People forget: We're supposed to be nice

I've been part of an interviewing panel at my company. We've searched through a score of resumes and talked to a lot of people. My favorite part of the interviews come when the candidates ask us about our team and we can talk about how we are like a family. (It gives me the warm fuzzies every time.) At some point, the candidates will usually mention how nice we all seem.

And that is always a bit odd to me, because people are supposed to be nice.

Don't get me wrong - I've worked for and with a lot of not nice people, and I always pity them a bit. I mean, what kind of an existence is it to wake up every day in a bad mood or to only be able to experience joy through other people's misery?

One of the things I try to reinforce to my son is that he doesn't have to like everybody, but he does have to be nice and respectful to everyone. It's one of those lessons that I believe if you learn it early on in life, it will be a lot easier as you grow up.

Naturally, I was a little concerned when I read the kindness study by Harvard Graduate School of Education. The researchers asked children to rate what their parents valued most: Being a happy person, achieving at a high level or caring for others.

Caring for others didn't even come close to the top. 

Which makes me wonder what messages I'm passing along to my son: Yes, achievements are important, but so is being a kind person. Am I praising him for the moments he shows kindness to others? Am I being a good example for him?

For a moment after reading the study, I worried about the type of children that my son will be growing up with, but maybe it will all even out with age. As science tells us, people tend to get a nicer as they age. Psychologists call this the Maturity Principle - the idea that from the ages of 20 to 65, we usually become more agreeable, more responsible and more emotionally stable and we decrease our negative traits.

(That kind of makes me wonder what happens to people after the age of 65, but maybe that is some research for another day.)

So, to all the mean people out there: Stop it. Nicer is just easier.

Do you praise your child for being nice? Tell me in the comments.

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