Complaints anyone?
(Photo by ehpien)

We’ve all been there. You’re trying to meet a deadline, your boss just scolded you, your significant other says “we need to talk”, your children are quarreling, and you accidentally delete an important file…. We’ve all had the experience of being bombarded with a series of mishaps, and all we want to do is vent out our frustrations and anger at someone – anyone. If it’s not personally directed, is it ok to gripe, complain, and curse? Perhaps, but our venting may cost us in ways we may later regret.

1. It may cost us money. My mom once failed a test. No, not an academic test, a car emissions test. In the States, these tests (called smog checks) are required every few years in order to insure your car. The car was only 8 years old, and my friend’s dad, an automotive course instructor, couldn’t find anything wrong with it. So he asked her, “were you rude to the technician?” She said she was frustrated because of the long wait. My mother has this habit of micromanaging people when she is impatient, which can be annoying. My friend’s dad told her to never be rude to the emissions technician because all he would have to do to fail an older car is to stick the sensor higher up in the exhaust. A few days later, I brought the same car into the same repair shop for a retest. I was super nice, smiled a lot and even brought some cookies to the workers. This time around the car passed, though we had to pay for the test twice. The lesson? Be kind to service people. On the whole, they’re just doing their job; they are in no way directly responsible for the lengthy wait time, the efficiency or details of certain processes, or any inconveniences with which you had to bear. Plus, if you’re rude, they may “forget” to tighten some screws or may spit in your food.

2. It may cost us time. Most people would be able to point out that the second visit to the emissions testing centre was time wasted. But there are other instances where bad attitude results in delays which may not be so obvious. My friend Sandy, a receptionist, tells me that when people treat her badly, she sometimes will put their request, claim, or job application at the very bottom of the pile regardless of urgency. Have you ever been given the runaround, or been put on hold for what seems like an unreasonably long time? I have, and when I realize it, I wonder how much of that was ironically due to my own impatience. There are also times when complaining in a non-constructive way can itself be a big time waster, because it does not effectively seek a resolution. The lesson? When you’re kind, people may go out of their way to do things for you; when you’re not, they might go out of their way to delay things for you.

3. It may cost us____. On one end of the spectrum, being mean and nasty could cost us some minor inconveniences, but on the other end, it can cost us relationships, opportunities, and even our lives. When my grandmother was in her late-80s, she suffered from dementia. She became very paranoid and verbally abusive. Though we knew she could not control herself, her actions isolated certain members of the family, who refused to take care of her because she was so irritable and ill-tempered. Eventually she was put into a nursing home with just a small handful of family members visiting her on a regular basis. We noticed that the nurses at the centre would spend more time and were more attentive to the residents who were pleasant and kind to them. Those that were rude and complained a lot were given less attention, and left longer in isolation. Being in isolation and having weak social connections is known to contribute to a shorter lifespan. The lesson? When you’re unkind, people don’t want to be around you, even if you pay them.

What it means to be kind
Being kind doesn’t mean being nice and happy all the time. It simply means that regardless of everything going on inside of you, on the outside you remain respectful, courteous, and in control of your emotions and behaviours. If someone is being unreasonable to you, you still can be firm and assertive without being obnoxious or unkind.

Why it pays to be kind
By being kind, I’ve gotten some pretty amazing perks, from getting fees waived (more than $125 once), free hotel room upgrades, and bill discounts, to expedited service and even unsolicited job offers.  But being kind has done more for me than just saved money; it has added to my overall happiness. According to a recent University of Oxford study, “being kind causes a small but significant improvement in subjective wellbeing.” So challenge yourself. Go one week without being rude or complaining (unless it’s in a purely constructive way) and see what amazing things happen.

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