"Huh, I should do that."
November 28, 2018 10:59 PM   Subscribe

What's a good habit (act of courtesy or kindness) that you picked up from someone else?

I think we can all agree that we try to be kind when we can, and have our habits/manners honed over the years, like saying "Thank you" or "Please."

But what's that little act that surprised you that others do and have since picked up doing for yourself?


• When I was still studying, I noticed my godfather reading a server's name tag the moment we sit at a restaurant, and actively calling him/her by name before making a request. I thought that was pretty cool and have since adapted that.

• As I was leaving the car of my Uber ride, I automatically said, "Take care" (my mind/body was perhaps thinking I was being dropped off by family or friend) — and that really made a difference in terms of genuinely making a connection with a stranger. So I decided I will always do that.

I'm not looking for a save-the-world kind of declaration, more like—it's this tiny thing that wouldn't hurt to do on a regular basis (or when the situation presents itself) that makes you go, "Huh, I should do that."
posted by pleasebekind to Human Relations (87 answers total) 136 users marked this as a favorite
From my husband: always filling water glasses for others if I pour myself a drink at a shared table. And always asking after the person first, not the car, if there is a car accident, no matter how minor. I.e. “Are YOU OK?” not “Is the car OK?”
posted by t0astie at 11:12 PM on November 28, 2018 [18 favorites]

When someone is interrupted, let it play out, but remember where the person who interrupted was and encourage them to continue.

(I think this one came from metafilter) No matter what job someone has, express "that sounds really hard"

And the old standbys: tip well, be nice, talk less, listen more.

Some relevant ideas in this Ask thread!
posted by maya at 11:23 PM on November 28, 2018 [19 favorites]

Another idea for the job someone elses have - "Wow, that sounds really interesting!"

The big one for me, and I still have to consciously make the decision sometimes, is to always assume good intentions. Like, that jackass who cut you off in traffic is probably just some pore schmo who really has to poop. Or the bitch on the phone who stepped right in front of your cart at Walmart to grab a pack of Ziploc bags, then gave you a dirty look when you had to pull up short to avoid mowing her down, is probably on the phone with her dying mother who's babysitting her sick triplets because there was nobody else available.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 12:35 AM on November 29, 2018 [19 favorites]

Japanese etiquette of pouring for the other person (or at least offering) when their drink runs low. I find it makes me mindful during the meal/meeting.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 1:00 AM on November 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you're shopping and you don't want a thing you've picked up and you don't know exactly where you got it, take it to the counter and say that you don't want it. The worst thing to do is put something in the wrong place. In larger stores this can even lead to losses that end up with the most vulnerable employees being fired. In smaller boutiques this can really help the few employees save time and stay aware of their stock for future customers.
posted by Mizu at 1:49 AM on November 29, 2018 [8 favorites]

"How can I help?"

as opposed to "Do this" or "Do that" or "Let me give you advice" .

Applies to all situations, including when significant other is struggling with baby (can vouch).

I find that asking this question means I don't assume that I know best and that my ways will help the situation.
posted by moiraine at 1:51 AM on November 29, 2018 [34 favorites]

I actually don't remember who I picked it up from, and it may already be common in your country/culture, but I always say thank you to all service providers at the end of any interaction, with a smile. I mean, unless the experience has been terrible, in which case I might omit the smile.
posted by Nieshka at 2:12 AM on November 29, 2018 [16 favorites]

Try to be mindful of how many times you start sentences with the word “I” in casual conversation.

Consider that people who do jobs that deal with the general public have heard the same jokey-jokes 1,000 times, so there’s no need to repeat them. For example, flight attendants have heard “I’ll be in 6B if you need someone to fly the plane” before, thanks.

Doing something nice for someone retains the same potency even if you don’t tell everyone all about it on social media. In fact, I’d argue it means even more if you keep it to yourself.
posted by _Mona_ at 2:20 AM on November 29, 2018 [9 favorites]

This comment from an excellent question about learning to have a softer heart from 2009 has made me more considerate and kind. To quote not that girl:

Practicing Quakerism (the liberal unprogrammed kind) softened my heart. I've gotten really good at seeing other people's perspectives, or imagining the best in them. You can practice this kind of thing all day--the guy who cuts you off on the road, and instead of swearing you think, "He must really be in a hurry. I hope he gets where he's going safely." It can be a conscious decision about how you think and talk.

I made a conscious decision to stop indulging in mean-spirited gossip, and to avoid being judgmental, which I've long had a problem with. Sometimes I'd be thinking inside, "So and so will never make it work with this new boyfriend--she sabotages every relationship she gets into!" but I'd say out loud to my partner, "So and so's new boyfriend seems really nice. I hope it works out for them. Maybe we should invite them to dinner." Now I don't have those negative thoughts as often.

Being gentle with yourself, helps, too, as it becomes easier to be gentle with others when your expectations of yourself are realistic.

posted by mdonley at 3:46 AM on November 29, 2018 [48 favorites]

When a server/supermarket checker asks how you are, say whatever you are eg "I'm well, thank you" and "and how about yourself?"

And because I am an Aussie, with the colonial background in Euro manners, and because I have just driven up n over the USA and have stayed with many Americans in their homes:
When people come to your house for a visit, ask them if you can get them a drink, [it's automatic in most parts of the world to ask if your guests want a cuppa/ cup of tea or a vino/ glass of wine as an automatic courtesy] and show them where to sit, bring them into a sense of hospitality in your home.

