June 2nd, 2009

"Being Nice" Is Back in Vogue

by Jacqueline Whitmore

If you ask most people, they will tell you that the recession is a bad thing. I agree. But I also think the recession has created a kind of equality (and humbleness) among millions of Americans. This is a good thing.

People are seeking simplicity. There is a yearning for kinder, more gentler times. “We are now in an age of nice,” according to Eric G. Wilson, an English professor at Wake Forest University. The Obama administration may be partly to blame. The Obamas have been criticized for being too friendly to some repressive world leaders. After all, who can forget the “touching moment” that Michelle Obama shared with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II?

Even teenagers are jumping on the Nice Bandwagon and are being accused of hugging too much in school. Administrators are not so enthusiastic. According the the article, “Schools from Hillsdale, N.J. to Bend, Oregon…have banned hugging or imposed a three-second rule.” And does the three-second rule for hugging have anything to do with the five-second rule for eating food that’s fallen on the floor?

Then there’s the blog, OperationNice.com, that posts articles about good deeds and asks bloggers to take an oath of niceness. The blog was created less than a year ago by Melissa Morris Ivone, a 28-year-old graphic designer in Cinnaminson, N.J., who was inspired after a stranger held the door for her in an elevator. So far, more than 1,100 readers, many of them fellow bloggers like me, have taken her oath of niceness, and have posted an Operation Nice seal of approval on our blogs and Facebook pages.

Cafes like the Q Kindness Cafe in St. Paul, MN, are popping up all around the country encouraging diners to express random acts of kindness. You’ll never get a bill at The Upper Room Cafe in Mount Dora, Florida because they survive on donations only. You order, eat, then pay what you can.

Yes, being nice has many benefits. Research indicates that people who might be categorized as nice tend to have lower blood pressure and lower divorce rates. Doctors who take an extra few minutes to talk with patients are sued less often for malpractice. And companies that foster a nice atmosphere have higher retention rates. Therefore, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain when you are nice to others. I guess Mom was right again when she said to me growing up, “Kill’em with kindness!”

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