Monthly Blog - October 2017

Why Can’t Some People Be Nice?

Ready, Set... Time to Say Please and Thank You Again.


October 2017

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If you are more fortunate than others, it is better to build a longer table than a taller fence.”-Unknown

Why Can’t Some People Be Nice?

This is an emotionally laden question, fraught with nuances and meanings.

Human beings are usually born into life through love, through no choice of their own. The sum total of our individual experiences (how we are raised, our childhood experiences, the religious and neighborly influences in our lives) makes us who we are as adults. Most people know and accept this.

However, what most people don’t understand is that the sum total of who we are is an imperfect existence (because we are always learning and life always presents surprises to us). And, as human beings, most of us do the best we can given the circumstances to which we find ourselves.

And it’s not just a matter of being “nice” or “not nice”.

Sara was interested in having outside training for her company, a Fortune 500 company with offices in several cities. Sara contacted Victoria, who had conducted successful training for corporations. Victoria had also written a book on her subject area, adding to her credibility as a competent, professional individual.

At Sara’s invitation, she and Victoria met at a local restaurant. As they enjoyed lunch, they talked about the training possibilities. Sara was very enthusiastic. She had purchased Victoria’s book, and was eager to invite Victoria into her company for training. Sara invited Victoria to submit a formal proposal.

Victoria sent a nice thank you note to Sara, thanking her for the time and eagerness to work with her on the new training project. Sara telephoned Victoria a few more times to clarify some points.

A few weeks passed. Victoria saw Sara at a trade show and stopped to say hello. Sara stated, “Oh, I need to call you to get dates set up. We are ready to move forward to working with you.”

A few more weeks passed. Victoria tried to telephone Sara a few times, but the calls and voicemails were not returned. Emails did not receive a response.

One month passed, then three months. Victoria did not hear from Sara ever again.

After such good will, the least Sara could do was contact Victoria that plans had changed, etc.

What happened here? Would this be considered rude behavior on Sara’s part?

Are some people not capable of being nice (and following through as promised) or are they choosing to not be nice? Is this a conscious behavior on Sara’s part, or did the busyness of her position just cause her to forget about it?

Let’s explore. (And we’ll try to be nice about it.)

When it comes to “Niceness”, there are three components:

Human Ability

Oftentimes, the reason why an individual is not nice may be physical or mental. After all, being nice is a social behavior that doesn’t require additional training, education, experience or internships. Most kindergarten children know what it means to be nice.

What is needed is for an individual to have some degree of emotional and personal development adequate enough so one will know how to smile, stand in line, wait your turn and understand the most basic of social mores of one’s society.

If an individual is incapable of not being nice, it may be due to the fact that they are impeded from such a capability due to physical or mental restrictions. This could be because of a chemical imbalance in the brain, a linguistic shortcoming or a functional failure to connect with thoughts, emotions or intentions due to a childhood experience (that one may or may not even consciously remember).

Whatever the source of the problem, an individual incapable of being nice comes as a result of:

The individual’s lack of control over their body and/or mind, which would normally give them the tools necessary to express the responses known as “nice”.

The individual’s inability to access the means/training necessary to express themselves in a caring, empathic way.

Human Desire

Some people simply choose to not be nice, either on an individual basis or as a general matter of belief systems. This means their perspective is a direct reflection of their character, either temporarily or permanently.

Character is the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life, which is the source from which self-respect comes.

If someone is not being nice because of a permanent change in their character, it means:

-The stages of moral reasoning were not adequately learned as a young person.

-The classical conditioning learned as a young person rewarded mean behavior/actions in a way that created an anchor in the individual, who learned that being rude or mean was the best way to be successful in their life.

-The modeling exhibited to growing young person rewarded rude/mean behavior, hence such behavior became the norm.

Even though the rude behavior is unwelcomed by those on the receiving end, the unpleasant behavior very nicely serves the needs of the giver, thereby justifying and satisfying their mind and emotions.

Rude behavior can be contagious, and can easily magnify itself to untold sources. Sometimes without our even being aware of it.

Human Habits

When we look into the mirror, most of us will conclude this: “I’m a good person, because my parents raised me well.”

This is, for the most part, true.

The hard truth is this. We all have different parents, therefore, the abilities and desires we hold dear were shaped by our individual parents and other social constructs (school, religion, sports, etc.). We pair our abilities and desire with our daily habits and this is what makes our “life”.

The habits we practice become like close friends to us. We like our coffee a certain way. We have a certain daily commute we like. We sit in the same seat in church each week, even though it is not assigned to us. When we arrive at work, we immediately begin the busyness of the day.

We like our habits for a very good reason. Habits bring a semblance of regularity or normality to our busy lives. That regularity is comfortable to us. We like comfortable. There is something about routine that is very good.

Moving Forward Whether People are Nice or Not Nice

Everyone we meet is fighting a battle we know nothing about. This is important to keep in mind as we go about our lives.

I don’t buy into the notion that people ‘don’t know any better’ when they are rude. They know perfectly well what they are doing. There is usually a reason. Their abilities, desires and habits all come into play. Functional limitations, emotional limitations also come into play.

If someone is a perpetual offender at being rude or disrespectful, it needs to be dealt with by education and/or treatment. However, if the offender sees nothing wrong with this behavior, then we are all at risk of ‘social suffocation’ by rudeness. Social suffocation will erode a civilized society very quickly. With disastrous results.

When it comes to niceness, there are three components: habits, desire and ability.

When thinking back on the situation presented earlier in this piece, where Sara had contacted Victoria to conduct training for her company, was Sara being rude in her complicity to not follow up (as promised) with Victoria?

Ability and Desire were both in place for Sara. She was a top-level manager in her company, which did not come without Sara working hard to move ahead. Moving ahead in business means being nice to people and having the ability and desire to do better for the people in her company and for herself.

Most likely, the reason the training did not come to fruition was in Sara’s habits. Her work was very demanding. Though we may never know the exact reason, most likely the ‘busyness’ of Sara’s daily work life superseded everything else, in effect blocking out any new projects, including outside training.

Why can’t some people be nice?

We need to look directly at their abilities, desires and habits.

Ready, Set…time to say please and thank you again.


Remember: Share your goodness, far and wide, as much as you can, with as many people as you can, for as long as you can, with as much respect as you can.

Ready, Set…Time to Say Please and Thank You again.

COMING NEXT: The Costs of Workplace Rudeness