There’s no way to be nice without feeling connected and compassionate to others. Without a sense of connection we’re part of the problem rather than the solution. That’s what the “C” stands for in N-I-C-E. Feel Connected. As long as we feel separate, superior, disconnected, intimidated, and frightened by others, we cannot and will not be nice. Once we feel connected, we can often find new ways of making a real difference in the world.
This Provision begins with a troubling, heartfelt request from a Nigerian. “How can I relate to Muslims and make them happy?” he writes, “because thousands are killed by them every year in one pretext or another in my country. I want this coaching because I want to relate to them and I want my country to be peaceful.”
“In my country, Muslims kill Christians for just about any reason. How can we love these people and try to understand them when love from an unbeliever is an insult? How can we love them when they want to root out all contrary things? How can we love them when the only thing they will accept is American conversion to fundamentalist Islam? I agree that there are many beautiful Muslims who one will be happy to be around. But it’s not easy to live as a minority with a large Muslim community. I need practical suggestions.”
While others will no doubt have their own suggestions, I respond with the most practical suggestion I know: be nice. It may seem impossible that being nice can effectively counter hatred and hostility • but it’s the only thing that ever has. Forced conversions, to any religion or system, sow the seeds of future aggression. Being nice, whether to win converts or to emulate tolerance, sows the seeds of future understanding and peace.
This is as true in the workplaces and homes of North America as it is in Nigeria. If you want people to treat you right, you have to treat them right. If you suffer for treating people right, then suffer with the knowledge that your nice behavior is the seed of something great. One never knows how that seed will grow and where the fruit will ripen.
Many readers will remember the classic tale of Androcles and the Lion. In the days of ancient Rome, a slave named Androcles escaped from his master and fled into the forest, only to face an even more horrific adversary: the king of the jungle, a roaring lion. Androcles ended up face to face with this mighty beast, despairing of life itself. To his surprise, however, the lion was roaring in pain due to a thorn in his paw. Androcles mustered the courage to get close to the lion and pull out the thorn • thereby winning the lion’s undying affection.
Long after that day a number of soldiers came marching through the forest; stumbling upon Androcles they took him prisoner and brought him back to face the authorities. Androcles was condemned to death in the Roman arena, where the lions would make him a public spectacle as a deterrent to others. As fate would have it, however, Androcles faced the same lion he had met in the forest. Recognizing Androcles, the lion licked his face and protected him from the other lions • whereupon the Roman governor, having never before seen such unusual behavior from these ferocious beasts, set both Androcles and the lion free.
The story of Androcles and the lion is an archetypal story that speaks to the power of being nice. It is not just a fairy tale. It indicates the reality of what can happen when we allow ourselves to feel connected and compassionate with our adversaries. Androcles had no reason to think that the lion would not turn around and eat him after removing the thorn. But he took the risk • and the dividends were huge.
If the “N” in N-I-C-E stands for acting Neighborly and the “I” stands for being Interested, then the “C” stands for feeling Connected. As long as we feel separate, superior, disconnected, intimidated, and frightened by others, we cannot and will not be nice. We will put them down, attack them, and ignore their pain. We will disrespect and dismiss them. We will protect our interests rather than extend ourselves for others.
We see this all the time in the context of world events. There is tremendous jockeying for position. Everyone spins the news to serve their purpose. The face off is between “us” and “them,” the “good guys” and the “bad guys,” with nary a sense that we are all connected as residents of planet earth and as siblings in the human family.
We would do well to nurture this feeling of connection in every area of life. Whether it is in the context of a strained work environment, a tortured family relationship, or a competitive athletic competition • let alone of a dangerous hostile enemy • the feeling of connection will enable us to see beyond the anger and fear in order to find new and effective strategies for moving forward. Is someone around you roaring in pain? It may be time to get connected and pull out the thorn.
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Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Reader’s Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. These selections do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. They do reflect the diversity of those who read Provisions each week for support and strength on the trek of life. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.
Last week you mentioned the importance of helping and encouraging others. I agree it does enrich life to do so. I worked the Columbus marathon last week, and as I was stopping traffic on my designated corner and cheering for the runners, so many of the runners said “thank you” and “thanks for coming out.” As I yelled to passing runners words of encouragement, “good job”, “looking good”, etc. many of them made eye contact and smiled. I felt great the rest of the day. It gave me such a lift to think that maybe my applause and cheers helped someone keep going to achieve their goal.
Four planes hijacked and deliberately crashed.
The Twin Towers toppled, the Capitol smashed.
We must blame ourselves, not God or Fate,
For the warning cry we heard too late.
Reinhold Niebuhr reminds us that nations are held to a different standard than individuals • yet whether we know God most profoundly as Allah, YHWH or Jesus Christ, we know that God calls nations, communities, and individuals alike to righteousness (establishing right relationships in and with all). No one grows when one demands and expects the “other” to abandon all dignity and self-respect.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
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