5 Ways to make people think you’re nice
We are at the dining room table eating dinner and my eight-year-old son who is dying to have a girlfriend tells us, “Taylor Swift said she’s only going to date guys who have sisters because they understand women better. Is that true? I think I need a sister.”
I say, “I read that, too.”
Matthew says, “I don’t want to hear quotes from Taylor Swift at the table. She keeps dating men and then writing about them. I can’t stand it.”
“Really?” I say, “You can’t stand it? How do you put up with me?”
If there were links in conversations I would have put them to the post about the guy I dated who was twenty years younger than I was. And the guy my divorce lawyer set me up with. And all my dates with Matthew.
If there were links in conversations I think I would be a calmer person because it turns out that creative people see links in everything and I’m pretty sure that creative people bloomed when the Internet was invented because it lets them connect ideas so well.
But people are sick of me trying to get by with bursts of creativity. Fast Company has quantified data about how much likability matters. And it turns out that creativity is to McDonald’s salad as kindness is to the Big Mac: people always tell market researcher they want a salad at McDonald’s, but once they are at the counter and actually ordering food, they order a Big Mac.
Which is to say that I am figuring out new ways to make people think I’m nice, since creative by itself isn’t cutting it.
1. Understand that your body language belies your true feelings.
Here’s a link for you. About poker. People move their arms differently when they are bluffing. You can read someone’s brain by looking at their body movements. Which makes me think of me being face-blind because I remember peoples’ gaits the way other people remember faces. And now I’m thinking that maybe I see as much into people from their gait as other people see in a face.
And I also connect, to that poker research, the research from PhotoFeeler that shows how a profile photo with squinched eyes makes you more likable. This is because a smile with no squinch is fake. And a profile photo that’s up close—just your face—makes you less likable. It’s so hard to get people to like you. The idea of being nice is hard to separate from the action of being nice. So really, you have to feel nice in order to seem nice.
So I’ve decided that my best bet is to forget about trying to do things people perceive as nice. Like saying “how are you?” because it’s impossible for me to do that and sound like I care. Instead I am going to focus on genuinely feeling nice and let the words take care of themselves.
2. No backstabbing.
Back to dinner. I tell my husband that it’s absurd that he doesn’t like that Taylor Swift writes about ex-boyfriends when my husband continued to date me even when I told him that I would be writing about him.
He says, “But you told me you are always nice about your ex’s.”
This is true. For example, I never dis my ex-husband behind his back. Because it would make me look stupid for marrying him. But there are a lot of people who research gossip, and I have concluded that on my blog a few nuggets of gossip here and there could benefit everyone. As Professor Timothy Hallett says, “I wouldn’t advocate a no-gossip policy. If you know how gossip works, you can manage and control it.”
3. Be generous with sex.
Did you know that if one farm has a lot of cows giving birth to twins then probably the other farms nearby are also having a lot of twins? I wonder if I spend a lot of time with the cows if my period will synchronize with theirs.
Which reminds me of our sex life.
If you are a married woman, being a nice person is having sex. So I said, “Fine, let’s have sex. But remember that my pee is smelling really bad so don’t go down on me.”
The next morning I wake up to him screaming in the bathroom that his pee is stinging. Like his penis is on fire, he says. And he tells me that the odor from my pee is a urinary tract infection and I gave it to him.
4. Make arguments quick. Accept that you can’t agree with everyone on everything.
He lays down in bed on his back with his arm across his eyes. He can’t stand the pain.
I tell him Pyridium is great for dulling the pain of a urinary tract infection.
He calls the doctor and asks for Pyridium, but only after implying that he got the penis problem from me. The doctor says Pyridium only works for women.
I hand Matthew a Vicodin. But he’d endure infinite amounts of pain rather than take a pill that makes him unable to operate a tractor on a sunny day.
So I take the Vicodin. I think maybe Vicodin will mix well with my anti-anxiety medicine because I am worried that so many people are saying that writers don’t write well when they become emotionally stable.
5. Actions speak louder than words. But if your actions are bad, clarify with words.
I lay back on the pillow, next to Matthew. I tell him maybe our infections are like cows with twins. It’s something in the moon, maybe.
