Undoubtedly, being nice can help you with your own personal happiness. Being nice to others in a time of great need can give you a sense of euphoria. You can get ramped up helping someone out. That is why some people question whether altruism truly exists. I’m not touching that particular question. Its way too deep for my current writing moment where I have been in non-stop multiple, simultaneous meetings till 9pm. I’m walking around in a sleep-deprived state of mind. Thus, no discussions here as to whether altruism truly exists or if its just another form of narcissism.
Let’s move on. How about the opposite of being nice? What about when you are mean to others? Do you get that same sense of euphoria? Just this week, an acquaintance, had a great, feel-good moment when she got to tell someone how wrong they were. She did so in a less than positive tone. Rather angry actually. But considering how infuriatingly wrong (and self-righteous) the other person had been, I didn’t blame her for being mean. And let me tell you, she felt good about it. It gave her a tickle and put a spring in her step. Albeit momentary.
Let’s be real. mean girls (and boys) exist for a reason. It is not just about power. For many, it helps them feel better. But I don’t really want to touch bullying either. Bullying is not a good thing. Period. So, that is not what I am talking about really when talking about being mean in a siatuation for a moment.
Let me back up and talk about politeness. We are brought up to be, more or less, polite to others. It’s the right thing to do. You answer politely. You leave certain things out in conversations, at times, out of politeness. We hold the door open for those behind us, out of politeness. That is what you do in civil society. Ostensibly. Its supposed to be good for everyone, including oneself.
Yet, there is new reseach out this week that finds that being polite is not associated with being happy (Kaufman, et al., 2017). The researchers found that being enthusiastic, a hard worker, compassionate, curious, and prone to positive thinking is associated with happiness. Being polite-not so much. I should note that in this research, they were talking about politeness as a personality trait. In popular culture, southerners, for example, are supposedly more poilte. Which I totally do not buy. But that too is a topic for another time.
It might be a bit of a bummer to think that if you are polite, and doing the right thing, you may not be happy. Or rather, that it will not be associated with you being happy. But on the bright side of things, luckily we have social media to make sure that we can be impolite and thus reach new levels of happiness. That was me being sarcastic. So much of the conversation that occurs on social media borders or goes beyond rudeness. Its a virtual free for all out there. Perhaps they are all rebelling against politness for its lack of ability to make one happy? I would have to question whether those that are so rude out there on social media are truly hapoy by their actions. I am sure many feel a sense of freedom and like a weight has been lifted off of them. But there must be those, as well, that afterwards feel a bit of shame or remorse?
The road to happiness can indeed be so fraught with so many potholes and pitholes.
And although, I am generally a curmudgeon, I still encourage my son to be polite. It is being nice week at school. Which is amazing that such a thing needs to be highlighted but that is a discussion for another time. And I want him to be nice. I want him to be polite. I am trying to instill in him a sense of feeling good by being polite and nice. That being both of those things are rewards in of themselves. But we shall see what the world has in store for this new generation.
Tell me what is your experience…