Why Be NICE??

Why be NICEA 2012 UC Berkeley field study… found that people driving BMWs, Mercedes, Priuses and other high-end cars were four times more likely than drivers of less prestigious models to cut off other vehicles at a busy four-way intersection, and three times more likely to cut off a pedestrian waiting to enter a crosswalk. In the same study, participants helped themselves to twice as much candy reserved for children as did their less wealthy counterparts…. *

Not you, of course. But enough about you. What about everybody around you? And what does that mean for you? But then we are back to you again, aren’t we. It’s ok. Doesn’t have to be either/or. In fact, it is not and cannot be either/or because no (wo)man is an island. We are all part of something larger – and are bumping into each other all over the place like bumper cars. Now maybe you thought bumper cars were fun. I know I did. But there we had at least a little awareness and control. We knew what we were doing. We were there precisely to bump and be bumped. By contrast, what these studies are observing is, I believe, largely outside of the awareness and control of the ones who are doing most of the bumping.

Turns out there really is an interesting thing that can happen to people with power. When they get it their hormones can change in a way that makes them a bit manic or crazed. Surely you have noticed this in politicians. But it’s not just them. The McGuire studies of the 1990’s found serotonin elevations (associated with self esteem, confidence, gregariousness, assertiveness…as if to befit for leadership) in both monkeys and college fraternity presidents after their ascent to leadership, followed by a return to previously lower levels when their ‘terms’ had ended. Recognition of serotonin fluctuations can help us get and keep a mindful grip on the relative insensitivity to others we may exhibit when we are on this kind of high ourselves.

In love, how many marriages have suffered this hit when one partner succeeded in just the way they both had always dreamed.** But then all of a sudden, the couple feels hopelessly out of sync. Where is the love? Isn’t this what we always wanted? Why aren’t we happy? And neither has any idea that a shift in hormones may be, at least in part, why. At work, people may notice a similar effect, when someone gets promoted to the corner office. Again, too often painfully, emotionally, hormonally out of sync with those left behind. One newly appointed CEO told me, “People are practically kissing my ring. I never felt more alienated from everyone in my life.” He also told me how much he ached to be seen as a good person and one of the guys.

Why be NICE? The high of success relative to others around us can quickly turn sour absent a mindful awareness of the potential for dehumanizing contempt and alienation from self and others. And the antidote is kindness. Random and not so random acts of kindness that put us in touch with others in a way that makes us feel good about them and good about ourselves. Most folks are busy but, guess what, most folks find time for what they believe matters. So make NICE matter – because it really does. We smile and the world smiles with us. Practice, practice, practice, and see what happens.

To work on this or something else, would love to hear from you:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

* “How to win friends and influence people? Be kind” May 18, 2016 http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-05-friends-people-kind.html

**Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.


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