Matthew says, “My pee doesn’t smell nearly as bad as yours.” Then he says, “Don’t write about this, okay?”
I tell him about an article in the Harvard Business Review. I tell him, “The Harvard Business review says people who give ultimatums almost never get what they want. And anyway what about that I’m always nice?”
He says, “People don’t care about this stuff. It grosses them out.”
I’m not sure I see the connection between arguments and the Pyridium anecdote. It sounds like he agreed with you but sensibly asked the doctor if it would actually work. Did a shouting match ensue?
I always enjoyed reading the advice you give! And no, it doesn’t gross me out one bit! It’s the personal experiences that you share that make it stand apart. I feel as though it opens up who you are instead of some random person you can’t relate too with no personality.
Another tip I’ve read is to imagine the other person with giant angel wings. I know it sounds dumb, but if you really can’t think of anything else to say, imaging this will show in your face and body language.
Hah! Hah! Hah!
You’re often quite funny.
That’s why I’m using you.
In my new 10 minute short.
You’ll be playing Gwyneth Paltrow.
Not really playing “her” per se.
Playing her personality. Maybe.
Ooh, I figured out it was a UTI the second I read “smells bad.” Poor Matthew. Now he knows.
And I call bullshit on writers not writing well when they get their heads together. My writing dramatically improved after I got mine together.
Uh….Mathew would be correct. It’s gross. I expected better from you today, Pen. Probably that infection…
Love Matthew! He’s right and you’re gross. You should kiss his feet every morning. How’d you meet him?
Face blindness is so interesting. I have been able to hide mine fairly well. But not always. A year ago I flew back home and while at my mom’s house I hugged my sister hello then proceeded to ask my sister’s husband where his wife was. It was embarrassing and odd. Strangely I recognized him. I am guessing what ever cues I was using to recognize my sister had changed in the time I had not seen her while the cues I was using to recognize her husband stayed the same.
I am face blind and it’s really embarrassing. I can hardly recognize people I know well if I see them out of context; if someone gets a haircut — or heaven forbid changes their hair color — I’m toast.
Turns out most people are good at making inferences about other people based on their gait:
It’ll be hard for you to link to this in the future because of the pay wall — and it being actual science instead of popular press interpretation
That’s really interesting! I love reading about gait. Also, the first time I had a career coach was when I was in my 20s and my boss thought I was having a hard time embracing all the authority I had at work. So he got me this career coach, and all she worked on with me is my gait. She said if I walked like I have authority then I’ll feel it an I’ll exude it. And she was right!
This is really funny! And I think it is so brave of you to put it out here. I wonder if people would think you are nice or nicer after reading it.
Another thing that’s likable: Predictability (meaning you never disappoint)
I’ve also wondered about the writing thing, if writing drives people to drink or if drinking drives people to write. Either way, bottoms up!
I had just finished raving about your blog to my husband and then I read this article. Sorry but, even journalistically, it doesn’t really flow (no pun intended). It kinda sounds like you’re trying to find a way to talk about a UTI and make it sound like it’s important to the subject matter and makes a point but it doesn’t and it isn’t.
Yeah, I totally agree with matthew. Way to much info. Having sex and giving someone an infection cancels eachother out for being a nice person. Sorry.
Sometimes I think that the benefit to Matthew from me writing about him on the blog is that he always has someone backing him up in the comments when I ignore his admonitions at home.
When I whine to my mom about how annoying my husband is she always sides with him. It’s infuriating.
It is true that people like people who are just like them. This makes it very hard for all the abnormal people. We as a civilization reward creative abnormal people for inventions, perspectives etc. But they are not always likable.
I have resorted to tactics such as not calling out people when you know they are B.S.ing in social situations. I keep this to business. But like you say tactics only go so far. Strategy is what works most of the time.
For example, I plan every little detail. From the placement of pictures that are conversation starters in the hallway to the scenarios that might play out. Most of the time, people are amazed by what I do even when they find out that it was planned. So I become likable based on my strength instead of just tactics.
i find the urinary infection stuff insanely normal, but still don’t tell my husband i like reading your blog. but what really hurts is the truth that writers write less as their life becomes more stable. yesterday i’ve read the last posts on one of the most famous food blogs – the women appologizes that she doesn’t want to cook that week.
