I was recently at an awards ceremony where a local business executive was honored. In describing his philosophy about hiring employees, he noted that his first test is always to find pleasant people. That rang true with me, but I’d never heard anyone say it before.
It made me wonder: Is pleasantness the most underrated human trait?
I think it just might be. It doesn’t matter what you do, where you work, how much money you make. If you’re around pleasant people, life’s more fun. Unpleasantness, on the other hand, takes its toll — and often begets more unpleasantness.
There are plenty of books describing the path to success in politics, sports, business or life in general. But rarely do they focus on the simple fact that the kinder a person is, the further he or she is likely to get. Yes, the tyrannical coach or boss may get results, but fear motivates people only to do what they need to do to end the unpleasantness — and no more. But people will go above and beyond the call of duty for a person they truly like.
Some folks seem to consider themselves above pleasantries, and deal with others in a brusque and harsh manner. Do they have any idea about what they’re losing by acting that way?
I have no scientific evidence to back this up, but I would bet that pleasant people get through lines at the DMV faster, get better discounts at the counter, and get more free refills at the restaurant. The reason isn’t complicated: Wherever humans have discretion, they’ll use it in favor of people they like. Treat people well, and they’ll treat you well.
But above any practical considerations, being pleasant is simply the right thing to do. Every day, we have the power to make others feel better or worse. That’s an extraordinary responsibility, but also an opportunity. Just remember most people are carrying a burden. One kind gesture or smile lessens it a bit — and, just maybe, more than a bit.
It all goes back to the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We all appreciate pleasantness. Sharing it with others might be the most important thing you can do today.
Rob Witwer is a former member of the Colorado House of Representatives and co-author of the book “The Blueprint: How Democrats Won Colorado and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care.”