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Saturday, 12 January 2013

Niceness Therapy

While watching telly the other day, I had a brain wave.  In the programme, a doctor sat on a patient's bed and told them something or other, nicely, and the patient was happy and the doctor went away.  I can do that, I said to myself, I can be nice to people and then go away.  That looks good.  Other instances in this programme showed some rather difficult people being treated very kindly by nursing staff, and being reassured by them before the nursing staff moved on to do something else.  Aha!  I said again, to myself, and then I had the brain wave.  Niceness Therapy!  I will invent a new therapy and it will be called Niceness Therapy.

Niceness Therapy means sitting with someone for a while, and being just as nice as pie within reason, without being insincere.  Sitting with someone, and for between five or ten minutes to an half an hour, simply being pleasant, kind and patient, may make all the difference. And the good thing is, one needs very little training to do this. A little guidance perhaps, a few pointers on the dos and don'ts (Do - listen, ask questions, make eye contact.  Don't - hit them, answer your mobile, disagree violently).  It is not about being a smart all-knowing professional, it is not about having a head full of theories and an office covered in certificates of achievements.  It is about an individual stopping by and having a chat, about being gentle and courteous, about taking an interest.  Can you imagine if for example, on a busy hospital ward, or in a very competitive office, or in a waiting room, a fearless Niceness Therapist stopping by, and giving those that needed it, a dose of calm, good-natured, time of the day type chat?  In a busy world, jobs have to get done.  People have tasks to complete.  There are boxes to tick, agendas to stick to, targets to achieve and quite rightly, if you have all these things to do, you do not have time to sit around being nice.  A Niceness Therapist would fill in the spaces in between all this achieving and being efficient by courteously and kindly doing the human interaction thing.  

I respond very well to niceness.  I will stop what I am doing and give you all the attention I can, if you are nice to me.  I am sure that you do, too.  I have seen shop assistants being nice to grumpy customers, and making them much less grumpy, and even if there is no sale, at least there is no lingering air of crossness.  The shop assistant doesn't then roll up her sleeves when addressed by the next customer and say sharply, Well? What is it, Sunshine?

The kind of niceness I am talking about is probably best defined by what it is not.  It is not the following.
  1. It is not insincere.
  2. It does not cover the need to have a good laugh at whoever is at the receiving end of the niceness therapy after they have gone.
  3. It is not so professional that it feels remote and manufactured.
  4. It is not manipulative
And here are a few of the things that it is.
  1. Genuine, and coming from an honest heart.
  2.  Simple and appropriate.  You would not offer Niceness Therapy to an armed robber, he may not be in a receptive frame of mind.  But you would offer it to a disgruntled old lady in a bus queue, who may respond with relief to a spot of niceness.
  3. Available, if needed, in small bite sized bursts.  You do not have to set the stop watch and be relentlessly nice to someone for an hour if a small dose of niceness would do the job.  A mother who's small child is crying at the school gates before school may benefit from a few minutes of Niceness Therapy, to engage her for an hour may lose any benefits after the first few minutes.  It then becomes Scarey Nutcase Therapy.
  4. Kind.  Niceness Therapy is kind.  It is able, by being nice too, to be more digestible.  There is a welcome sense of propriety and remove in niceness, that makes it adaptable to most situations and people.
A Niceness Therapist does not go to huge training centres to learn how to do it.  They do not have exams on how it evolved, or the etymology of the the words Niceness Therapy.  They do not have to attend dreary lectures on where it is going, or who did it first and who argued with whom about what it is all about, and they do not have to study and produce case studies of niceness benefits, or case studies of niceness casualties.  It is something that is passed on by word of mouth.  It is passed on by example.  It is passed on by experience.  And a very noteworthy benefit of Niceness Therapy is that it stays in the air; the recipient of Niceness Therapy tends then to continue to be nice to the people around them, and so it spreads. A Niceness Therapist is always at work.  They constantly notice situations where they are needed, and step in for a quick burst of pleasantry.  They are very good at being aware of the need for a kind moment or two, for people who are feeling the need of it but are possibly not aware of this need.

Since the movement only began half an hour or so ago when I started to write, I would say that it is a fledgling movement.  An idealistic and rather delightfully optimistic movement.  As yet, in the last half hour since the idea came about, no one has been employed by any multi nationals, hospitals or up and coming businesses, in the role of Niceness Therapist.  I suspect that when they do start employing, Niceness Therapists would have to belong to an entirely independent body with an almost supernatural ability to detect company agendas.  We belong to no one, they would say, and cannot be bought at any price.  The warming and welcome effect of niceness, that alone, is our goal.  We are in it for the goodness of the experience.  A Niceness Therapist would be a strong person.  Sure of themselves and unafraid of making the first move.  They would have a wealth of experience and may well have experienced an ounce or two of tragedy and difficulty in life, to give them that empathetic and fearless edge.

I wonder if Niceness Therapists would wear uniforms?  Probably not.  The movement is now forty minutes old and I think we have dismissed that idea, proposed in the 38th minute, by the 39th minute.  These Niceness Therapists don't have to be well either.  I remember an old man, very ill in hospital, who was nice to everyone that came his way, and created around him such a haze of goodwill on his ward that no one wanted him to go to his Nursing Home when at last a place came up.  And they do not have to be sweet and gentle.  I benefited from a lady who I think was a brilliant Niceness Therapist, when I was feeling a bit down.  She was a real straight talking Northerner.  She sat down next to me and when I told her how I felt, she said with a kind smile and a thump on the arm, Eeee, you talk a right load of rubbish, you do, let me make you a cup of tea.  And it worked, what I wanted was for someone to not take what I said seriously so that I could stop indulging in Poor Me feelings.  Wonderful.

So, to summarise, to put it in a nutshell,
  • Niceness Therapy is a new movement brought about just fifty minutes ago, by me, after watching the telly. 
  • It is a therapy that involves kindness and is best delivered in relatively small bursts
  • Anyone can do it
  • Except if they are nasty, insincere, or manipulative.
  • Don't do it on armed robbers.  Pick your moments.
  • There is no uniform.
  • There is talk of Niceness Therapists being employed in all major banks, institutions, and businesses.
  • But not yet.
  • Niceness Therapists are always at work, and do not as yet know that they are Niceness Therapists.
  • I am going to be the first official one.  As from now.