UTIs are not contagious – tell the Farmer to suck it up, drink some ‘Just Crandberry’ juice, and to relieve himself after sex (insert witty link to some site that talks about how one simple action can be a game chaner).
Contrary to others – I am neither elated nor put off by the fact that you are writing about this. I wish I was thinking about UTIs rather than some of the other things in my life that can’t be fixed with simple solutions like peeing regularly and cutting back on sugar for a time.
If, by chance, you are in need of topics that reach beyond the scope of the Farmer’s privates, maybe you could consider some of these:
How to make people think you’re nice cont’d: How to care what they think in the first place
How to choose between two men – I mean shit, does it really come down to a Pro’s and Con’s List in the end?
How to find a therapist
10 ways to get Penelope Trunk to deconstruct my life without paying her $300+/hour – I got out of paying for grad. school so, I feel like there must be a way to work something out.
Years ago I considered your blog the Holy Grail, but your blueprints only work for women who aren’t already on that path. Which leads me to my last suggestion:
Who’s blog do YOU read? You recently (I think) wrote about being afraid people might think you were becoming irrelevant. On the one hand, this could be a could thing (from a social work perspective :/ ). If you are becoming irrelevant it means it is working? On the other hand, if it is working… people usually want more. So, who do you go to for more? I have been thinking I am at that place – this post in many ways confirmed that.
How to choose between two men:
Here’s a post:
How to choose a therapist:
You can actually use pretty much any therapist because very few of us have problems that are all that difficult for someone else to see. Here’s a post.
Blogs I read: Whatever I am trying to learn. I’m reading HubSpot because I’m learning about email marketing. I’m reading Peter Gray because I’m learning about education. I read Dooce because she’s innovative with advertising. And I read the blogs of people who comment because I like to see who I’m talking to :)
I enjoyed the “How to pick a husband…” post last year when you wrote it. However, the post is written under the assumption that some of those decisions haven’t already been made. For example, one already has a kid, the other is still a kid. But, point taken.
I like the therapist/universal problems idea a lot. However, the real issue is liking the person that I am talking to. But, again – point taken.
I will start a new blog.
Do you read Satya Khan? I signed up for her emails through you– she just came out with a book.
I’ve been getting into video, like Youtube, recently. There’s probably something for everyone– lighthearted stuff, email marketing, career. :)
Regarding P to deconstruct your life for under $300. I loved that question, because I’ve often wondered the same thing. :)
-Have you tried writing to her Mailbag?
-Comment on her posts and say interesting things and ask good questions
-Take one of her seminars. They are usually less than $300 and apparently they have Q&A time.
-Email her interesting links. She will write you back and love you forever if you give her interesting information.
Becky- Her seminars are not worth the money. There are credible career counselors out there who provide a more accurate assessment of your situation and have real world experience.
Have you seen the TED Talk by Amy Webb “How I Hacked Online Dating”? So many things keep reminding me of it, lately. This PhotoFeeler research is no exception. While Amy Webb’s TED Talk is about online dating, many of the principles she uncovers about creating an effective dating profile apply to online presence in general. Things like: be fun…don’t be too wordy…show a little skin (which you could translate literally or metaphorically).
I think people want you to like yourself, but have room in your life for them, too. We crave relationships that stimulate and inspire us, and we want to stimulate and inspire others, as well. Online, one key component to being nice is editing your thoughts and feelings for length and clarity. Because nice people in Real Life are the ones who listen and empathize. Online, when someone shares in a witty, open hearted way, it’s intoxicating.
And we can’t forget to let our armor down. Because stories of redemption or soldiering on or living with handicaps, these are the “root for the underdog” kinds of nuggets that allow someone to fall in love with us. If we don’t tell our story, we’re just another schmuck with perfect pictures and it makes it look like we’re trying to one-up the Joneses.
PS: ^_^ Sorry about the UTI. Life’s a bitch sometimes.
>> I think people want you to like yourself, but have room in your life for them, too…[And] let [your] armor down. >>
Yes. Liking yourself and being open to the world, that’s vital — but not easy.
