I'm Not Nice...and You Should Be Glad

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As a child, I often met older adults who were grumpy, blunt or downright rude. Were they always like that, or did age bring out the curmudgeon in them? I suspected the latter, given that they grew up in an era when manners and politeness were next to godliness. Clearly, something happened to make them abandon common courtesy. As I grew older, I discovered my gut instinct was right: Age makes you crotchety.

Up until recently, my default setting was “Be nice." Somehow, however, my default setting shifted to “WTF is wrong with you?” Getting past people’s BS trumps sparing someone’s feelings or avoiding a scene. I didn’t even realize what had happened until a customer service rep asked me not to yell at her. (For the record, I didn’t yell at her -- even though she had it coming.)

As it turns out, my disagreeableness is a good thing. A very good thing. In fact, could be a matter of life and death. And if your life is in my hands, you’ll be glad I’m a stubborn ass. As “Psychology Today”  reports, “agreeable” people can be deadly.

WTF are you lookin' at?

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Most of us have heard of Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiments of the 1960s. In a nutshell, researchers told participants to deliver electric shocks to people if they answered questions incorrectly. An alarmingly high number of people delivered shock after shock after shock...eventually dealing a fatal zap to the person on the other end. Who were these sadists? Well..actually, they weren’t sadists at all, but instead the people most of us think of as polite and genial. When confronted with an order to harm someone, they complied. The participants with more “disagreeable” personalities, on the other hand, were more likely to refuse to hurt another person if asked to. It seems that the compulsion to adhere to social expectations could, quite literally, get an innocent person killed. Less regard for “niceties,” however, seems to translate to a personality more inclined to take a stand, question authority and social standards and respect the well-being of others.

So what’s the lesson here? For me, it’s this: The next time someone whines that I’m not “nice” enough, I’ll take comfort in knowing that I’m the last person you’ll ever have to worry about electrocuting you to death.

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