[In so many USA homes, my friend and I were nonplussed that this kind of thing that we take for granted as part of normal polite discourse does not happen in your homes. We were so often left standing awkwardly, even as our hosts drank their own drinks and didn't offer us anything, nor were we welcomed to sit in a place to visit and chat. I don't know if it is a particular regional thing, but I've been all over the states over many years, and this is a Thing]

When you introduce people to your parents or relatives, use the name/s you want them to use or that they should feel free to use with each other. So often people have introduced me to their parents and said "honey-barbara, this is my mum and dad" and I have no idea what I am supposed to call them. If you say "honey-barbara, this is my mother, Hannah, and my father, Kevin" [or my mother Ms Smith, and father, Mr Johnson] people know immediately what the formalities of addressing each other is - first name basis, or more formal perhaps.

Leave thank you notes when you stay in someone's home, not just a verbal thanks as you leave.
posted by honey-barbara at 3:47 AM on November 29, 2018 [19 favorites]

I'm the one responsible for making dinner happen around here. I learned from a recent post on the blue just how wonderful it is that my partner NEVER says "what's for dinner?" If there are no signs of cooking going on when he walks in the door he will ask "Are there dinner plans?"and if not, will help make a plan. If I've got something started he always says "Mmmm, smells GREAT in here!" and tries to guess what's cooking. It's nice.
posted by evilmomlady at 3:59 AM on November 29, 2018 [40 favorites]

Bring back souvenirs:
A new boss, upon returning from her first vacation after working with us for a while, brought souvenirs back for all her direct reports. They weren't expensive - just a sampling of the local candy that isn't sold here and some silly postcards - but it made us feel important and remembered. So now I've started doing the same with my direct reports.

Learn people's names:
I get my lunch every day in the company cafeteria, and I try to address everyone who works there by name. Usually we'll chat about how our days are going and how our weekends were, etc. So now when I walk in, I'm greeted by name, and it's just so nice to have people smile when they see you.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:16 AM on November 29, 2018 [7 favorites]

In line with the name tags thing, I recently started working a retail job and I’ve noticed that when I answer the phone [“thank you for calling Store, this is coppermoss, how can I help you?”] some people will immediately use my name [“hi, coppermoss. I was wondering whether you had a specific widget in stock”] which makes me feel like a human and not like a question-answering automaton.
posted by coppermoss at 4:21 AM on November 29, 2018 [7 favorites]

Hmmmm. I've worked a lot of admin jobs where I was the first point of contact for an office & when people use my name & it's the first time they've spoken to me, a lot of the time it comes off really over-friendly/trying too hard/sometimes downright sleazy. It's made worse by them frequently mispronouncing my name, even after I correct them. So I'd say if you do address wait staff or other service industry people by their first names, PLEASE at least pronounce it right or you're just making things worse.
posted by diffuse at 4:24 AM on November 29, 2018 [40 favorites]

Since I became a parent I have become a lot more mindful of parents and children out in the world. If a kid is doing something nice I try to thank them directly and/or compliment the parent, "he's doing a great job waiting!" If they're having a hard time and the parent is getting stressed or apologizing I make a special effort to smile or say something like "please don't worry, I've been there". Just a quick pleasant interaction, no prolonged small talk.

Another thing that has changed my life for the better is to decide to just never get annoyed by being in lines. If someone is taking a long time with coupons or whatever I just smile and don't look at my watch or do "I'm impatient" body language. If they apologize I say that I'm in no hurry. Sometimes I let people go ahead of me. If someone cuts me off I just think "wow, they must be in a big rush" and let it go.
posted by cpatterson at 4:44 AM on November 29, 2018 [25 favorites]

I learned to be more aware of this: Leaving a busy cafe, I make sure my table is really clean (no crumbs, no wet streaks, no leftover napkin) for the next person. So much nicer to sit at those tables.
posted by nantucket at 4:51 AM on November 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

I don't know who I picked it up from, but when riding a PT bus, I always greet the driver with a "good morning" or just a "hi". And if I have to exit by the front door, I always say thank you.

moiraine's "how can I help" is one of the greatest things you can say to someone who is in difficulty. I know where I picked that up from, a prof in college. A Truly Great Woman.
posted by james33 at 5:00 AM on November 29, 2018 [9 favorites]

When someone is interrupted, let it play out, but remember where the person who [was] interrupted was and encourage them to continue.

Yes! I try to do this whenever I can, because I used to be a lot more timid and I remember how frustrated and small it makes you feel to be steamrolled like that.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:03 AM on November 29, 2018 [9 favorites]

Applies for those with some form of religion or ritual practice: When you want to pray for someone you know, ask them “May I pray for you?” (Substitute other ritual for “pray” as appropriate — “may I light a candle for you”, etc.) And abide by the answer — if they say “No thank you,” no arguing back.

I learned this one from Abi at Making Light. I love it, because it gives the other person respect, space, and agency. It understands that they have their own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about religion or prayer, rather than assuming they share yours. It prioritizes making them comfortable over soothing your own sense of obligation. It removes the possibility that “I’ll pray for you” is being used as a passive-aggressive attack (which it too often is).
posted by snowmentality at 5:20 AM on November 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

When someone has really gone out of their way to be helpful, I supplement "thank yous" with "Thank you, that was very kind" or "thank you, that was very thoughtful of you."

I think it makes the response seem less peremptory, and people seem to be surprised and pleased when thanked this way.