Not nice! Think you’ve served us up a salad…
I glad you persist with your no-holds barred approach. I’m not glad I visualise things as I read them.
But I am going to latch onto the cow thing – never heard about that one before – why does that happen – is that a synchronize thing? Or is it to do with breed or environment factors? Is it better (2for1)or worse for cows to have twins… all such a mystery.
Twins are bad. Isn’t that interesting? The mom has a hard time keeping track of two calves and instinctively picks the stronger one to focus on. (This only happens because the cattle are free-range.) Also, twins don’t have as much room to grow as a single calf, and cattle production is all about timing — when to have babies, when to sell them, when the start again — so the calves all need to be a certain weight at roughly the same time, and twins don’t do that.
I think this is right. Sometimes, when I write about everything I have learned about farming I feel like a poser. But then, I felt that way about careers at the beginning, and education at the beginning as well. So I guess it’s just a phase of deep learning.
Do you have a source for the prevalence of twin-cow births within a geographic proximity? Wondering to what degree the factors impact humans as well (of my 10 co-workers who have been pregnant in the past few years over HALF have had twins … none of which were the result of fertility treatments!)
Taylor Swift Now Dating Watertown Boat:
1) UTIs are not contagious
2) It is very uncommon for men to have UTI because of the anotomy–men with UTI in primary care office get refered out to urologist…
3) men with painful urination–I would put STD on top of the list in the potential diagnosis…
4)both of you need to be checked out…
I am surprised the doc who you called to ask for Pyridium was not allarmed…good luck
>> men with painful urination–I would put STD on top of the list in the potential diagnosis…both of you need to be checked out >>
Long time reader, big fan.
There’s bothering me about this post though – my first thought after reading it was “I wonder if she would have written this if he hadn’t asked her not to”
I feel that in relationships it’s very important to actively support and encourage each other, and to actively try not to stifle one another – so in that respect, there’s a clear and obvious argument that Matthew has no right to dictate what you do and don’t write about.
Equally, though, that’s a two way street – we should respect each other’s wishes when they’re reasonable.
In this case, Matthew asked that you not talk about an embarrassing personal problem, and you decided that it was more important for you to write about it than for him to avoid embarrassment.
I may have missed something, but I honestly don’t see what the relevance of the UTI was to this post. Maybe it was designed to be incendiary for the sake of being incendiary – like a teenager cursing because she’s just figured out she can – but I don’t think that was it.
Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is that respect in a relationship is mutual, and when one person isn’t showing the other respect, sooner or later the other person begins to wonder why they have to live by different rules. And there be dragons.
Hi Brian – For someone that has been abused as a child, transparency hold more value than being polite.
In Penelope’s own words: “So what I’m telling you here is that I’m scared of secrets. I’m more scared of keeping things a secret than I am of letting people know that I’m having trouble. People can’t believe how I’m willing to write about my life here. But what I can’t believe is how much better my life could have been if it had not been full of secrets.” (http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2009/07/21/how-to-decide-how-much-to-tell-about-yourself-on-your-blog/)
Thanks for the insight Erin, that puts things into a whole different perspective!
^_^ My pleasure.
That’s one of my favorite quotes from this blog ever. Thanks for mentioning it again.
It’s funny that people are so stuck on the UTI moment.
Also, it’s interesting that people chose to pick apart a post (“you served up a salad”) when in reality I feel like it’s so hard to come across people really revealing themselves as they are in real life. There’s so much to learn from that.
Everyone compares and don’t even say it’s not true! Everyone wants to know how they are doing in comparison to others. So if your only comparison point is how life looks through conversations, Facebook, and OMG pinterest! gah! (makes me want to poke my eye out!) you are just going to have a bad time.
I am happy about the salad. And sometimes I feel like a cow brewing twins. I end up just focusing on the most pressing or interesting issue at hand and even though I thought I could do a good job raising two issues at once I always end up neglecting one and favoring another.
And it takes SO MUCH work and discipline to only have one calf at a time in your life! For example, I had an awesome week of energy and excitement and then this week is awful and I feel run down and scattered and jittery because I am anxious because there’s so much and too many projects going on and I can’t stop having ideas thanks to the good week of excitement and positivity I pulled out of I don’t know where.
