Beemer (dr_tectonic) wrote,

The Secret of N.I.C.E.

So apparently I radiate some kind of low-grade psychic field that makes people want to be nice to me.

I ran off to Chipotle to grab a burrito for dinner on the plane tomorrow. Upon reaching the cash register, I reached into my pocket and discovered a distinct lack of... anything.

ME: Oh, jeez. I seem to have left all my credit cards and stuff at home, so if you could just hold onto that for me for five minutes, I'll be right back...

MANAGER: Don't worry about it. I got it.

ME: Wut?

MANAGER: I got it. You're all set. *comps my burrito*

ME: Well... thank you very much!

So that was cool.

As you may have inferred from my opening line, this kind of thing is not fantastically uncommon an occurrence for me, and accords well with my deep-seated feeling that people are, in general, fundamentally good, and that selfishness and unkindness are aberrant behaviors. That's not necessarily something I believe intellectually, but something that I feel on a gut level when I interact with people.

Now. It could be that I am just lucky, and that I simply happen to encounter nicer people on average than most people do, which raises my opinion of them. But if so, it's a weirdly consistent phenomenon. I think it's the other way around: I think belief is shaping reality.

This is what people mean when they talk about the universe giving back to you what you've put out there. Despite how it sounds, this is not a woo-woo magical thinking kind of thing. Projecting a feeling of lightness will not modulate your local gravity field, because physics Does Not Care.

The thing you have to remember about this idea is that when you're interacting with "the universe", a really large fraction of it is other people. People DO care about attitude. And people are really good at reading attitude in body language. Really REALLY good -- like, I think we are much, much better at it than we realize, and the problem is that 99% of it happens on an unconscious level.

And when you're interacting with people, especially strangers, unless you're actively pursuing some kind of objective, the default human behavior is to mirror whatever the other person is putting off. If the other person is wary, or relaxed, or brusque, you'll tend to be a bit wary, or relaxed, or brusque in response. And this is all entirely unconscious.

What happens when you multiply this out by tens or hundreds of daily societal interactions is that however you expect people to be, that's mostly how they are. Because you're unconsciously projecting that expectation, and they're unconsciously responding to it.
(Thinking about it, it's probably a bit more complex than simple mirroring, but the point stands: your attitude will condition others' responses.)

Now, this power-of-positive-thinking stuff gets ugly if you spin into blaming the victim: so now when bad things happen, it's my fault for not having a positive attitude? No, not at all. There are plenty of terrible people out there who will be nasty no matter how you approach them. But as far as the emotional background radiation of your small day-to-day interactions go, that you can adjust. If you feel like the universe at large is not as nice as you would like it to be, try projecting more niceness outward, and see if it doesn't get reflected back to you.

This seems like the most rational explanation for why I encounter so many nice people who do nice things for me. Because otherwise, I have to assume that I've got some kind of Luck stat, and that it's very high. And that's just weird.
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