10 Days of Paying it Forward
JoLiz Coaching’s social media and online content Superhero Thea, has tried 10 days of paying it forward (which is not easy when you work predominantly in front of a computer). Here is what she found out. (Contains swearing)
I work with a huge amount of digital content as part of my day job. Marketing strategies, blogs, social media curation, newsletters, editing articles, different industries, topics and so on.
I spend a lot of time on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn reading, saving, sharing and liking posts for clients. It’s easy to become removed and de-sensitised by it all. Pop onto a site, flick though; like, share, schedule, smiley face etc, etc and move on.
Facebook can feel like a human version of Farmville. Log in, scroll up and down, water the animals, tend to the emotional needs of your friends, like some stuff, log off again. De-sensitised.
When it comes to my personal relationships, there are days when I’m definitely better on paper.
I am happy to click Share on a post to say something nice to my friends (I also share relevant stuff to specific people’s timelines), if I do see something I like in the real world, I tend to remain silent — there is after all no way in real life to just click Like and walk away — far easier than making an effort to say it out loud.
“Happy Anniversary you crazy kids!!” I’ll write.. but I’ve not seen the person for years. “Happy Birthday, hope it’s cake filled!” I’ll write… but in reality I can barely remember where I know them from.
I work remotely for most of the week and spend much of that time without speaking to anyone other than myself. I live in my own bubble of thoughts but recently it was this motivational poster that penetrated.
I smiled to myself and shared it on my Facebook page. Other people liked it and shared it, too. It seemed to resonate.
So this is my challenge. For 10 days at least. It’s time to be nice in real life.
Diets and resolutions start on a Monday, so today, Monday the 30th of May I will start my personal challenge.
I hereby vow to say something nice, in person, with my own actual voice and face, every day for 10 whole days. I mean how hard can it be!
I’m working from home today. Not much chance for contact with anyone other than the family. At lunch I run out to get stuff to make the boys’ tea. It’s pissing it down and as I dash in through the supermarket’s automatic doors I hold back to let an old lady go in front of me. I get ready to say something nice when she thanks me. Sadly she wafts through the open doorway without a hint of having actually seen me. I glare at her back thinking vengeful thoughts.
The rest of the shop passes by without incident and at the checkout as I’m packing my stuff I realise I’ve forgotten rice. Pretty integral part of risotto I say to the cashier. She laughs and tells me to go ahead and get it and she will “go slow” while I do so. Bless her, that was nice I think and resolve to say something generous when I get back. “Thanks” is my pretty feeble offering. Clearly I am well out of practice. I was going to waffle on and say something else but she’s already asking for my Waitrose card and telling me the amount. I manage a pretty feeble “Have a lovely day” as I leave. She gives me a look that says “But I’m AT WORK!” and smiles politely. “Nice weather for ducks!” I exclaim at the Big Issue seller outside and do that Chuh! British weather! eye roll thing. She clearly thinks I’m a dick too.
More working from home today. I thanked the builder who removed all our rubbish at the back of the shed profusely for his hard work in (yet more) sopping rain. I said I really appreciated it. I meant it sincerely so hopefully it was taken as such. Feeling a bit more confident this time, I stood back at the doorway of Waitrose and feeling a bit like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, this time I made sure to make eye contact, smiled and said a cheery “Good morning” as I waited my turn to enter. I got a small worried smile back and felt like I’d conquered Everest. I CAN BLOODY DO THIS!
School run in the car today. I’m usually pretty calm on the way home. I’m not really in a hurry, Chris Moyles on the radio, heating turned up (yep, I know, June), I languorously wave to let people out in front of me (not too many, I’m not a crazy woman). I did allow myself a “Come the fuck on” under my breath to the man who just stared baffled at me as I flashed him to go. “I’m being nice for fuck’s sake!”
Thank God! A real person. A mum-friend emails to ask if I want to go for a coffee. I don’t really but I do tend to shut myself away working instead of go out and look at the world. We meet at a favourite cafe on the high street. Her hair looks fab, she has a lovely tan from pottering in the garden at the weekend and looks like she has lost a little bit of weight too. I have a momentary feeling of inadequacy, tell it to fuck off and instead decide to tell her I have noticed. Because I have. But I don’t do it in a “Ooh you lucky thing” or “Oh you cow, you’re thinner than me” kind of way. I decide that it’s more sincere with no hidden meaning. Humans being supportive of other humans and bigging them up when they least expect it. “You look lovely and healthy” I say. “Where did you get your hair done, it really suits you”. I decide not to mention the thin as I know people also drop weight without wanting to, due to stress etc. I end with an ‘And it’s lovely to see you”. And it was.
A day in the office!