(And not to be a wet blanket, but like diffuse, in service positions I also often dreaded customers who would call me by my name-- a lot of men do it as a creepy way of asserting dominance over servers in food service. It doesn't mean don't do it, but be aware that a fair number of people have co-opted that seemingly polite behavior as a low-grade form of harassment.)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 5:23 AM on November 29, 2018 [32 favorites]

Offer a specific thing. Not “what can we bring to Thanksgiving” but “we could do wine, a few side dishes, or storebought desserts, what works best?” People are more likely to refuse the vague offer.
posted by OrangeVelour at 5:53 AM on November 29, 2018 [11 favorites]

Piggybacking on nantucket's comment about café tables, I make my restaurant table easier for servers / bussers to clear and my dishes easier for dishwashers to manage when I'm done with my meal.
Scrape all food scraps & trash onto one plate / into one bowl; ideally one that can sit on top of the other dishes. Stack plates and/or bowls large to small. If you can, put the trash plate / bowl on top. If that seems precarious, leave it to the side. Pour leftover liquids into one glass — or as few as possible without making them more than 3/4 full. Stack glasses if they're the stackable kind, no more than 3 or 4 per stack. The one(s) with the liquid go at the top, obvs. Collect silverware and put it neatly on the plate stack if it fits. Leave to the side if it doesn't. Put cloth napkins in a single pile.
I worked a long time ago as a dishwasher, and I still remember the trauma of bus tubs streaming in crammed chaotically with dishes all covered in varying amounts of foodstuffs — and the sweet relief of the rare bus tub that was neatly organized and minimally garbage-covered.
posted by D.Billy at 5:59 AM on November 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

moiraine's "how can I help" is one of the greatest things you can say to someone who is in difficulty.

When I show up to an event as "just a parent" (i.e., not a board member at our community farm, or as a uniformed Boy Scout leader), I always ask, "What needs doing?"

Not "Can I help?" because, duh, they always need help. And not small talk first because duh, there's never enough time or hands for chatter before work. Almost every time the worst task is proffered (as a conversational gambit?), but I will take it so that a newer parent/volunteer/whatever doesn't get stuck with it, nor does the organizer who got there before me, will stay after me, and already did pre-work just getting things scheduled.

This means I do stuff like scrubbing rotted veggies out of garbage bins with a toilet brush for a hour, but I already got to be the new person who was assigned all the easy tasks...and now there are new people coming in after me, and it's their turn to have fun while they learn the ropes. Their day will come...
posted by wenestvedt at 6:01 AM on November 29, 2018 [20 favorites]

Hold the door for everyone - be aware if there's someone right behind you when entering or leaving establishments.

If you live in a snowy climate, brushing the snow off someone else's car is instant good karma.

Acknowledge the little things that often get unnoticed ("Thank you so much for reaching out to me. It means a lot that you want to stay in touch.").
posted by Twicketface at 6:09 AM on November 29, 2018 [7 favorites]

On a very different scale than these other (lovely) answers: When I studied abroad in Tokyo years ago, I made fast friends with H., who was also from my part of the States. H. spoke way more Japanese than me, and was a skilled glassblower, and so I followed her around to specific artisan fairs for her to chat up the local glassblowers. It was rad.

Anyway! H. had this habit of sticking her tongue out when anybody said something silly or ridiculous, especially self-effacing things. It functioned similarly to "Uff da" (we both went to school in Minnesota) in that it also worked in an "aw boo!" kind of way, but more light-heated. I had obviously seen people stick their tongues out before, but the way she did it specifically - a quick dart of the tongue between her teeth to convey this meaning - was totally new to me.

When I got back to the States, I realized I had totally worked this into my facial expressions/ticks repertoire. And over the years, it spread - to my girlfriend at the time, my coworker, my best friend. My sister does it all the time over FaceTime. It's been amusing to see it have this mimetic quality. But this question has made me realized it actually has a really lovely, empathetic quality to it too - it's a way to communicate quickly that you're with people in their absurd misadventures and you will celebrate the ridiculousness of it with them too. I think finding little ways to communicate that you're with people in whatever they're going through, over time and shared widely, can add up to something meaningful and kind.

(Plus, the flash of surprise it produces in some people is priceless. :p)
posted by elephantsvanish at 6:53 AM on November 29, 2018 [9 favorites]

This is a completely ridiculous example, but it honestly cheers people. At a country bingo brunch, the host encouraged us to yell "slow down, cowboy" if he was calling too quickly. I use this for EVERYTHING when I need someone to slow down, my bandmates in particular but just in general - even when someone is venting and they start to go off the rails or whatnot. Saying "slow down, cowboy" with a wee drawl will absolutely make someone laugh or at least snort a little, take a breath, and actually slow down. It has improved my life.
posted by wellred at 7:02 AM on November 29, 2018 [12 favorites]

If I am happy to see someone at an event or just casually running in to them in the street (after we've been talking a while) I tell them so "Hey it was really good to see you"
posted by jessamyn at 7:10 AM on November 29, 2018 [6 favorites]

At work, when I find out when someone's birthday is, I put a recurring reminder in my Outlook calendar. Then, I can make sure to wish them a happy birthday and either buy them a coffee or take them to lunch, depending on how close we are.
posted by barnoley at 7:13 AM on November 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

When a service person is obviously harried and apologizing or telling you they’ll be with you in just a minute, it’s kind to say “No worries, take your time.” You can almost see their shoulders relax.

