Is it really so hard to be nice?

Sooner or later, 4th Wave feminists are going to have to realize that that price of equality, means not being able to hide behind oppression narratives. Especially not in a workplace such as publishing, the traditional arm of which — because it’s centered in New York City — is 98% Hillary-votin’ and Trump-hatin’, to the tune of “He’s not my fucking President!” In fact, I am pretty sure we’re going to watch the trad pub sector of prose publishing specifically spend the next four years loudly broadcasting its hatred for all things Trumpian and “deplorable.” Just in case we forgot how much Manhattanite progressives loathe and disdain anyone who lives between the west bank of the Hudson, and the eastern border of Sacramento.

But because 4th Wave feminists — lacking any real battles to fight, yet having been raised up in the ways of rage and anger — still have to find excuses to complain, we get things like this.

Uhhhhhh . . . okay.

Having pawed through the pouty entrails of this article, I’m forced to conclude that the author in question is unhappy with the fact that she can’t just be a dick, without consequences. And that publishing is — gasp! — an industry which runs on people perceiving you positively, even if your true self is a coffee-fueled hate machine.

I mean, I get it. I’m as drained by social interactivity as the next author. Probably, most of us are introverts. Social settings suck energy out of us. My wife is the opposite. Social settings put energy into her. Having observed my wife’s personality for a quarter of a century, I can inform Ms. Gould — with no small degree of surety — that even people who thrive heartily on social settings, get tired of the effort, too. So it’s not as if Ms. Gould’s “predicament” is somehow special.

It is instead — double gasp! — perfectly pedestrian.

Because dudes don’t get a free pass, either. Regardless of what Ms. Gould thinks. Very seldom is any employer looking for male prospects who are aloof, cold, rude, distant, socially clueless, or otherwise apart from (and above?) their peers. We still have to strap on that winning smile, and march forth into the cold snows of the workplace, trying to make our bosses and our coworkers love us. Or, at least, not actively despise us. Because we want paychecks too. And there’s nothing in Ms. Gould’s complaint that doesn’t precisely echo the experiences of thousands of men working in thousands of different professions and vocations. Almost all of which require a bare minimum of social ability. Yes, even the military. (Hint: past Basic Combat Training or the halls of Candidate School, there isn’t nearly as much yelling as the movies would have you believe.)

Yes, yes, I know, Ms. Gould is fed up with trying to make people who are not her friends, feel as if they are her friends. Or, at least, make them feel friendly toward her. Because this is how you schmooze in the traditional publishing capitol of the known universe. Which also happens to be one of the politically progressive capitols of the known universe. False comradeship? Passive-aggression? Never daring to let down your guard — or your facade — lest they shut you out into the cold? Golly, one could almost write a psychological thesis on how bastions of progressive thought often become social minefields, where one dare not breath the wrong way, lest one be marked off Santa’s “good” list, and placed onto the “bad” list.

But that’s a whole other Oprah.

For now, we’re discussing Ms. Gould’s soul-destroying adventures in trying to be nice, even when she doesn’t feel like it.

Madam, I am sorry to inform you: it ‘aint no different, no where, no how.

Granted, it is infuriating that so much of traditional publishing really does boil down to, “Who’s your latest BFF?” For well over two centuries, New York’s publishing Cosa Nostra has engaged in an intergenerational contest of blurb-bukkake, combined with rampant nepotism, and a tendency to let people linger on for far too long, in jobs they should never have been hired for in the first place — people who often were unfit for real work, so they turned to publishing because it was all they could get.

But if you’ve spent any time working other jobs in other arenas, you know damned well that it’s not terribly different anywhere else. Dreadful employees who can make the boss smile, survive. Hard-working employees who can’t make the boss smile, no matter how hard they try, move on. Or are booted out. Or (worst of all) suffer through a kind of workplace purgatory, neither living, nor dead. Can’t bring themselves to quit. Never fired, either. Just . . . existing. Day after day. As the clock on the wall gives you an up-to-the-minute account of how much you’re spending yourself to make other people rich, doing something you didn’t really want to do when you grew up.

I’ve worked a job or two which fit that final bill. I suspect many of the people reading this, have too.

So dab your eyes, Ms. Gould, with your personalized handkerchief; its corner embroidered with a Venus symbol — and a fashionable fist clenched in the middle of the circle.

Life sucks for bros, too.