There are 4 men in my client’s office. This is going to be a tough one. Does the challenge extend to them all or can I just “do one of them”.. so to speak? I can’t really compliment them on their hair — it would feel weird. They all wear pretty standard jeans and dark jumper combos, and none that I have noticed wears makeup and might be trialling a new eyeshadow. I decide to go with complimenting their tea-making skills. I start with Jeremy. “That was the best cup of tea I’ve had in ages” I say to him. He beams at me.
Back to working from home today. I have a 2.5hr long Skype meeting with a software developer who is my only human contact for the day. He really knows his stuff and is excellent at not only explaining things in simple terms, but listening patiently when I describe my workflows and marketing needs.
We end the call with a quick run down of action points and takeaways and I compliment him on his knowledge and patience. It’s been hours, my bum is numb and truthfully I’ve needed a wee since around minute 13. I think ordinarily I’d have just been polite and rushed off. Taking the time to thank him properly and give reasons, felt right.
God, working from home is far duller than I had ever realised. I did a quick Sainsbury’s shop earlier. I like to mix it up. Said thanks to the lady who helped me scan a coupon and walked home. I think if I’m going to do this properly I might have to cheat a bit. I send the motivational poster below to a friend via text.
I’m trying to source some re-cycled bags for a refugee charity to hand out food parcels in. You can read about it on my Twitter. My quest has involved writing letters and speaking with the PR people within Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. It’s been slow going. Their charity budgets are minuscule and they tend to focus on local causes rather than refugee camps full of foreigners. I do my best to sympathise with the PR lady at the local store who explains on the phone that they can’t give me any bags in case they get scattered around Calais and heap negative publicity on the company. I feel she’s rather missing the point about what constitutes “negative publicity”, but I bare-ass lie and say I “totally understand”. We chat politely for a bit when something weird happens. I decide to be nice — not just “polite to a stranger who said no” nice, but actually nice to this woman who probably gets asked a million times a day for donations. We chat about the local Facebook group for our town that has its fair share of online trolls, end up laughing and before you know it, she has offered me the glamorous compromise of dumpster surfing in their used carrier bag bin when it’s next full! I’m not proud, I’ll take that :)
It’s a beautiful sunny, crisp morning when I get to the train station. I remember the name of the lady who serves me a cup of tea, and use it. We joke about whether she has remembered if I like the tea bag in or out (out, I’m a wimp) and I go on my way with a smile. At the top of the steps to the platform a gross cockroach / winged fat thing is sat forlornly on the concrete just asking for a busy commuter to obliviously squish him. Ignoring the revulsion I use my train ticket to scoop him up to the side out of harm’s way and where he can’t melt the underside of someone’s shoe with his no doubt disgusting acid innards.
Juggling tea, laptop case and lunch bag I stride up and down the platform getting my 10,000 steps in. Exercise is reported to make you happy and after all my chatting, complimenting and bug rescuing, I genuinely couldn’t be more so.
Starting to struggle a bit but the end is in sight. I’ve got a lot on with work and a looming deadline. I think I’m pretty polite when I leave the house. I’m a little on the impatient / perfectionist side but I do try to repress it. I’m finding it hard to remember to be spontaneously nice as part of my to-do list though! Also, I’ve noticed that people are inherently suspicious of other people being nice to them. Is it any wonder when I once read that “You look well” is very specific code for “You’ve put weight on”. How did we end up like this? The ‘What’s in it for me?’ attitude. The suspicion.
I get my oven cleaned today (not a euphemism) and the oven cleaner is lovely. A thoroughly decent hard working and intelligent human being. He chats way more than I’d usually like but instead of doing that pointed pretend to work so they shut up thing, I close my laptop, stick the kettle on and we talk. We talk so much that 4 hours later the oven still isn’t finished and he’s now chatting to my husband who has had to bring back not only the kids, but steaming hot paper packages of fish and chips (no oven remember) and rather than sitting staring at his phone now he’s home, he’s pulled up a chair and he too is chatting back. This stranger who has come into the house has happily listened and talked and covered every topic from his divorce, to my kids, to his football coaching, to our favourite marketing campaigns of the 90s, to rap music and his teenagers. Incredible. I pay him and he leaves. I wanted to hug him but held back. Why, I’m not sure, it was one of the nicest afternoons I’ve had in a while.
I feel a bit of a dab hand at the niceness now. A cheery hello, eye contact (but not maniacal stalker staring) a held back door, a truthful compliment, a sincere ‘How are you?’. It’s all starting to come a little more naturally.
But. I’ve also come to the conclusion that being nice is actually really boring. And so it should be. It should be the norm. Something we do without noticing. Like breathing. It most certainly shouldn’t warrant a 10 day experiment or have a blog written about it.
In conclusion: Be nice. Then forget about it!