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It Pays to Be Nice ... Sometimes

Amy Campbell

May 2, 2008

4 Min Read
It Pays to Be Nice ... Sometimes

When I was growing up, my parents taught me to be kind, courteous and respectful of others, at most times, whenever it could be achieved without compromising your integrity or self-respect. And generally speaking, this is how I interact with the world at large.

I still employ the ever-fading "please," "thank you" and "excuse me," phrases that are largely becoming obsolete in today's me-first society. When I go to the store, I ask the checkout clerk how his or her day is going. I never run people over with my cart. I don't cut into line. I try to be patient when there's a problem with a product or service I've purchased. I consider things from the other person's perspective. In short, I try to be compassionate.

But there are limits to kindness and understanding. Sometimes, being nice costs you. Or maybe it has nothing to do with being nice, and simply being costs you, because folks are twisted, rude or downright malicious.

I'm thinking about this today because of something I saw in the news earlier this week. A disgruntled self-storage employee of a facility in Jacksonville, Fla., bludgeoned his boss after being fired, leaving the owner close to death. The specifics of the situation were not disclosed in the report made by First Coast News, so we've no idea what may have transpired between the two men.

I'm sure it's upsetting to be released from a position against your will, and nasty words might be exchanged. But to beat the crap out of your supervisor? Too far. Go home and tape a picture of his face to your punching bag instead. It's still gratifying and has none of the pesky legal consequences.

If you peruse the forums at Self-Storage Talk, you'll read stories from several storage operators who have had to deal with difficult and cantankerous customers, too. For example, one operator asked colleagues for advice on dealing with abusive tenants. No one should have to deal with these horrific situations in the course of their workday! The consistent lack of courtesy we encounter is bad enough without adding insult to injury.

Understanding that some people are just broken in the head, I'm going to propose a theory: The perpetual decline of simple civility in day-to-day interaction with others has caused a snowballing of subconcious anger that manifests itself in outwardly violent and inappropriate behavior. Read Pride and Prejudice, and you'll understand there actually was a time when people were overly polite! I'm sure it could be grotesquely irritating to be obligated to such convention, but I'm sure it was preferable to an unwarranted fist in the face.

Case in point: A couple of weekends ago, I had to mail several packages from my local post office. As I approached the door with my armload of boxes, two other customers scurried to reach the door before me. I thought, "How nice! They're going to get the door for me!" Ha! Not so! They were running to get inside before I could get in line ahead of them with my burden. My immediate impulse? To give them both an earful (something very similar to this rant) regarding the ruination of civilization and their role in it.

But instead, I calmly walked inside (after struggling to balance all of my packages on one arm so I could grapple the super-suction door with the other) and straight up to the front counter, where I deposited my goods at a convenient drop-off station. You see, I had been smart enough to purchase my postage labels online. I did not need to stand in line for services at all. Well, you can imagine the burning looks I received from my competing customers, particularly the two who had worked so hard to thwart me. As I passed them, I shot them the most brilliant smile I could muster. I think in this case, kindess was the harshest commentary.

I'd like to hear from some managers in the trenches ... do you have a story about an abrasive co-worker or tenant to share? How did/do you handle the situation? Do you believe in killing a person with kindness, or are you an eye-for-an-eye kind of character? Please share by clicking on the "Leave a Comment" link below.


About the Author(s)

Amy Campbell

Editor, Inside Self Storage

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