Over the past years I have worked in various jobs - and all were very different, ranging from high-end editor in an educational publishing house to being a freelancer, nanny, teacher and, once, even an entertainer for children's parties which included me in a blonde wig singing "Let It Go" to four-year-old girls. I've had my fair share of job interviews, internships and whatnot related to the job finding programme and one aspect which has always furthered my cause, always, was being nice.
I know, it sounds banal and lame, but it is actually true. When I worked as a teacher, my students liked me so much simply because I was nice to them without permanently threatening or humiliating them, which sadly seems to be a common strategy in public (and private) schools. During one summer I worked in a language camp in London and was regularly praised for my professional tone and how I dealt with clients - but I was just nice. Whenever I worked in a job, I smiled at people, brought brownies to work occasionally and in the London heat I made sure everyone kept hydrated and bought some huge water bottles for everyone to put on their desks.
Believe me, I am not seeking to make myself seem like a saint here, primarily because I don't deem the above given deeds as particularly outstandingly nice, it is just common sense to seek to emanate a positive vibe, regardless whether at work or out and about. Generally, it seems that being nice can hardly ever hurt. Whether in a store doing the grocery shopping, at the post office, in a restaurant and the many other places we visit in our everyday lives, I have always and exclusively come off better when I entered with a smile and a kind attitude. People were more willing to help me, return things or deal with a problem I was experiencing. Additionally, and this is the crucial point, I felt infinitely better after the encounter compared to if I had been a grumpy jerk who would bark at the first person crossing her way.
I have never bought into the idea to spread negative vibes, as I don't think it is in any way conducive - neither for yourself nor for anybody else. Being firm is, of course, something else. I think the problem is that many people confuse being nice with being weak, but being kind and friendly always puts you within a more powerful position than a grumpy, impolite person. Why? Because friendly people always seem more in control, their minds are not unravelling and they emanate a feeling of themselves having settled in life and reached a rare state of contentedness.
By remaining friendly, you usually also remain calm, which allows thoughts to formulate in a non-offensive or defensive way, which will actively contribute to you looking more professional. Back when I worked in London, we had clients which were, well, let's say not of the kindest kind. Demanding, grim and preposterous, some of them even made my smiles sway, but I remained firmly kind and in the end they thanked be for my professionalism and great service provided, even though things sometimes went wrong as well. People will forgive you much more likely for a little mishap - which happens to anybody, regardless of how professional they are - when you've been kind, helpful and eager to make it the best experience for the clients.
At the moment, I am tutoring again and most of my students are from a difficult background and have a more than pronounced language in the classroom. Instead of scolding them - children who are scolded from dusk till dawn anyway - I (usually) remain very calm, friendly and clearly state what is permitted and what not. Being friendly, even when being firm, also relates closely to showing respect for someone. Even if I want to point out that a specific behaviour is not tolerable, I can do it without screaming at, humiliating or threatening the student (or client etc.).
One of the least professional behaviours in my opinion and experience is people getting defensive - which usually leads to harsher language being used as well. Being defensive suggests I have lost control, I don't want to take up responsibility and I want to blame someone else for it - all qualities which no good manager wants in his or her team. Claiming responsibility for a mistake, in a kind, firm and friendly manner, has ironically never cost me a job. On the contrary, twice I got promoted because of it.
I am confounded how such a simple thing as being nice can make such a huge difference and why not more people employ it. As I am now working as a freelance writer, being friendly, honest, taking up responsibility and being reliable is paramount. Having worked as an editor, I know how defensive writers can be about their work, and I am working hard to prevent from being like them (which is not always easy). I thank my editors always for their feedback - also because constructive criticism is of utmost importance to improve over time. I always email back as quickly as I can and even for short emails I take the time to write "Dear..." with a nice intro and "cheers" at the end, and it is actually noticed and appreciated. Especially when working as a freelancer, little things like this can make the difference between a client coming back or not - and your income steadily increasing or decreasing.
Only recently I have realised that behaving like that and being friendly is, apparently, not common sense, but an exception of the rule. On very few occasions, I have not even given 100% at work and still performed well because I was honest about how much I could take on, addressed issues in a friendly and conducive manner and sported good humour and promoted a positive and kind working environment. I have never felt weak by being nice, only more empowered because the people I worked with seemed much more eager to collaborate and working became infinitely more fun, so why not try it out as well? It's a great experience and is totally for free (well, apart from the brownies and water bottles).
Writer. Editor. Blogger. YouTuber. Freelancer. Traveller. English fanatic.