13 Being Nice
At first glance this article might seem to deviate from issues of money management I’ve been writing about. However, please bear with me. It does relate. Being nice is a powerful tool both for affecting your financial picture and improving your quality of life.
It seems worth taking a moment here to step back and remember why we are so concerned about money anyway. It’s easy to get caught up in money, trying to save it, trying to make more of it. Why do we really want it? Is it not to help us lead better, more fulfilling lives? This is my belief anyway.
Being nice is a very direct way of finding happiness and fulfillment. It doesn’t need to be bought and sold. When your daily interactions with people and even things (such as your art media) come from an emotional state of genuine kindness then that is the space you exist in. To try and make this concept clearer, consider when you are angry or grouchy. The thoughts of your inner dialog may be stewing over a thoughtlessly rude comment or action of another. If you are at all like me you can find yourself fixated all day on negativity, thinking up all the great verbal comebacks you couldn’t come up with at the time, or what you should do to “get even”. What you’ve really done in such a situation is create an angry space in which to exist. Is that where you want to be? You can’t control all the actions of others, but you do have the power of shaping your emotional response to them. To practice genuine nice behavior toward others is to cultivate an equally nice space within. This gives me fulfillment without any money being involved.
I should note here that I’m not saying you should let people abuse and take advantage of you for fear of seeming unkind. By all means, stand up for yourself and your art. However, most troublesome situations can be handled in more than one way. There is usually a nice way to deal with problems. It helps to take a moment to think before acting. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. If at all possible try to offer a solution that preserves their dignity. People are more inclined to give into to someone who is firmly, but kindly standing for their position than to someone being mean, belittling, or contrary.
Ok, so how does this relate to money? Good question. Our words and actions are a medium of exchange with others. In this medium we prefer to receive the nice variety rather than the mean. Money is another medium of exchange often with these same people. We tend to see money as something precious and thus are more selective as to whom and for what we exchange it with. It only makes sense that we prefer to transact our financial business with those who treat us kindly.
In most of my articles I’ve been writing about ways to reduce your cost of living. Being nice to others can help in this regard. For example, the people working at the small, local grocery store where I buy most of my food know me reasonably well. I don’t come in there to complain. I make a point to be pleasant. I’m patient when a line forms at the checkout. If they accidentally give me too much change I kindly correct them and give it back. As a result, without having to ask, I occasionally get better deals when buying in bulk. Last week they had some lemon poppy seed bread whose package was damaged which they gave to me for free. It’s nothing big, but it makes shopping there a little less expensive. Being nice finds a way of coming back around.
Like many people I find myself getting pulled over by the police from time to time. Unlike many people, I’ve never gotten a ticket. This is one situation where being nice, the more genuine the better, can really save you money. The police officers seem to have a great deal of leeway whether to ticket you or not. I’ve found it best to show them some consideration as soon as those lights start flashing in your rear view mirror. I try to pull over where we can both be safely out of the stream of traffic, in a parking lot if possible. My understanding is that approaching a vehicle during a traffic stop is one of the most dangerous times for police officers. They don’t know what to expect. I try to be kind and put them at ease by turning off the car, and casually resting both hands on the steering wheel in plain sight. Naturally I don’t give them a bunch of attitude when we are conversing. Police seem especially strong at mirroring the behaviors presented to them. Kindness and respect is what I want reflected back, not an expensive ticket and raise of insurance rates.
Another way being nice can save you money is that folks are just more willing to help out and do you favors. I wrote about this in the article about identifying and utilizing your resources. Consistently kind behavior builds your resource pool. Being nice only when you want something is not being genuinely nice. Rather it’s being manipulative which doesn’t go unnoticed.
As an artist I find that the financial benefits of being nice are best seen not in saving me money, but in generating income. I was recently at the annual metalsmithing conference of the Society of North American Goldsmiths. While there I noticed several examples reinforcing the benefits of kind behavior. The first was in a lecture given by Terry Sisco titled “Ten Things Every Retail Buyer Wants to Know.” The lecture would have been great for any artist not just metalsmiths as it was focusing on criteria store/gallery owners use to determine what goes into their store and what doesn’t. From Mr. Sisco’s perspective the number one determining question was, “Do I like you?”
Most of the other questions were directly related to the product and it’s marketability. However, “Do I like you?” was considered most important. It is this emotional response that helps sell your work and makes gallery and shop owners want to do business with you. I see this as a direct off shoot of being nice.
Later at this conference I was drooling over all the fun tools in the vendor room. I had already determined what I was going to buy but since several vendors sold the same thing I was trying to decide whom to buy from. As is my way I got the prices from each to see who was least expensive. I found the cheapest supplier, however, before I had bought the tools I got some other information. Over dinner conversation a friend mentioned an incident of truly ugly behavior she had had with this vendor. This gave me pause and I ended up buying at a slightly higher price from a different vendor simply because I’d rather deal with nice people.
It turned out great for me in the end. In friendly conversation with the owner of the tool company I chose to buy from the subject of my artwork came up. He was interested in seeing it. One thing led to another and I sold him two pieces. With more money in my pocket I was able to afford a few other tools I desired. Naturally I chose to buy from this same dealer and our regard for each other grew. He left my work out in his booth for everyone to see the rest of the conference. This generated a lot of attention for me. I had a show of my work up during the gallery tour night of the conference. It turned out to be the best show I’ve ever had. I can’t help but think that extra exposure I gained with the tool vendor played a part in this.
The business of being an artist is not just about making and selling your work in an impersonal fashion. It’s also about building strong positive relationships. Sometimes we think that because our individual forms of art are unique to themselves, and thus not available elsewhere, that it will sell itself without regard to who we are. A gallery owner or collector may love your work, but if you’re unpleasant to do business with they can always find the art of another they love just as well. There are many great artists out there.
Being nice and developing positive relations with others goes such a long way in creating both direct sales and opportunities leading to sales of your artwork. For many a buyer the artwork and the artist are closely connected. Why not make their impression of you as great as your art? Being nice as a general practice stands a good chance of improving your fiscal situation and will certainly make your day-to-day life more fulfilling.