pete had awesome suggestions of resources to check out.

Every day I reach out to talk with other people, I benefit in some way. The principles of being nice and courteous really do make a heap of difference in our daily lives when acted on regularly!

🙂

 

© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice. (somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.