How many of us are sitting here trying out various ways of sticking our tongues out a la elephantsvanish? I think we need a video tutorial!
posted by HotToddy at 7:15 AM on November 29, 2018 [28 favorites]

I always tip when ordering from the counter in restaurants and coffee shops, I tip servers genrously, and I tip delivery people the full 20%. I'm in a place in my life where an extra dollar here or there isn't that big of deal to me, so why not be generous?

I came in to mention holding doors for people -- in addition to holding them for folks behind me, I also try to be aware of when people nearbye could use some door help, like a delivery person with a hand truck or a parent with a stroller.

If a group gets on the subway and my changing seats will allow them all to sit together, I'll move.

If I notice a bottle or branch or stone or other bit of debris is sitting on the ground where it's likely to trip someone, I'll move it or throw it away.

In line with the interruption thing a few of you have mentioned, if I notice that a quiet or shy person is having a tough time breaking into a conversation, I'll make a point of giving them an opening. (Oh, Person, was there something you wanted to add before?" "Person, what do you think?" etc)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:26 AM on November 29, 2018 [11 favorites]

When saying goodbye, if you know when you will see the person next, say it out loud. "I'll see you on Friday," tells them you are looking forward to it.
posted by soelo at 7:32 AM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

As a frequent interrupter I am working hard on saying, "I'm sorry -- I interrupted you. What were you going to say?"
posted by wenestvedt at 7:32 AM on November 29, 2018 [15 favorites]

When people leave after visiting your home, it's super nice if you can walk them out -- to their car or to the street if they're walking.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:32 AM on November 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

I've started changing my "Sorries" into "Thank yous."

For example, if I've run late, instead of saying "Sorry I'm late" I'll change it to "Thanks for your patience!"

When declining, instead of "Sorry I can't make it" I'll say "Thank you for the invitation! I have a prior commitment. How about another time?"

Many small "sorries" can be converted to "thank-yous." Doing so shifts the conversational focus from "my error/inability" to "gratitude toward the other person." Also helps stave my habit of apologizing for stupid or inconsequential things.
posted by Ardea alba at 7:36 AM on November 29, 2018 [49 favorites]

Similar to Barnoley, I keep quick notes about certain things which can help me bring joy to people later.

I visited a friend's parents 5-6 years ago, and we drank their favorite wine. I added that wine to my OneNote file, and when I visited them again this year I brought them a bottle. They loved it and were really touched that I remembered.

None of the notes are extensive, just little details about friends/family that I would otherwise forget - that they prefer white chocolate; someone's coffee order; that one whiskey they can't always find. Just like school, writing it down helps me remember and it's great to have a reference to double check with.

I also keep track of who recommended me what book/movie/show, and then if I consume it, I follow up with them. It often takes a few months/years before something gets off my list, so it's always nice to say "Hey, you recommended me X a while back, I finally finished it -- how interesting!"
posted by matrixclown at 7:45 AM on November 29, 2018 [27 favorites]

When you encounter a couple or a group of people, try to address or acknowledge the non-dominant ones. If there is one who speaks to you and you have to answer, give the other a nod or smile. Definitely acknowledge children. As a teacher, people advised me to be careful about thoughtless habits when calling on people. ("Now, why am I defaulting to calling on that person?") In other facets of life, it's more about not lumping people together, for me.

When tempted to answer a question "No," try not to use that as the first word, at least. Even if you use something silly like "Oh yeah" or "So..." which is a fairly transparent alternative. Someone told me about their kid's classroom teacher answering their question "No," and they were still thinking about it a week later and asked me if it was that dumb a question.
posted by BibiRose at 7:48 AM on November 29, 2018 [11 favorites]

HotToddy: for your reference :)
posted by elephantsvanish at 7:52 AM on November 29, 2018 [24 favorites]

Be aware of who is around you. If I'm walking behind someone that might step back, I'll put my hand out, so that they step into be hand rather than into me. Teach your children the same. Be mindful of who you impacting with your movement. Say excuse me when you walk in front of someone perusing the shelves in a store. Look people in the eye.
posted by Ftsqg at 8:08 AM on November 29, 2018 [6 favorites]

At one point in my life I had 3 kids under the age of 3. I traveled with them on planes. I used to be a grumpy business type flier who would cringe at the little kids coming on the plane. Not now. I have the utmost respect for the families. I have no problem with a screaming kid or a kicking kid. I always offer to help even if it is just carrying the diaper bag so they can mind their little one.

I am not sure this qualifies, but when I am at a concert and get up to get a beer, I always buy an extra one for the person next to me that I do not know. I cannot tell you how many positive reactions I have gotten. This includes a GA floor for a Dead show. Bring back a few extra beers. Make friends for life or at least the show.

Back when you actually paid cash for tolls, my dad would often pay for the person behind him. Small gesture to make their day.

I would say generally, if you are going to do something for yourself like get a beer or pour your water, do it for those around you too.
posted by AugustWest at 8:10 AM on November 29, 2018 [7 favorites]

I learned from living in Italy: I greet the owner/cashier of any small shop or restaurant upon entering, and say, "Thank you!" to them when I'm leaving. Even if I didn't buy anything or stay very long. I've found that it greatly increases my sense of community, and it's made me a "regular" at restaurants that I don't actually go to very often. I also think it's a nice thing to do if a cashier is alone in the shop and maybe is in the back grabbing something when I leave; I still call out "Thanks!" just to alert them that I've left so they know the store is empty.
posted by lazuli at 8:50 AM on November 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

If you are waiting in line and someone gets in line behind you with a small child or a baby, let that person get in front of you. Chances are good that it's close to snacktime or close to naptime and that person is just trying to hurry up and get out of the store before the kid kicks off. When they say "are you sure?" I always say "yes, I have a small child too" or "yes, I remember those early days well". This is also good practice if you are in a restroom line.

