Ever feel like you might be an arsehole?
Let’s face it — we all have those moments when we could probably be a little kinder.
Maybe someone cut you off in traffic and you screamed expletives at them. Maybe someone stole the last treadmill at the gym and you wished they never born.
Maybe someone at work stole your lunch again and you Slacked your entire office that you’d personally find the culprit and force-feed them an entire chocolate cake like the Trunchbull.
If you’ve ever wanted to become a nicer person, it’s not as difficult as you think. Author Austin Kleon discussed this subject on his blog — and the core of it doesn’t involve donating to charity or smiling at people more — but instead, requires practicing a little more empathy to those around us.
Trying to be a little more polite? Here’s what you need to know about playing nice (and acting it, too)—so you’ll never scream at someone unnecessarily again.
Dining and drinking out can be an expensive experience and you, as a customer, are entitled to an enjoyable one. But being entitled to something doesn’t mean you get to be a jerk about it. Sending food or drinks back from whence they came for no real reason is the saddest sort of flex, and there are few things more off-putting than someone who tries to build themselves up by being rude to waitstaff, bartenders, or anyone else in the service industry.
Give everyone the benefit of the doubt
In Kleon’s post, he refers to the author and reverend, James Martin, who provides a couple of keys tip on becoming a kinder person. One lesson, in particular, is crucial: Give people the benefit of the doubt.
“When there’s a doubt about how someone means something or what someone does, give them the plus sign,” Martin said in a video.
Instead of assuming all those around you are acting on their own selfish, seedy intentions, just assume the best. Your actions toward them will reflect this as a result—instead of being passive aggressive (ie. avoiding them, short responses, the occasional eye roll, etc.), you’ll communicate more openly and show them more respect than if you doubted their trustworthiness.
For the anxious, tension is also debilitating, so it has the added benefit of freeing up the mental space in your own mind.
Don’t talk about people unnecessarily
Martin provided another solid tip on tackling the arsehole problem: Honour anyone absent.
“In other words, stop talking about people behind their backs,” he said. “Nothing I think is so damaging to our own spiritual lives as denigrating another person. It’s a really serious form of uncharity and of course, it can make the other person feel miserable.”
It’s tempting to voice your opinions at the holiday party after a drink or two, but you stand to benefit a lot more by staying silent. And frankly, you’ll look a lot nicer, too—talking poorly about someone can make you look worse and no one wants to look like the office shit-talker.
Yes, venting feels great (especially while drinking!) and if you need a venting mechanism, let someone else do it. Listening to a venting session can be an exercise in relief in and of itself. Maybe they’ll share an opinion you secretly empathise with.
Don’t expect things in return
“Don’t fall into the ‘covert contracts’ fallacy. A lot of ‘nice guys’ believe that if they treat everybody good, they’ll be treated good in return. So when they do favours for people, they expect to be compensated in the form of favours or friendship.”
In other words, if you want to become a kinder person, you can’t place strings on every good deed. Why? It’s superficial and you’re ultimately placing a monetary value on others and what they can provide for you in the long-term.
Instead, try your best to do a deed without acknowledging how it can benefit you down the road. Yes, this is hard (See: the Friends episode where Phoebe couldn’t accomplish any deed as a good Samaritan without benefitting herself in some way), but not anticipating a reward is pretty much crucial to being less of an arsehole.
Forgive people more often
In the vein of giving people the benefit of the doubt whenever possible, you should forgive people just as easily when they’ve admitted to mistakes.
You don’t want to be the person who can’t let something go. And holding a grudge will keep you from moving on emotionally and in the relationship.
And as we’ve written before, forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation, either. You don’t have to become best friends—it’s just an act of mutual respect. So let it go when you can.
And if you can’t get over it, that’s ok, too! Maybe it’s a cold-hearted ex, in which case, they’re the arsehole and your grudge is entirely justified.