The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Sunday, April 17, 2005

being nice

Now excuse me while I get all navel-gazing for a few minutes - feel free to go read some other blog until normal transmission resumes.

I have had a few comments since I started doing this blog thing, mainly from people who either don't know me in real life or didn't know that they knew me, that I seem "nice". Maybe I am "nice", maybe I'm not (I'd say it's a pretty subjective analysis really), but the point I have been thinking about is whether I should be nice.

It was working in retail that did it to me - we were trained to "greet" which is to say we had to smile and be nice to everyone in the shop. I actually quite enjoyed it - people weren't expecting you to smile at them, and frankly I didn't care whether the profits soared through the roof or plummeted so deep they found oil, so it was a smile and a hello with no expectations, no strings attached. Hopefully I broke down a few of those stereotypical kiwi responses - arms folded, "imjustlooking" hostilely spat at the hapless shop assistant.

All this means that I got to a point where my initial reaction when I saw someone was to smile and say hello, and not just in the shop either. Anyone that I vaguely knew would get the same treatment, even when it was someone I despised to the very core of my being. It would be too late to stride by, nose held high and glowing with indignant dislike, I had already said hello.

I've largely purged this character flaw, but I seem to have developed the blog-equivalent of it - I am too "nice" in comments. And it's got me thinking - should I be nice to people I can't stand? Is it dishonest to be nice to them, to humour them, or to give them the benefit of the doubt even when they are total arse? Am I somehow devaluing my arguments by being nice about them? Or is viciousness an obfuscater when it comes to getting your point across?

Maybe I should apply for a column at About Town as The Nice One.


David Farrar said...

I don't think there is any point in not being civil to people, even if you detest them. I will get quite aggressive in some of my responses online, but generally try to be restrained. I have to say also that I find it very hard to hate or even significantly dislike someone. We all have character flaws and being judgemental is not my style.

There are a very very very small number of people whom I could not bring myself to even be polite to, but that is for extremely malicious acts on their part.

Aaron Bhatnagar said...

As for retail science - the Americans take it to a new level.

When you enter a retail store in America, someone will almost immediately welcome you, let you know they are there for assistance and will point out something towards the back of the store that is on special (ie a clothes store)


1) You have a friendly experience
2) you are not afraid or hesitant to ask for help
3) they have encouraged you to walk through the whole store looking at everything along the way, and pick up something for closer examination.

Retail science reckons this dramatically improves the chances of people buying things.

As for you being a nice person, I would have never doubted it. You have always been very pleasant in our blogging chats despite a gulf in political philosphy.

Make Tea Not War said...

What does niceness mean really? I think politeness, generosity and kindness are generally appropriate. Weakness, being taken for granted and being a door mat are to be avoided and while I'm dispensing home spun wisdom remember never count your money while your sitting at the table there'll be time enough for counting when the dealings done

Aaron Bhatnagar said...

Yes - but that would have been more profound had Kenny Rogers not sung about it first.

Ray said...

What is wrong with being nice
Because I live in a small comunity (don't we all) I feel it pays to be at least civil if not pleasant even to people that have pissed me off
You never know when they might be in a position to do you a favour or worse do you a disfavour

Rover said...

you have got me concerned now when i see you at various time do i get the polite , hello nice to meet you (but i detest you to the core of my being) span or do i get the other one???

Apathy Jack said...

See, on the internet I come off as being arrogant and self-righteous because, like you Span, I was taught that by my job. To whit, in my job I have an audience who is compelled by regulations and by self-interest to listen to me, and everything I say is important and they need to hear it.

That, of coursde, has carried over to the things I write.

span said...

AB - I suspect if you remembered the occassion on which we did in fact meet face to face you might revise your opinion of my niceness.

Aaron Bhatnagar said...

North Shore ACT meeting in 1999 if I recall correctly. Why would I hold that against you? it was noisy Rebecca that the audience didn't like!

ruth said...

Nie guys come last Spanner. Glad you took me off the right wing list, you freak ;-)

span said...

I certainly don't hate like I did when I was younger - now I tend to feel sorry for people and my wrath fades relatively quickly, but I do hold grudges. I could hold grudges for my country, were it an Olympic sport. I'm quite big on the concept of revenge but I'm happy to let things lie until an opportunity arises. And sometimes the best revenge is being able to do something really nice and helpful for someone who doesn't deserve it, and knows they don't deserve it either.

I don't think there is anything wrong with being civil or polite. I think Ray raises good points. But I just wonder whether I am in fact being a bit two faced by being nice to people I don't like...

AB - it wasn't Rebecca, it was Sarah. And that whole experience wasn't much fun for either of us.

Graham Watson said...

As a rule I think it is good to be nice to people until they breach this, then there is license to savage them.

Of course, elapse of time can heal such breach.

Ms Vile File said...

Interesting question... I suppose it all depends on what you mean by 'nice'. One must never confuse assertiveness with aggression. It is possible to be assertive (stand up for yourself), without being rude.

It pays to be mannered even to the most objectionable idiots in some circumstances. One can also fell the mightiest arsehole with a few polite, yet well-chosen words.

Thus you can be 'nice' without being NICE.

span said...

GPJ - i assume you mean breach your code of niceness? care to expand on what might be a breach?

Ms VF - lovely to have you along, i was hoping you might pop in and share your famed etiquette wisdom. i find that i am often accused of being a hard bitch when i'm assertive - less so with the people i tend to associate with now than in my student political past though, that's for sure.