I have learned that grumpy people are less likely "just in a mood" and more likely overwhelmed and in need of help, or at least an ear. I always try to approach a grumpy person with "how can I help you?" or "you look like you're overwhelmed right now, is there anything I can do to help?" or "can I do that for you?".

At home we try to practice thanking each other for doing small, essential tasks. "Thank you for taking the trash out"; "thank you for cleaning the bathroom", "thank you for taking your dishes to the sink and putting your milk away", etc. It reinforces gratitude, which we then try to carry forward into the world.
posted by vignettist at 9:01 AM on November 29, 2018 [9 favorites]

Years ago I was in an interdisciplinary women's studies class, and we were reading several things about working-class issues, intersections with feminism, etc. We were reading some narratives of people using food stamps, welfare housing, etc. - I think it might have been about how some women choose not to work because having to work and pay for childcare is more expensive than being home with your kids on welfare; and what I remember clear as a bell that's always stuck with me is the professor saying "people do the best they can with what they have."

It stuck with me because even those of us who think ourselves pretty woke and have never been in poverty have a ton of prejudice and cultural programming about welfare and food stamps and etc. It is so, so easy to fall into saying "well, why don't Those People do this or that" about so many groups of people. But it's so much kinder and truer to think... people do the best they can with what they have. Sure, in ANY group ever there will be a few jerks. But generally, people want to do their best.

It really shifts the whole perspective.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:13 AM on November 29, 2018 [23 favorites]

Another one I saw just this morning: "pay it forward" is nice, but generally, people in line at Starbucks can afford their $6 drink. Putting $6 in the tip jar for the baristas is super duper awesome for them, though, especially during the holidays. Pay it forward to them!
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:14 AM on November 29, 2018 [21 favorites]

When you call somewhere for information, please give your name and perhaps a tiny bit about yourself to the person who answers the phone.

I answer my work phone with my name, but nowadays most people launch right into, "I have a question about this class/coming back to school/this application," and I don't know their name, or if they're a current student or a transfer student, and it would be so nice if they took the time to introduce themselves and orient me a little so I could better answer their question.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:19 AM on November 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

Don't wear perfume if you're going to be catching a train or bus. For some of us, perfume in an enclosed space can trigger a horrible migraine.
posted by Murderbot at 9:19 AM on November 29, 2018 [11 favorites]

Applies for those with some form of religion or ritual practice: When you want to pray for someone you know, ask them “May I pray for you?”

I'd like to suggest not asking them this at all unless your relationship has included plenty of explicit conversation about religion. If someone offered to pray for me, I'd find it awkward to say "no thanks" but I'd also find the offer unwelcome/aggressive, despite the good intent.
posted by Smearcase at 10:05 AM on November 29, 2018 [19 favorites]

A friend I don't get to see often offered to take me to lunch on my birthday years ago. Upon seeing me she said "Happy birthday" followed by "I'm so so glad you were born!" and the heartiest smile. It caught me off guard and gave me a really nice feeling. I've adopted it since and I do my best to say it to my loved ones on their birthdays with that same disarming enthusiasm.
posted by tackypink at 10:08 AM on November 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

In the middle of a really busy shift at work where i was running all over the restaurant and doing a lot of things that fell under the "not my job, but someone has to do it" category, a customer pulled me aside and said "you're really good at your job and it's obvious you care about what you do." It almost made me a little weepy (in a good way) and made me feel recognized and valued. People in customer facing jobs often here "thank you" but actually having people recognize details is rare.

Now, when i encounter someone who is doing their job well, i compliment that and give specifics. It is usually in the form of "you're really good at your job. I appreciate the way you (fill in the blank)". Meaningful, thoughtful compliments can really change and improve someone's day.
posted by August Fury at 10:10 AM on November 29, 2018 [7 favorites]

I always say hello and goodbye to doorpeople/front desk/security guards when I am coming into and leaving buildings I regularly visit. I had no idea what kind of impact this made until a security guard at a former job retired, and on his last day he pulled me aside and said, "You're one of the good ones, you never ignored me." We'd never really spoken beyond saying good morning and good night, but it meant a lot to him and that made me feel really good.
posted by Fuego at 10:21 AM on November 29, 2018 [11 favorites]

I used to have a boyfriend whose father, every time we went to visit, never failed to greet us at the door by saying 'Welcome!' with a big warm smile. I always thought: that's just such a lovely simple, friendly and explicit way to tell people that you're happy to see them. I admired him for doing that. So I started doing it too.
Now every time someone visits our house, or someone visits our local hackerspace (which is like a second home to me) for the first time, I smile at them and say: Welcome!
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:45 AM on November 29, 2018 [6 favorites]

One of my colleagues introduced me to someone as "This is X, he can do anything with technology Y", and ever since then I've tried to introduce people with a compliment in any professional context. This is win all round.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 10:47 AM on November 29, 2018 [20 favorites]

A tiny one but a life-changer: stop saying 'should' and say 'could' instead.

