I’m an incredibly judge-y person. I won’t deny it. I’m just one of those people who make assumptions about others based on the way they behave, the way they talk, and the way they treat the people around them. Honestly, having been brought up to always consider the feelings of other people first (note: do not mistake empathy with sympathy. While I’m acutely aware of your feelings, it doesn’t mean I have to pander to them), I become extremely frustrated when I witness pure selfishness in action.
Would Life really be much better if we chose to stew in our selfishness, refusing to exercise even a smidgeon of empathy? Yes, it may be easier to place yourself above everyone else, but I’m of the opinion that you are merely a shell of a person, without a soul to show you what it really means to have a meaningful life.
And in this age of self-absorption, where every social network is telling you to promote your personal “brand”, encouraging you to put your name out there, it can be so, so easy to forget that there are other people in this world.
So, has it become irrelevant for us all to try to be decent people? No. Because at the end of the day, you will only feel TRUE happiness when others believe you have taken an active role in creating theirs.
Here are five truths of being a decent person we can all bear in mind:
1. Happiness is a snowball that only grows on the slopes of Humanity
It’s amazing how easy it can be to make someone’s day better. You drive into a carpark and an uncle comes towards you offering you his still-valid coupons for free. You decide to pay it forward by being extra nice to your secretary, to the barista making your coffee, to the waitress serving your table at dinner and so on. It doesn’t take much to generate happiness. It only takes the decency to be kind, to be appreciative.
2. Respect what others do, and they’ll respect what you do
When I was an editorial assistant, manning the reception when our office manager went on leave was part of my job. At my briefing, she said something about immediately attending to the courier guys who deliver stuff to our office: “People are trying to make a living, there’s no need to be difficult.” It’s so true. Even to this day, I will always remember this. Everyone is trying to make a living, trying to get their jobs done. Is there a need to be difficult? If you can do something to help someone complete their work faster and easier, why won’t you do it? Well, it would, sadly, be because you do not have the decency to respect people. If you don’t respect people, your job title, your wealth, your name won’t help you get the respect you think you deserve. Full stop.
3. Recognise that YOU are not worth waiting for
When I was attending the New York Fashion Week a couple of years ago, I noticed something: Anna Wintour was always on time. You’d think as one of fashion’s most influential people, she would be the last to arrive at every show, but no! She was never the person to keep everyone waiting. No matter how important you think you are, how important everyone treats you, a decent person will never take liberties with another person’s time. And if you do have to keep people waiting, at least leave a message … which brings me to my next point …
4. Black holes are toxic
One of the things I hate most about people is when they become Black Holes. No matter how much effort you pour into the relationship or how much time you put into the partnership, you get nothing back. Some people say that just because we now have the email and Whatsapp, it doesn’t mean everyone’s on call 24/7, I agree. But don’t you just know it, deep inside your heart, when someone is simply being avoidant? I’m talking about such people here. People who, when you badly need an answer from them, just don’t bother getting back to you. Black holes are people who lack the courtesy and decency to give feedback when it is required, to give a response when it’s needed. They don’t realise that being left hanging is tiring.
5. Stop believing you have an excuse
The family that lives in the apartment above mine is the typical neighbour from hell. Their kids stomp around the house all day and all night. When they are waiting for their school bus at 7.30am, they run up and down the lift lobby screaming away. The parents never attempt to control them. One day, we went upstairs to tell them to keep it down. Their reply? “We have kids.” Well, I’m sorry but having children is no excuse to be a person with zero consideration for other people. Kids are not to blame. Parents who think they have a valid excuse to be horrible are. No one has ANY excuse to be less than decent. It takes effort to be a decent person but it doesn’t mean you have any right to stop trying.
And with this, I hope everyone of us will strive to be decent people and treat the people around us with more respect, more kindness, and more consideration.
About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, and Suits. At this point in time, she sees her Empathy as a curse because she really wishes she could care a little less. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.
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