I actually decided to go with “kill ‘em with kindness” after I had the chance to do it back in July. It actually worked, so I thought I’d continue it into August.
During the training for Eppie’s Great Race, I took some kayaking classes. In the first three classes, I had the same kayak. I loved this little kayak — not only was it pretty zippy out on the water, it was also BRIGHT GREEN. Most kayaks are red, yellow, and blue, so I liked the idea of having a green kayak that would be relatively visible on the beach the morning of the race.
In the fourth class, though, the instructor pointed me to a different kayak. Well, it was the same kayak, but red. Red! I said something like, “Oh, I really wanted that green one…” And the instructor was like, “OK! We can switch!” and then proceeded to switch me with a girl who had the green kayak. I protested a little, but it was weird and awkward but she didn’t seem too upset about it.
Then later, I heard her whisper to her friend, “That’s the girl who stole my kayak.”
I felt just awful. I didn’t mean to “steal” her kayak — maybe I should have protested more when the instructor had us switch. Either way, I felt bad for stealing her kayak, and I was a little bent that she was irked about it enough to point me out to her friends.
So I decided to be really, really nice to her.
“I’m really sorry about the whole kayak switch — I didn’t realize he’d just automatically switch us like that.”
“Would you like some bug spray? They get really bad out there on the water.”
“Oh, uh, yeah. Thanks.”
“Want to switch paddles with me? Mine’s longer and you’re taller, so it should work better for you.”
“Wow, OK, thanks.”
“Are you doing the whole triathlon? Or just the kayak?”
“I’m doing the whole thing. I’m really excited…” *insert actual friendly conversation*
Now I recognize that I’ve said kindness isn’t always synonymous with niceness, but I think it worked in this case. I wasn’t trying to be mean in the first place, so I figured I could break down the wall she put up and show her that I am not, in fact, an evil kayak-thief, and that I felt bad for what happened.
I’ve tried this in other situations as well. I’ve made an extra effort to be nice to people who are difficult (snooty employee at the Gap, woman in a rush who ran into me with her cart at the grocery store, acquaintances who are being snarky, etc.). It really catches people off guard. At first the look at you a little strange, but after a moment, it’s contagious. It’s amazing what a little bit of nice can do!