"You should could do it this way."
"He should could be more careful."
Or even... "Huh. I should could do that." ; )

Insert your own examples. It shifts the sentence from an order to a possibility. For those of us who are hard on ourselves, this is especially effective:

"I should could have run that errand yesterday" ... but I chose not to.
posted by widdershins at 10:59 AM on November 29, 2018 [26 favorites]

As an able-bodied person, I never take the disabled stall in a public restroom if others are available (I never used to think of this, but then I want to say I read this suggestion in an advice column or something?) Also I started only using unscented lotion at work after reading a super vitriolic thread on Jezebel about fragrance sensitivities years ago.
posted by LadyNibbler at 11:00 AM on November 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

I keep coming back to this question because it's so nice, to know the many tiny ways goodness exists in the world. And I'm learning so much, too. Thank you, OP! :)
To add to my previous answer, I travel in crowded public commute where tempers can get heated. My general rule is to never push, never swear, never yell, and quickly apologize if I jostle/step on someone's toes. This goes double on Mondays. Tense, angry interactions are no way to start a workweek.
posted by Nieshka at 11:09 AM on November 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

This is something I've historically found challenging so I love this thread and all the suggestions! A few things I've learned over the years:
  • If I'm sitting with someone and I get up to go grab a drink or whatever for the kitchen, I ask them "can I get you something?"
  • I ask if I can help set up if I arrive at a get-together early, and if I can help clean dishes if I'm among the last to leave.
  • I have a couple of friends who have really explicitly told me "I really like you, I really enjoy spending time with you" and I feel like (at least in US culture) that's super rare and really special in platonic relationships. It's something I have to feel out a situation to say, but I try to remember to do it when the time is right.
  • On the internet I do the thing I just did, which is be really specific to note that when I say "everyone does" or "no one does" such and such a thing, I mean in my US culture.
  • I say "thank you" a lot. I say thank you when someone answers a question I ask, or recommends something to me, or reaches out to see how I'm doing if I'm going through a hard time. At work in particular I try to say "sorry" less and "thank you" more.

posted by capricorn at 11:19 AM on November 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

Pick up litter. It's a pox on the landscape, takes seconds to pick up, makes the world better.

At the dog park, some people will take a bag and just collect dog poop, to keep the park cleaner.

Let people in to traffic. If you have your signal on, I will likely let you in.

Take the time to park correctly, leave space for others if you can.

Put the cart in the cart corral.

Genuine praise Great Ask.Me, thanks for posting it. You have such a nice smile. That color suits you. That thing you said at the meeting was really useful.

Clean up after yourself, esp. in a shared bathroom.

I was driving behind a Dept. Director from my work. He stopped to pick up road debris, and even though he could be a real ass at work, I always liked him a lot better.
posted by theora55 at 11:35 AM on November 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

Ooh, another thing -- as a new hire at my first job, I went to a fancy gala with [big important boss man] and sat next to him at the table he had paid for. He took the seat with its back to the stage, and I offered him mine, since it had a better view.

He leaned over and whispered "When you're in my shoes someday, always take the worst seat."

I always loved that -- it was a small and humble gesture. I now always try to take the worst seat/view, especially if it's at something I facilitated.
posted by matrixclown at 11:53 AM on November 29, 2018 [31 favorites]

When using a public restroom, I use my paper towel to mop up any puddles on the counter. Thanks, German exchange student in high school!

(Some folks find it weird to have strangers reading their nametag and addressing them by name. It can smack of "I will report you if you displease me." Just make eye contact and be nice.)
posted by momus_window at 11:55 AM on November 29, 2018 [9 favorites]

I had some inexpensive cards printed. They say THANK YOU on one side and "Your hard work is appreciated" on the other. I give them to service people I see being treated poorly by the person in front of me.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 12:20 PM on November 29, 2018 [6 favorites]

When someone asks me to repeat something because they didn't hear, I to repeat my whole statement or request. A lot of people only repeat the last few words, which is invariably the part that the listener did actually hear the first time.
posted by darchildre at 12:47 PM on November 29, 2018 [9 favorites]

When one of my well-liked colleagues died suddenly, we had a meeting where we all talked about her and our loss. One person said that this woman never complained about work she was given to do. It's so easy to just say something like "oh no" or groan when someone comes over with a big stack of something, and it can feel innocuous, but it's a little piece of unhappiness you're foisting on someone else. After that, I decided I'd never complain about being given work again, and I think I've stuck with that.

When I need to complain to a service person, I usually start with something like, "I know you guys are really busy," or "you seem to have a lot to do." If appropriate, I might accept some blame - "maybe I didn't explain this well enough." I think that acknowledging that they have lots to do or that there are reasons for a problem that could be my fault makes it seem like I'm not just attacking them. Service people are always very friendly when I do this.

Thanks for this thread! It's great to be reminded to do these things.
posted by FencingGal at 1:17 PM on November 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

Don't eat at your desk. It's easy to just grab food and eat while you work, but if you make the effort to consistently go somewhere else (even if it's an empty conference room or just a couple of chairs moved to an empty space), you may quickly find that other people join you and you end up having a nice place (time and physical space) in the middle of the day to talk about non-work stuff and generally decompress a little. And not only is that good just for letting people de-stress a bit, but I've found when people sit at a table with each other and eat, they end up getting to know each other and that translates into being a little nicer to each other the rest of the day.

