Monday, April 4, 2011

Sugar & Spice In Defence Of Nice!

In Defence Of Nice!
Remember when you were a kid and your Mum always told you to play nice? When you didn't you got busted and ended up in the dog house. Ever noticed how challenging that concept is as an adult? 

I've been asked how to balance being nice and being a freelancer. I often wonder that myself. Being 'nice' isn't as easy as it seems. To be nice and honest, there are some days that challenge my natural pleasant ways. On a side note: this was not an easy thing to write. I had to choose my words wisely.

If I want to get specific here, I'd say I'm cautiously nice with a side of optimism. When networking online or around the corner I always keep an open mind. My philosophy goes like this: If you say 'hi' and I say "hi' back then we are off to a good start. After that initial first impression it is quite up in the air. It could go either way. 

Typically I am contacted for mentoring advice and given high kudos for my book. I always respond. I was told on twitter that "it's hard to keep them hanging." According to illustrator Tad Carpenter, "It's kinda like walking past a high a five." Even when I don't get a thanks or a response I still feel compelled to answer questions. Call it curiosity. Call it being nice. But that's how I roll. 

So What's Wrong With Being Nice? 
It seems being nice has gained a bad reputation. The calm, easy-going and laid back approach is suddenly not where it's at. Everywhere I turn I am seeing commercials, Facebook-isms, t-shirts and bumper stickers that promote smart alecky combative vibes. Initially it may be funny but I have no desire to convert my whole personality that way. 

Now I'm not saying I'm not a member of the sarcastics society but to me there is a time and a place. Then there is thing called 'staying professional.' It's a hard thing to balance. We all want to be honest, we want to be creative and have the freedom to express ourselves. Many of us just want to be pleasant. It's a juggle. But all this 'nicey nicey' stuff comes with myths. 

Myth #1- Being nice means you're a door mat.
Myth #2- Being nice means you are weak. 
Myth #3- Being nice means you are an easy target. 
Myth #4- Being nice means you're always compliant.
Myth #5- Being nice means you are boring! 

Being nice may have many negative connotations but so does being aggressive. My approach: I try not to worry about it. Being open minded, having a sense of kindness and caring should never come under fire. It goes without saying that to be interesting you must be interested. To understand the industry that you are involved in and create for means staying in touch. Networking effectively means connecting. Abrasive qualities, attitude and temper tantrums online wont work for everyone. Airing out your personal gripes publicly wont work either. Need to rant every once an while? Sure! But just make sure it gets raves not negative reviews. 

I don't know about you but I am the type that deletes most statuses before I post them. If I get that feeling I've said too much or that it could be misunderstood then I delete it. No sense in having something out there that I have to be concerned about. And why the concern? That's because I care. That is because I believe in quality. I pop open my laptop to network, write, promote and to gain information through research. I have very clear defined reasons why I surf. 

Hard Not To Be Cynical
When I am told I'm very nice it often makes me want to duck and cover! Then I relax and take the 'nice' idea with and open mind. We have all encountered someone who has taken advantage of our kindness. When that happens it can alter that concept. Sadly, being online should come with a warning label. 

Being nice can open you up to the wrong attention or the wrong people. In my book, I mention that being online needs to be taken with a grain of cautious salt. A good code to live by: You will find whatever you are looking for online. Whatever you don't want to find will find you! Not everyone is honest. Not everyone is who they seem to be. Not everyone is out for your best interest. And sadly, not everyone wants to pay you for your work or your time! 

To be polite, I'll call them 'undesirables.' I too have encountered my fair share. However, it wont deter me from what I do. I'm just smarter now so I'll chalk it up as another learning experience. 

Many 'undesirables' are anonymous. They choose to kick up a disturbance while hiding. To me, if they choose to hide then they can stay there. Basically, their anonymity cancels out their words. They are not worth my time. 

No Mixing Words
As freelancers we want to be seen as professional. We want to maintain a good reputation. BUT you have to admit there are times when you wish you could just speak your mind. Those moments when clients, people online to someone who butted in front of you at the bank makes you want to speak up! If your not careful you could end up in an argument. Definitely not the best way to exert your creative energies. 

"Diplomacy:  The business of handling a porcupine without disturbing the quills.  ~Author Unknown

Negative feedback is the biggest professional tester of them all. Natural instinct says bite back but that inner professional voice says "Don't Do It!" I say follow that inner voice and go the diplomatic way. It's not easy. It's not easy to go with the 'kill 'em with kindness approach.' In the end you will have the confidence in knowing that you kept your cool. Maybe this quote will break it down however harsh it may seem: Diplomat: A person who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip. ~Caskie Stinett

Do you want to right or do you want to be happy?
You can be pleasant but speak your mind. There are no rules saying you can't. It all comes down to your approach. There are negative Nellies everywhere online rearing their ugly words but that does not mean you have to respond. Many are looking for that epic argument. Shut them down with your own clever 'no thanks approach' or let the chirping crickets do their work. Either way, do what works for you and what will help you stay focused on the important stuff. In other words, it's mind over matter. If there was no 'mind' in it in the first place then it doesn't matter. 

There's Safety In Sandwiches
My philosophy is add humour to the recipe when needed. Humour has a way of levelling things out. Humour has a way to keeping everything copacetic. Humour is neutral. I'm not saying use humour to avoid situations or to be passive. However, having a good sense of wit and whimsy is often the creamy filling in most interaction. 

Quietly Confident
I like the idea of being quietly confident. There is nothing wrong with that approach. Nice folks do not need to constantly rave about their niceness- it goes without saying. To me, its a state of mind. Typically when your nice your pretty humble about it. Most of us are quite content to go about our online business without rocking the online boat. Again, it all comes down to why you are online and how you handle it. 

And I'm Cool Calm to Confident Just Like that!
I realize that the nice code may not be the popular one these day but perhaps we need to redefine that concept and pass it on. To me most stereotypes and myths need to be kicked to the curb. Or perhaps, we just need to do what we do best and stick to those who support us and our amiable ways. Either way, I'm sticking with the swell simpatico approach. I'm happy with that.