So yeah, I am like a cow having two babies and it’s killing my good vibes.
And then to top it all off, I got awful gait this week. I probably look like a flamingo. And it makes me feel worse. But I don’t care enough to fix it, which snowballs into feeling even worse. ugh ugh ugh!
I am sincerely trying to seem nice to people. But everyone bothers me today.
To the paleo mama (and interested others):
According to Columbia (Univ) Health: “Generally speaking, UTIs are not contagious so you couldn’t catch the infection from your girlfriend if you were to have sex. However, if her UTI was caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as chlamydia or trichomoniasis, you would be at risk for those infections until she has been treated.”
So…double disgusting! I have heard of a certain STD whose name escapes me at the moment, which gets batted back and forth between partners. Some things just need to be dealt with promptly and thoroughly.
Or stay sick. Wonder how far that little ol’ bacteria could spread given the right breeding ground…
You’re not nice.
“Understand that your body language belies your true feelings.”
I think you mean “betrays your true feelings.”
To “belie” something is to give the lie to it, i.e., show it is false. You cannot belie something that is true, like true feelings.
Don’t feel bad, but this looks like another of those linguistic errors caused by spell checkers, i.e., using the wrong (but correctly-spelled) word. Lately many writers have confused “reins” with “reigns” (confusing horses with royalty), and we all know people who misuse “begs the question” because they have never studied logical fallacies.
Please don’t be one of those.
I am on conference calls most of the time for work. We do interact in person, but only periodically (we all live all over the country). So I have to convey nicenesss over the phone, which is hard because it cuts out a huge percentage of the non-verbal communication (body language, smiling, etc.) that people can easily use to signal niceness in person.
So, when on calls, I try to: smile when I say hello as I am joining a call (people can hear the smile in your voice); create gentle humor and laugh audibly to connect with people; be conscious of not stepping on other people’s words (often hard to time on calls with more than a few people); say other people’s names a lot and facilitate them joining the discussion.
It can be done, just takes more work. Being nice to people in person is so much easier and more fun!
DB, thank you for this list of stuff to do to be nice on a call. I like reading a list like this. Maybe it is obvious to other people, but these things are only obvious to me after someone tells me. Inviting people to participate. That’s a good one. I love rules.
Just when I thought i would read something interesting – it wasn’t. it was the opposite – c’mon the story didn’t even make sense and then all the TMI- just gross and not relevant. don’t fool your followers into thinking you are going to say something intelligent or insightful, only to have it go to sex and and a UTI.
Half right: it’s totally gross, but (some) people still care.
This reminds me of your advice about how people who can be vulnerable are also more likable, a skill I’ve been cultivating (slowly). I wonder: can you take vulnerability too far? Does it become over-sharing and therefore make people uncomfortable?
And you both have to go pee in a cup right now.
Was this a sponsored post for Pyridium?
I always love reading your posts – and things always stick with me after reading them. I thought that the thing I would take away from this post is the UTI stuff (been there too!) but really, it was the fact that you can read ‘gaits’ as others read faces. I don;t know how you do it – but something about your writing always sticks to me. Thanks yet again.
I’m surprised by the fact that we needed data driven proof that most people would prefer to spend the whole day at work with someone they actually like rather than someone that is a clever but arrogant arsehole.
This whole being nice thing doesn’t suit you Penelope. Nice people never think about being nice. They just are and don’t need to question its existence.
Hey now, people can always get better. Niceness is a skill that can be developed, like any other.
For example, I learned that I am much nicer when I’ve eaten something. Very difficult to be nice while hangry, but it’s almost unconscious after a snack!
I am a very kind person but I always have troubles making myself come across as nice.
So this post was a reminder to dust off and practice coming across as nice.
I think it does make others feel better about you and it eases difficult situations and conversations when people are not afraid to say the difficult things because they feel safe with you.
Hi, P. Re body language, I thought your readers might dig this TED video of Amy Cuddy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks-_Mh1QhMc&feature=player_embedded Kind regards, P. :)
Very true about body language. I left a meeting the other day and this one guy we need to work with had his arms folded across his chest the whole time. I said to my co-worker after it was over that we need to get this guy more comfortable working with us. Loved the comment about smiling when on conference calls. I never thought about that, but it makes total sense.
