Monday, April 14, 2014

So. .. BE NICE

 Recently, I attended a fantastic conference in San Francisco aimed at young designers and “How to Make it in the Design World” (HikeCon). Almost to a person, the speakers had a common refrain: Be Nice and Be Humble.  Do the small things, cuz’ none of us all that big of a deal.   
I absolutely agree with this advice, much as I did the first day of my Engineering program when one of the faculty said, “Remember, your reputation begins now.”  I even tweeted and retweeted this advice, because I think it so important. All of the organizers of the Conference were gracious and kind.  I spoke highly of my weekend, but especially of them.
I got it.  I mean, I sort of had it before, but I really got it.
I began to think about way these people, many of whom are my age and older, are saying this over and over.  I began to get curious and realized that once again; people don’t know how to be people in certain circumstances.
            I don’t think it is there is fault to be assigned around this.  I think it is an evolution of society.  Parents were so concerned with their children’s self esteem that they over inflated it.  They got trophies just for showing up, whereas that was the LEAST of what I had to do to get a trophy.  The “I deserve a break because I showed up” mentality is prevalent in young designers, especially with all the swag in the goodie bags that we are given just for showing up, or the amazing products that we take for granted.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not going to tell you tales of how my childhood was better than yours, or how I had to walk three miles in the snow both ways barefoot, uphill, and that these hardships made me a better person.  I throw my share of snark and sarcasm, like any other intelligent, articulate feminist in today’s world.  I work on not judging others, like EVERYone else in the free world.  But I am nice, and I have manners.  I have the old fashioned kind where I send thank you cards for everything, and drop a cake on your doorstep in times of trouble, and sometimes just sit quietly and listen.  You will always have a cloth napkin at my house, and I will never point out your bad manners or tell you that you are hard to work with. There is almost always a smile on my face. I can just hear you now saying ”Yeah, that is because you are from the South.”
It is true that portions of my childhood were spent in the South.  Other portions were spent in other places, small towns all.  I am lucky enough to still know some outstanding amazing people from all these places (Thank you, Facebook).  One of the main things that most of the small towns have in common is the concept of manners and being nice.  In fact, the NY Times just wrote an article about how Thank you notes and manners in general are “On Trend.”  I laughed out loud.  Where I am from (EVERYwhere that I am from), they were never passé.  Maybe it is because small towns need manners more than large cities do.  You may never again run into the person you were rude to in New York, but I guarantee that you will in a small town.  You don't have to like that person or ever respect him or her, but you really do need to treat them well.
Design is a small world.  Your reputation began long before you thought about it.  Good manners go a long way in most societies. Studies show that well-mannered people are more likely to get ahead in the world of business, more likely to be liked, and they also find themselves more commonly invited as guests and welcomed in society. 
 In the design world, the Small Town of Corporate America, we have something called empathy maps or persona building and the people who do it well are the people who have the most empathy and are also, not by coincidence, the nicest. 
The Corporate world is a Big City, and is, ironically, finally recognizing that rudeness feels bad.  The construct that business isn’t personal is stupid and selfish.  Business is personal because the ONLY thing that matters is relationship, in the design world, or in the real world.   
So, be nice.  Learn that the best design is the one that people respond to, resonate with and feel something about.  You can only design this way if you understand how people think and feel.  You can only understand this by being nice.  Do it even if you are not a designer.