Leadership / Management

If you can’t say anything nice … you’re about average

Horn So there I was, on vacation, standing over a putt on the par 3 third hole at the Alpine Lake golf course in West Virginia, my golfing partner and brother-in-law Don looking on. As I lined up what would undoubtedly be a brilliant putt, a motorist roared past us on an adjacent road and honked his (or her) horn obnoxiously.

I chalked it up to random idiocy, made my putt and moved on.

The next day, it happened again, this time with Don on the green.

"Must be some kind of local tradition," he joked. I laughed too, and though we were both a bit annoyed, we played on.

They were just a pair of stupid incidents that marred two otherwise enjoyable days on the course.

Still, the more I think about them, the more upset I become, and here's why: I think they're symptoms of a sad, troublesome decay of common courtesy in this country.

Want proof? Read the readers' comments on any website. Listen to our elected officials. Check out the talking heads on any of the cable "news" networks (and I use the word "news" there very, very loosely). Heck, just jump into a car and drive around town. Do any of those things and it won't be long before your ears are filled with vile, hate-filled vitriol.

When did we all become such insufferable bastards? It's as if our ability to spread misery is the only thing that brings us joy. It's toxic. It's poisoning our world, and it's making us sick.

You know what makes us well? Being nice. Really. When you're nice to someone, they're usually nice right back. Sometimes they're nice to someone else, too, and that person starts being nice. It's contagious.

A little touchy-feely, I know, but it works.

Some folks think it's good for the bottom line, too. In The Power of Nice, Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval claim that "nice companies have lower employee turnover, lower recruitment costs and higher productivity. Nice people live longer, are healthier and make more money. In today's interconnected world, companies and people with a reputation for cooperation and fair play forge the kind of relationships that lead to bigger and better opportunities, in business and in life."

Even if they don't, they're just more pleasant to be around. That has to count for something, right?

Remember the Golden Rule? "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you." Pretty radical stuff, isn't it? I say we give it a try. We'd be happier, our companies would be more successful, and the world would be a better place.

At the very least, my golf game would improve.


Bill Sheridan