The Lost Art of Being Nice

Do you ever stop and wonder if graciousness and kindness and good manners have fallen by the twenty-twelve wayside? Do you ever hear about Internet trolls, or bloggers who bitch behind people's backs, or women who aren't kind to other women and think: What must they be like? (I always wonder if they're unhappy and unfulfilled. Happy, content people don't enrol in the Troll School of Terrible Behaviour.) And do you ever find yourself losing your own manners, and thinking: Oh no, the modern world's is getting to me too!

I have. Until earlier this year, that is. Earlier this year I said: Enough is enough.

The catalyst for this was a B&B I stayed in at the end of our US trip in May, which was truly terrible. I saw not only some of the worst service I've ever experienced but also some of the worst behaviour I've ever seen in people. (Especially B&B owners.)  Horrified, I checked into the Gramercy Park Hotel instead, which was like walking into a New York version of Heaven in comparison. Truly. I thought I'd crossed the Pearly Gates. The staff at Gramercy Park are famous for being some of the nicest hotel people in the world, and it showed. When I asked the doorman how they all coped with difficult guests – the VIPs and the celebrities and the cranky ones from nowhere – he simply smiled and said: "We win them over with kindness."

Don't you think that's lovely?

(NB The B&B refunded my money, all $700 of it.)

Here's another story. I was at the airport early this morning. My mother, who is the fittest person I know, came off an international flight in a wheelchair, an upsetting sight if ever there was one. She was dumped at the Arrivals Hall and the wheelchair was whisked away. Needless to say, we were all terribly upset. The elderly woman sitting next to her, who looked like she didn't have two cents to rub together, started crying at our predicament. After we'd finally found another wheelchair to take my mother to the carpark in, the woman graciously offered a hand. With tears in her eyes, she held the chair stable, and as we walked off, gave me a little wave, as if to say: Everything's going to be okay. It really made my day.

So this is my proposal to everyone who reads this blog. Be inspiring to someone today. Offer a hand. Be kind. Show you care. Don't bitch or moan but just be nice. I suspect most of you do anyway, but I just thought I'd reinforce the philosophy.

I try and inspire everyone I meet. I know my manners fall down (I still have dozens of emails to return), but I always try and do the right thing. Because it does come back to you eventually.

I once interviewed Heather Small of M People, whose song 'Proud' was such a significant part of the pre-Olympics' media. ("What have you done today to make you feel proud?") She confessed, in a rare show of pain, that she had felt depressed and even suicidal, for some time. This was Heather Small, one of the greatest singers of the Nineties. I always regretted that I didn't stop the interview and give her a hug, that I didn't show some compassion, anything, even a note afterwards telling her she was just so damn fine!

So this is my encouragement to everyone. Inspire someone today. Or tomorrow. Or next week. Whenever you do, know this: it will mean a lot to them.

Go on. What have you done today to make you feel proud?

PS Heather, you are magnificent. Don't ever forget that.   ( link )


"I suppose the thing I most would have liked to have known or been reassured about is that in the world, what counts more than talent, what counts more than energy or concentration or commitment, or anything else - is kindness. And the more in the world that you encounter kindness and cheerfulness - which is its kind of amiable uncle or aunt - the better the world always is. And all the big words: virtue, justice, truth - are dwarfed by the greatness of kindness." ~ Stephen Fry


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