You know you’ve drifted way too far from the shores of reason and into the depths of obsession when you’re a devoted reader not only of advice columns, but also the comments following them, yet another dubious gift from the digital world. My favorite column is written by Carolyn Hax of The Washington Post. Although her commenters include a handful of the usual semi-literate know-it-alls, she seems to attract an unusually high percentage of thoughtful responders.
This comment was posted in response to a letter regarding emeritus professors who behave poorly:
“I am VERY nice to people at work. I compliment clothing, notice new hair cuts, ask about kids and aging parents. I mentor my employees and younger professionals, encourage peers, send thank you notes, praise effort, give credit. It’s nice to be nice, but it’s not just about altruism or caring whether I am well-liked. Behaving in this way gives me a tremendous amount of leeway when I need to be a hard-*ss about something, deliver bad news, or even just when I’m having a bad day. The Bank of Good Will is a beautiful thing, and deposits are painless. I highly recommend this strategy. Being cranky and demanding all the time is like driving with your foot on the brake; it just wears you out sooner and doesn’t get you where you want to be.”
I shared the quote with a young manager who faithfully practices these strategies. I mentioned it to our HR director when we met in the hall. A few days later, office mate Anne handed me a list of “Top 10 Communication Skills” that will help you stand out in today’s job market. Number Four was “Friendliness.”
Sometimes colleagues who make frequent deposits in the Bank of Good Will are regarded as Pollyannas, or worse, superficial or needy. But for educators, a default posture of support and caring for our students allows us to offer valid criticism when warranted without having them tune us out…probably works for colleagues, too.
Maybe we should start printing deposit slips.