That was my New Years resolution a few years ago and it really made a huge difference to how I felt about my job.

I suspect that more generally, sitting down at a table with some sort of more-than-halfassed place setting whenever you are eating, intentionally making it a bit of a conscious ritual (i.e. a "meal" vs. just "eating"), probably has a bunch of mental and physical health benefits. It's supposedly one of those things that contributes to the "Mediterranean Diet" effect. I'll be honest and say I don't actually practice this across the board, especially at home by myself, but I wish I was better at it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:58 PM on November 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

I learned this from one of the most friendly people I know, who somehow makes everyone around them feel really good: When somebody tells you a story that they are really passionate about, try to draw them out more, instead of offering your own story immediately in response. Allow them to luxuriate in that feeling of being heard. Things like "Wow, it sounds like those reusable containers were life-changing for you!" or "And then what happened?" Note: If person is spewing negativity, this can be really hard!

I had a co-worker a long time ago who said "I am thoroughly enjoying watching you do that," which really stuck with me. It's a unique verbal gift to give to the right person who is doing something entertaining.

Here's one I invented. When you get to be a certain age, you will start to do more non-verbal grunting, murmuring, and groaning with every effort. When I noticed the people around me doing this more often, it was bringing me down, so I decided to issue a challenge. Instead of making those sounds, like when you climb the stairs, say "YES" instead. We mostly retrained ourselves, so there is much Yes! instead of Ugh, Oof, and Arghhh.
posted by oxisos at 2:26 PM on November 29, 2018 [11 favorites]

I’ll sometimes wave and mouth “thanks” when I’m walking across the street on a crosswalk and a driver stops for me.
posted by delight at 2:57 PM on November 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

In the vein of complimenting people...

I worked at a chain pizza place several years ago. My mom stopped by one day, and my boss made a point of coming over and telling her how great an employee I was. He was specific and expansive, and it made me feel like a million bucks.

A few months later, I was the General Manager of another store in the franchise. It was a college town, and most of my employees were students. Every time their parents stopped by, I did the same thing my boss had done. A couple moms cried. A couple employees cried. One dad was speechless. All the employees whose parents I spoke with told me how much it meant to them.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 4:12 PM on November 29, 2018 [44 favorites]

Passing on compliments that you hear about people, i.e., Person A says something nice about Person B when Person B is not around, so you tell Person B about it the next time you see them. My sister-in-law always does it and it's always struck me as such a kind, generous habit.
posted by orange swan at 4:31 PM on November 29, 2018 [8 favorites]

I had a friend who made me feel great by lighting up when she saw me. I've tried to emulate that, as it is so nice to know that people are pleased to see you.
posted by kjs4 at 5:39 PM on November 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

When you're at a party, and you see someone standing by themselves looking lonesome, go be friendly.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 5:56 PM on November 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

Always say hello to the new person. If you can get something out of them, drag them over to The Regulars/your friends and tell everyone that thing.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:07 PM on November 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

Whenever I encounter someone in a service capacity -- a cashier in particular, but also a receptionist or the TSA person or whomever -- I always make eye contact and smile (I'm super smiley, so I have to kind of tone it down sometimes) and, if necessary, wait until they notice and are comfortable making eye contact, to let them know that *I see them*, that I value them as human beings in whatever transaction is transpiring, and that they aren't just cogs in the machine.

My first job was in a public library, and I remember when I would check out people's books, the children always made eye contact even if they were too shy to talk, and never saw me as part of the machinery, and I think it's a great lesson to take from tiny humans. (Admittedly, if I ever meet you in a social setting and you are with a tiny human, I may forget to acknowledge you because I'm crouched down, talking to the mini-person, but that's a different thing.)
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 7:35 PM on November 29, 2018 [9 favorites]

If you're in a professional office and schedules are such that you actually see your regular cleaning person, getting them a holiday card is nice. If you're feeling ambitious, chip in for a small cash present at that time of year.
posted by praemunire at 8:51 PM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Also, if you are keeping your eyes open while walking down the street, at least once a month you will see a woman with a stroller struggling or about to struggle with a door. Hold it for them.
posted by praemunire at 8:53 PM on November 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

Hold doors for people. Male, female, young, old, it doesn't matter what you are or what they are. If they're headed toward the door you just opened, be polite and hold the damn thing.
posted by stormyteal at 11:02 PM on November 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

I’m sensitive criticism. When I’m collaborating with coworkers with a hands on project, they sometimes point out an something that can be perceived as a mistake. Instead of being defending the logic behind it or snapping “it’s supposed to be like that.” I pause for a second and say “thank you for telling me.” If necessary I make adjustments, if not, I say calmly “it’s all right.”

I thank people for help no matter how much they are in my way. I shoo them off by saying “I can take it from here, I appreciate you looking out for me.”
posted by ayc200 at 5:26 AM on November 30, 2018 [5 favorites]

"Thank you; that's kind of you to say" or "Thank you, that was a very thoughtful thing you just did" or whatever as opposed to just "thanks". My friend does this, and it feels much more sincere and impactful than "thanks", so it is something I have incorporated into my own vocabulary.
posted by Ziggy500 at 6:09 AM on November 30, 2018 [6 favorites]

I have no problem with a screaming kid or a kicking kid.

