Kindness—Does It Need to be Real?

We’ve all heard the term “Fake it ‘til you make it.” But, can we truly apply this philosophy to customer service? If customers know that you’re “faking kindness,” won’t that annoy them? Does it annoy you when someone isn’t being sincerely kind to you? OR, do you prefer them to fake kindness rather than be rude to you?

Studies show that when persons act positively, their thoughts eventually turn positive, too. I think the more practical explanation is that when persons act “nice,” the people around them respond positively. This reinforces people’s “nice” behavior, which makes them want to continue in a positive manner.

There’s something to the idea of “acting as if”—a different term for the catchphrase “Fake it ‘til you make it.” Disney, well known for its exceptional customer service, refers to its employees as cast members. Their “uniform” is their costume, and their “role” is to create memorable experiences for their guests. If it works for Disney, why can’t it work for everyone else?

Real World Story:  This story comes from a book titled Eat that Cookie by Liz Jazwiec. Liz was the department head of an emergency room (ER). It was her job to get her people to act more caring and happy. Here’s what she discovered:

“We can all make the decision to be happy – to like our work, enjoy our patients, appreciate our coworkers, and relish the day. When we do so, we are also doing our part to make our workplaces as positive as possible.”

Liz tells a story about a nurse named Anne. Anne hated her job and wanted to quit. She was tired of dealing with mean and nasty patients.  Liz, somehow, convinced Anne to try being nice to everyone for one week. Reluctantly, Anne agreed.

On day one, Anne’s first patient came into the ER with a sore throat. Anne knew she would be tested immediately. Instead of asking the patient why he came to the ER, she kindly escorted him to a room and said, “I see on your record that you have been suffering with a sore throat for the past couple of weeks. That must be very unpleasant for you. After I’m finished getting your history, I will ask our doctor to come in and examine you. Now, before I leave, is there anything else I can do for you?” The man quietly said, “No.”

The doctor examined him and wrote out discharge instructions for the patient. Anne grabbed the samples – including Tylenol – and headed back to her patient. Anne repeated the doctor’s instructions then added, “I wasn’t sure if you knew where to get Tylenol or if you had any at home, so here are some samples to get you started. Now, before I leave, is there anything else I can do for you?”

The man said, “No. But I have to tell you something. I came in here today prepared for a fight. I know that I should have my own doctor, and I don’t really belong in an ER…I was really prepared for the worst. But, instead, you have been so kind and so understanding. I just can’t thank you enough. You have made what I thought was going to be an unpleasant situation into a wonderful experience. Thank you.”

Anne experienced similar behavior from many patients that day. In fact, at one point, she said to Liz, “I picked the wrong week to be nice…This is the week I decided to be nice to all these miserable people, and as luck would have it, everyone that I have taken care of today has been friendly and pleasant!”

It’s evident that the patients didn’t change, Anne’s attitude did. And that made all the difference. Imagine that!

Strategies that Turn it Around:thCANLCCDI

  1. Your goal always is to create a memorable customer experience
  2. Sometimes you have to “act as if,” even under the worst of circumstances
  3. If you can’t “Fake it ‘til you make it,” then remember strategy #1
  4. Remember that most people respond well to insincere kindness, the alternative to being treated rudely

Remember: When you treat people nicely, they will treat YOU nicely – most of the time.

Have you ever experienced insincere kindness? If so, what was your reaction? Share your thoughts below.

6 Responses to “Kindness—Does It Need to be Real?”


  1. 1 Jeff Utigard March 27, 2013 at 11:26 am

    BK… insincere kindness… reminds me of self cancelling phrases… jumbo shrimp… suddenly born… muffled explosions… Kindness with attitude may be like a traffic stop for speeding while you are late and getting a warning by the cop… you’re still late… Keep up the good writing… cheers from the mile high city…

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