I had one job where the women, mostly in suits and sweaters, kept their arms folded all the time because the building temp was always set to “iceberg,” winter and summer.
This is so true: “And it turns out that creativity is to McDonald’s salad as kindness is to the Big Mac: people always tell market researcher they want a salad at McDonald’s, but once they are at the counter and actually ordering food, they order a Big Mac.”
Job listings say they want “creative,” but really they just want someone who will show up and be nice and non-confrontational. But they don’t want to say that, because that sounds unenlightened, like owning up to just wanting a Big Mac.
You’re right. I once saw a job posting that called for a person who was a design “genius.” That was interesting because “genius” often looks like an eccentricity. Steve Jobs was a genius and lost his first job as CEO of Apple because he was so difficult to work with. Eccentric and nice don’t always go together, so the geniuses usually start their own companies. Asking for a genius candidate is like people saying they want salad at McDonalds.
“5 Ways to Make People Think You Are Nice” I have so much trouble with this post that I can hardly articulate it.
1. Why would you want to make people think you are nice? So you can manipulate them? You cannot “make” someone do anything. You can only control your own behavior and not someone else’s reaction. 50% of the people you meet will not like you, agree with you, or think you nice for any reason. It is something adults learn to accept.
2. Having sex as a component of “niceness” is ridiculous. Do you have sex with your friends? Your relatives? Your children? Sex really has no part of “niceness”, only that of intimacy.
3. The quality of “nice” is ambiguous. I guess that pleasant people have no difficult being nice, and have no conception of why they need to follow steps to do so. If you have Nice, you exude nice; if you don’t have it, you don’t understand it and cannot hope to acquire it by rote actions.
Also, there is a difference between privacy and secrets. Please learn it for the sake of your husband and your readership.
> Matthew says, “I don’t want to hear quotes from Taylor Swift at the table. She keeps dating men and then writing about them. I can’t stand it.”
I’m certainly no fan of Taylor Swift, but this is a weak argument against her work, and a rather sexist one. How many songs have men written about their love affairs with women? Billions, surely.
I have learned how to be kind rather than nice and it makes a big difference how people perceive and treat you. For some nice equals being a people-pleaser but kind is being able to generate and express warmth and compassion while demanding and expecting respect. I learned this as I give in another country where people would say how nice Americans were and only later did i realize that nice meant stupid. So I am kind but not nice. as for tips on being kind…1.Yes smiling on the phone works wonder. 2. practice active listening. People love being validated. 3. asking people How are you? is a research question. I ask it to my clients to see of they are in a good or foul mood. BTW. Most people don’t care about the respite just to perform the niceties. 4. I am only nice when i meet someone who is not. in that case my licenses serves to drive the other person crazy and make them really uncomfortable. Especially effective for passive-aggressive behavior – fighting fire with fire.
For me the most important one is to smile. It is a gift for the other person and you feel better with it. But we usually for forget it.
I like the link to the PhotoFeeler article about the perfect profile photo. I’m wondering — do all those traits (competent, likable, influential) add up to “compelling”? Because what we really want is a compelling photo.
I’m also wondering if being nice is compelling. But I’m thinking “nice” doesn’t influence whether others find a person compelling. Mother Theresa, Steve Jobs, Kanye West, Oprah, Napoleon… However, when I think of the superiors I’ve had at my jobs, the most compelling of them have also been the nicest. They made me want to be a better person.
Nice imagery. I need to stick to legal writing. Where there are lots of headings and underlined words to guide me. I read it twice and am still not sure I get it
Wow! You have my head spinning in this article. I had to make sure I wasn’t dreaming this up. Great post.
Topic title suggestion: “1 way to make people think you’re interested in your own blog”. Then, post a few words under it.
You are so entertaining! I love reading your posts and advises. I think you are nice.
“Nice” a philosophic term ,the meaning of this word varies person to person. Someone like your smile but not your personality. After the day maximum people means the person is nice with great personality. A person who listen more, who is an entertainer, who will share your pain and appreciates your achievements. At least a person who not make other cry is a nice person.