Is it worthwhile to “be nice”? Is it useful to “be approachable”? Is it possible to be kind and agreeable and still authentically the person I am “at heart”? Short answer; yes. I mean, that’s my opinion, and I’ve had good results making the effort to pivot from chronic sarcasm, day-to-day cynicism, and bitterness-as-humor, to something… “nicer”. That’s really it. The entire point. You can go have coffee or move on with your day. The rest is just more words. 😉

The tl;dr is that I see value in being pleasant in interactions with others. You may feel differently, or even be inclined to argue the point (but I won’t be taking the bait – I said what I said).

It can be damned difficult to maintain a façade of pleasantness or to force a smile, and a “customer service approach” doesn’t feel “authentic”, generally. The thing is, though, when I was a bit less kind, less pleasant, less approachable… I was also less fun to be around, less likely to be supportive, and more inclined toward being argumentative. Making a change in favor of being more “agreeable”, generally, and more pleasant has not stopped anyone else from continuing to be whoever they choose to be (and thus has not prevent some argumentative interactions with folks inclined to that behavior, though I do endeavor to avoid such interactions – and relationships). Sometimes it is difficult to be nice, kind, compassionate, understanding, and present. Sometimes it is effortless. If I am in pain it can be especially challenging to be my “best self”. Still worth the effort most of the time.

…And it is possible to learn to be nicer, kinder, more agreeable, more pleasant… it just takes a fuck-ton of practice…

My Traveling Partner pops in for a moment and reads the first sentence over my shoulder. “It’s better to be kind than to be right,” he says, “but you can be both.” He looks thoughtful and adds “…be kind first” as he moves on to other things.

Some people are unpleasant, disagreeable, or unkind. That’s not about me, and I don’t have to “drink the poison“, or “take the bait” – although I may need to exert an effort to walk away from bullshit now and then. Look, let’s just take “helping them change” or “fixing their issue” off the table right now – I know it’s tempting, but it’s not actually a thing (even within our relationships). They have to do their own verbs to become the person they most want to be, and maybe they think they’re just fine as they are? If who they are is giving you grief, that’s a mismatch in social values, not a troubleshooting scenario for you (or me) to fix – even if we find ourselves in a relationship with someone who “isn’t easy to be around”.

Similarly… maybe it’s you? Maybe you’re the asshole? (I know it has been me, more than once…) Are you really the person you most want to be? Do you actually want a reputation for being short-tempered, unkind, disagreeable, contrary, cranky, unapproachable, arrogant, terse, argumentative, or unpleasant? Does any of that actually sound good? (I bet it doesn’t.) We usually get around such things in our definitions of self by pointing our finger at someone else (or circumstances) and saying “they made me…”. (Provocation doesn’t excuse bad behavior. Just an fyi on that.) Making excuses for our short-comings doesn’t make our short-comings more acceptable – they just slow our progress toward being a better human being, as an individual, based on those things we can choose to do (or change) to be the best version of ourselves we can imagine from the perspective we’ve got. Another common “out” we reach for too often is that we were not “understood”. Were we not? Truly? Or are we just hoping to be off the hook for a moment of nastiness we really ought to sincerely regret, and move on from committed to doing better? The worst of the excuses is using straight up justification of our worst behavior, as in “I am taking this approach because it is necessary [to get a desired outcome].” (Is it, though? Really? Or are you just being an asshole because that’s less work for you, personally? Couldn’t you do better?)

Anyway. I am sipping my coffee and thinking about how to feel cranky without “being” cranky, and how to express frustration or anger without becoming the embodiment of my worst self, or taking a frustrated or angry tone with someone I love. Seems likely it can be done… I probably won’t solve that over a single cup of coffee but it sure seems worth considering. 🙂 It’s along the same line of thinking as “how do I survive trauma without becoming a monster?”, but that’s a very large puzzle and pretty much 100% of all of the words in this blog touch that one in some way, you know? Breaking down the big challenges into smaller challenges, and finding the small practical details that can become the loose threads that unravel this tangled mess is kind of the point of sitting here at this keyboard. 😀

It’s a whole new year opening up ahead of me. How will I use this mortal time to live my best life, and to be my best self? Where will this journey take me?