Rodney M Bliss

Be Nice. . .They Hate That

Don’t apologize!

Why not?

Because then I have to be all nice and accept. I’d rather just stay mad at you.
– Tom Selleck’s character in High Road To China

I’m not talking about saracasm. We’ve all heard people be “nice” when they are really being sarcastic. I have raised 13 children. I’ve heard it a lot over the years.

I’m talking about being genuinely nice. And I’m talking about being nice when people are trying to insult you.

As a young man of 20, I was on a bus in Chicago one day. I was a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons.) I was with my companion and a four other missionaries on our way across town. I took the opportunity to take a nap. My companion who was sitting to the right of me decided to talk to the person sitting to the left of me.

After a few minutes he nudged me.

Hey Elder, wake up. This guy has a question.

I look up was now face-to-face with a very angry Native American. He was very angry that I had stolen his land. At least that was mostly what he seemed angry about. He wasn’t making a lot of sense. My guess was drugs or alcohol. Maybe both.

I did my best to defuse the situation as much as possible. You know: calm voice, speaking slower, no sudden movement, lots of reflective listening.

You I understand how frustrating that would be. I know. That’s terrible.

It wasn’t helping. Eventually my new close friend reached in his pocket and pulled out a locking blade knife.

The blade was probably only 3″ long, but it looked like a sword as he waved it and continued to threaten me. I don’t know if I’m a brave person or not. I do know that I typically respond well to crisis. And this was a crisis.

I took a slow breath, looked him in the eye and as calmly as I could muster I said,

I don’t want to fight you.

And then I looked away. Most likely glaring at my companion who had gotten me into this mess. All the while I was thinking,


Out of the corner of my eye I saw him get up and move one seat toward the back. He then reached over and slapped me with his sweatshirt. At that point, I didn’t care. A sweatshirt is a lot less painful than cold hard steel.

I’ve often thought about that bus ride nearly 40 years ago. Would he have tried to hurt me if I had escalated the situation? Would it have been difficult to get blood stains out of my white shirt? What were those other 4 missionaries sitting elsewhere in the bus doing just sitting there and not helping?

The Bible says in Proverbs chapter 15 verse 1 that “A soft answer turneth away wrath.” It seemed to work on that day.

I don’t get mad at work. But, there are people who think they’ve seen me mad. They didn’t. They saw me acting mad because I had decided that in order to accomplish the objective I was working on, I needed to appear angry. I use it very rarely.

Most times I am polite. It’s just good manners. It also gets people to want to help you.

However, there are times where I want to get mad, but doing so would be a very bad idea. The next best thing in that case? Be polite. Absolutely, straight up 100% authentic polite.

Just as the quote from Tom Selleck showed, if someone is nice, other people have a difficult time not being nice. Even if they don’t want to. And if you get angry in a confrontation, the other person can choose to match your anger or not. In other words, they hold the power in the interaction.

If instead of getting angry, you choose to be polite, you now hold the power in the conversation.

So be nice. Most people will appreciate it. Those that don’t will at least have to respond in kind.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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