Sunday, July 19, 2009

Top Five Ways to Be a Decent Human Being

In the midst of a recession, stress levels are raised, alcohol consumption increased, and morale is low. It can be easy to succumb to "Debbie Downer Syndrome", providing your friends with constant updates on negative things going on in your life and in the world.


Even if you "don't care what people think of you" or subscribe to the "I am who I am and nothing with change that", it behooves you during this economy (well, and in general) to re-examine yourself and look for areas of improvement. I don't advise this to be unnecessarily critical or harsh, but rather to assist. The job market is competitive, but even in achieving every day deals (discounted oil changes, unexpected sales, free babysitting), a kind-hearted, upbeat attitude goes a long way. Pardon any preachiness, but this is for your own good!

Here are my top five recommendations for Being a Decent Human Being:

1. Try to Avoid "Fade Out Syndrome." Whether you are in a mall, walking on the street or in a cab, it is easy to turn off the awareness button and cruise along, either talking on your cell phone or bopping along to the Jonas Brothers. The problem is you don't notice your cabbie's frustration that he can not find the vague address you provided, the mother in the mall with her child in hand trying to reach a toy dropped beyond her grasp, or the elderly woman on the street corner who is trying to ask for directions from anyone who will listen. Put down the misanthropic gadgets and tune in.

2. Perform at Least One Altruistic Gesture Daily. Whether you babysit your friend's child for a night while she goes to the spa or simply smile at a passerby though your mood is less than sunny, it is important to commit to doing something kind that does not benefit you in any way on a daily basis. Note: this is not about making you feel like a good person. This is about you committing to build awareness of those around you, in order to continue to build empathy and kindness.

3. Don't Play Games. Whether you are interviewing for a new job or starting a relationship, lies, embellishments, and all the razzle dazzle spin your jazz hands can offer may actually hurt you in the long run. I know a person who fibbed regarding his scope of responsibilities at his previous employer, and the prospective employer found out. He is now essentially black-balled in the industry. Try to subscribe to the Mark Twain school of hard truths (paraphrased) - Always tell the truth; that way, you don't have to remember anything.

4. Open Doors for People. Literally and figuratively. Helping others not only builds your awareness of those around you, but helps add to your Karmic bank account. You will be surprised how kindness and empathy will pay off in your life.

5. Never Burn, Well, You Know the Rest. Whether you find yourself in a seemingly irreparable fight with a friend, or feel the desire to tell off your soon-to-be ex-employee, I strongly advise against burning bridges. This advice is only for your own good. The desire and tempting instant gratification of responding or acting on emotion coupled with the strong influence of pride can be a difficult recipe to resist. Abstain! Such action or response will only serve to hurt you down the road, regardless of how immediately gratifying a good "Screw You" might feel.

During tough times, with pride bruised, emotions raw, and a general shared sense of anxiety, it is imperative we pull together and all do our very best to be decent human beings.

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