Monday, July 11, 2016

The Opposite of Nice

It's tempting to blame this on female dominated spaces, but well, I've seen it happen other places.  Although certainly it seems to me female shaped people are asked to be nice, to not make waves, to grin and bear it at higher rates than others. 
But let's talk about what we mean by nice.  Because if someone does something harmful and I speak out, certainly I could do so in a way that was not nice, but my speaking out about harm caused to me or others is not mean.  And saying, hey, don't be mean isn't solving the conflict, it's shoving it in a drawer.  More importantly the implicit message is, you don't care that I or others were harmed.  You care more about maintaining the illusion of nice.  And don't be fooled, letting harm continue is absolutely not creating a nice place. 
Since I do love a good analogy*, let's pretend there was a restaurant and every time you went in (and, BTW, reader, I'm not picking on you, you're just an example) you got just what you ordered, in a timely and wonderful fashion.  And every time I went in, or worse, sometimes, I got stuff I didn't order.  And then when I asked for a correction, I either wouldn't get it, or it would still be wrong after they supposedly fixed it.  Now assuming I live places with other restaurants, I would stop going there. 
Except you really like that place.  And maybe it's the only place that has this one dish that I really like.  And every time we meet for lunch, or almost all my friends want to meet, they want to meet there.  And I hate it, because I never know if I'll get what I ordered or I won't.  And sometimes I just don't eat because I'm too tired to keep arguing with them. 
But then I discover someone else who hates going there.  And I ask them and discover that they have the same issue I do.  And then we discover, there's a bunch of us. So, we go to the restaurant and tell them we want to be treated fairly.  We want to get orders that are correct.  And the restaurant starts doing interviews with the local news that a few mean people, who probably hate restaurants anyway, are trying to kill their business and if these people get what they want, they'll have to fire all the nice employees at their restaurant. 
And now all the people who like that restaurant have choices.  They could come to me and say, gosh, I hear you're having an issue, I've always had great experiences there.  And I could explain and share examples.
Or you could decide that since you've never had a bad experience, obviously anyone who thinks they have is mean and should keep quiet and learn how to be nice. And if you really wanted to go next level, you could maybe contact me and everyone else and say something like, there's no reason to be mean, just stop already, I hate conflict.  This, of course, then puts me on the defensive, explaining that I'm not being mean and now we're debating the extent of my mean and not whether or not I can expect to get the food I ordered in a place I pay to make me food.
As all analogies go, this is not entirely parallel to what's going on, but it serves as an example of why calls to be nice are often, whether truly meant as such or not, really just another derailing tactic.  Another way to paper over issues instead of acknowledging or dealing with them.

*PS, I do swear this is an analogy.  I am not sub-blogging any restaurants at this time.