When a mom holding a tantrum-haver in a store or a restaurant line says "I'm sorry" or just gives me the "sorry about this" face, I usually smile sympathetically and say "It is hard to be small!" Let's the mom know I'm not remotely judging her or her child, and it reminds me to have sympathy for how much it suuuuuuuuucks to be a toddler, which makes me less likely to be annoyed.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:37 AM on November 30, 2018 [6 favorites]

I've taken to making small "Walk this way" or "after you" sort of arm/hand gestures when I'm hosting a party or other get together and it's time to move to another location (like "OK let's go into the dining room for dinner" or "Let's go put the game on"). People seem to like the visual cue of which way to go (I know my house, they might not) and I always noticed that I (a spacey sometimes forgetful nerd) appreciated the extra pointer.
posted by jessamyn at 7:06 AM on November 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you work in a restaurant (either front of the house or back in the kitchens), you learn to quietly say "One your left" or "behind you" when you're in someone else's space. It helps warn them that you're there so they don't turn and dump a full tray or pot of boiling water or whatever. Even if you think you might be in their field of view, it's a good habit.

My wife (who cooks but never in a restaurant kitchen) thinks it's a little weird that I do it, but since one of my kids started working the line at a local pizza place, he Gets It. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 7:28 AM on November 30, 2018

I often pass people I know but don't see that often, like someone who works in a different department for the same organization. I used to be awkward about it. I only met this person briefly; is it weird that I know their name? If I acknowledge their presence, will I be drawn into a long conversation with them? This seems to be a common way for social anxiety to exhibit itself.

I noticed one day, though, that I had an acquaintance who never had those concerns, and always said, "Hello * person's name *," even if they were passing them from afar. It never seemed to have any negative effect. Now I do the same every time. It actually makes things LESS awkward in the long run.
posted by tofu_crouton at 8:57 AM on November 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Let people in to traffic. If you have your signal on, I will likely let you in.

And when people let you merge in traffic, give them the courtesy wave so they know you appreciate the gesture.
posted by COD at 9:05 AM on November 30, 2018 [9 favorites]

Reading a nametag seems creepy to me, but I make a point of doing coppermoss's thing if someone introduces themselves with their name, especially over the phone. I try to remember as we finish the interaction, too, but I'm awful with names.

Also, always spotting for anyone that asks at the gym, which I picked up in university from the older guys at the campus gym.
posted by Kreiger at 11:10 AM on November 30, 2018

When you meet someone new that you will be seeing again, ask them what they prefer to be called. People often use formal names when being introduced or introducing themselves. So Michael Williams might prefer to be called Mike, even if he introduces himself as Michael. If someone else introduces you to Mike using the short form, it's good to still ask him because he might detest the name Mike. Or he might prefer to be called Desmond, or to be called Michelle. Names are important to people.

When someone is pretentious for whatever reason, or silly, or different in any way from ordinary conventional behaviour, go along with it for one sentence, acknowledging what they are doing or saying. Respectfully call the pretentious person Sir, or Ma'am, or whatever matches the way they are presenting. There is someone in my MMOG who gave him or herself the name Princess Mandy. So whenever I share a chat with her I call her Your Highness. She always replies with a happy smile emoticon. If someone gives advice, acknowledge it even if it's bad advice and there's not a chance you'll take it. If someone adult whines, reply in a consoling voice. Often people are making fun of themselves when they do this kind of thing, and either they come across as un-professional or as clueless or genuinely whiny or they won't know for sure if they did. Responding to their gambit is recognition and means a lot.
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:20 PM on December 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

Jane the Brown is onto something important. When someone is bragging or pretentious, it can be instinctive to want to take them down a notch. But they're usually doing it because they crave recognition--as don't we all. So why not give it to them? What harm does it do? It can be hard, though. It's something I'm working on. In general, just giving people the benefit of the doubt. Assuming that offensive comments are the result of well-intentioned bumbling. Assuming that people always, always, always have good reasons for being the way they are, and that if you knew their history, you'd understand--so act as if you already do. But it can be hard!
posted by HotToddy at 7:16 PM on December 1, 2018 [5 favorites]

I just remembered another one. You can really make someone's day while in conversation by writing down something they just recommended to you. Extra bonus friend points for reading/watching/doing the thing, and telling the person how it affected you. Even if you didn't like the thing as much as they did, the person may be overjoyed to realize that you cared enough to follow through.
posted by oxisos at 3:05 PM on December 2, 2018 [4 favorites]

Oh i have picked up so many of these over the years from awesome people. My favorite: When you are having a conversation with someone at work and you see someone walking by, drop their name into your conversation so they overhear it. E.g “Jason said it’s an excellent idea.” Or “Jason agreed to own that project”. It usually gets a laugh out of everyone and creates a sense of comraderie.
posted by jasondigitized at 6:29 PM on December 2, 2018

If you invite people over, for whatever reason, have a snack ready. Not offer a snack, have one out. And ask them if they want a drink, and tell them what you have! If no one touches it, so what. It changes the mood of any gathering to share.
posted by agregoli at 5:49 AM on December 4, 2018 [6 favorites]

If you have a good friend who has suffered a bereavement, diarise the anniversary and/or the deceased person’s birthday and send a short “Thinking of you, hope you’re doing OK today” note. You might have to play it by ear from their reaction as to how they receive it, some people might not welcome it. But I’ve a friend I do this for, for someone she lost suddenly 20 years ago, and she always says she’s been thinking about it all day and nobody but me remembers it, and it means a lot to her to have her loved one remembered and her grief acknowledged.
posted by penguin pie at 10:36 AM on May 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

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