But wait, oh wait. We knows, yes, Precious, we knows the hurtses that womenses endures because of the patriarchy! Smeagol has heard all about nasty patriarchy his whole life, and how poor Smeagol needs to check his privilege! GOLLUM (spit) GOLLUM!

Only, this time, no.

I can think of few desk industries in this nation which are more welcoming to the brainy, politically left-wing female, than traditional publishing.

Besides, is it so damned hard to be nice?

I mean, seriously.

Even someone who came from that notorious cesspool of journalistic and media malpractice — Gawker — should know that it’s good to check your jerkface at the door when you leave the house. Doesn’t matter how you self-identify. Male, female, or A-10 Warthog. Getting along with people, pays. And not just in publishing. In everything. And if you believe you’re getting strung out on social media and author events — if the schmooze is killing you — then by God put the fucking brakes on, and get some recharging time for yourself! It’s not the world’s fault that spending too much time “working” other human beings, makes you want to rip the skin off every face you see.

You also would not be the first author to watch the shine wear off the apple of her publishing dream, either. It happens to all of us, Ms. Gould. And while the advice, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game,” can sometimes be apt, I am going to gently suggest that hating the game doesn’t much help where trad pub is concerned. Not indie pub either, frankly.

You see, authoring is — at best — a service industry. You know, service industry? Hello, how may I take your order! Would you like to supersize that? Please pull around to the second window. I am sure those words have come out of your mouth at some point, have they not, Ms. Gould? Yes? No? Or did your parents pay for you all the way through college, without your hands having ever touched the handle of a mop, or a broom?

You are selling a product. Partially, it’s your stories and books. But also partially, it’s you yourself. To the editors. To the agents. And ultimately, to the audience as well. Nothing but salesmanship. Exhausting, tedious, draining salesmanship. You are Willy Loman. In a business already stuffed to the gills with millions of people — each scribbling furiously at his or her latest, greatest English-language tome — you’re not the exception. You’re the rule.

Relax, have a cigar, make yourself at home. Hell is full of high court
judges, failed saints. We’ve got Cardinals, Archbishops, barristers,
certified accountants, music critics, they’re all here. You’re not alone.
You’re never alone, not here you’re not. Okay, break’s over, ahahaHAHAHA!

You can either do the dirty chore of playing the game the way the good, proper, progressive, utterly “With her!” Manhattanites demand that it be played, or not.

But don’t pretend it’s got anything to do with things being easier for guys.


Look, in the end, take some time out. Unplug from the endless swirl of schmooze. Gawker may have been a 90 MPH napalm-flaming train wreck of lies and deceit, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep up with that same insane pace, even if you’re afraid everybody else in good, proper, progressive Manhattan is going to climbs over your backses, then stab out your eyeses, Precious, because they sees you as competition, yes, yes, GOLLUM (spit) GOLLUM!

So effin’ what?

Figure out precisely how much schmoozing you can do — healthily — in a given week, or month, or year, and don’t let yourself exceed the limit. Learn to politely say “No thank you,” without being a beast about it. Don’t let yourself spend time with people you don’t feel like spending time with. And don’t fall into the trap of thinking that glad-handing is a task we males are somehow excused from performing.

We’re not. We’re expected to clean up and put on our Sunday best, and go be mannered and chatty, just like the girls.

And it’s probably a good thing, too. Especially in the era of social media, where face-to-face interactivity is suddenly even more taxing than it was before. Because you can’t just stare zombie-like into a small screen, while the world is forced to maneuver round you.

And in the end, if New York trad pub proves intolerable, there is always indie.

Yes, indie. I know it’s a dirty word on many lips, even in 2017.

But it’s viable. It can be done sans schmooze. And you don’t even have to leave your house if you don’t want to. Some people are making millions at it. Scoring movie deals. Becoming famous beyond the internet.

Me? I’m a pretty easy-going guy. Niceness isn’t tough for me. I can usually get along with just about anybody. Even the dicks. But I also know when to go home, close my door, turn off my conduit to the rest of the human sphere, and heal. Because constantly being in the mix is like turning the screw on an olive press. Sooner or later, there isn’t any oil left. Not for editors, not for the industry, not even for the audience.

Knowing when, and how, and where, and with whom — to expend your finite personal resources — that’s the ticket!

Not blaming men.

85 thoughts on “Is it really so hard to be nice?

  1. That article is such a hot mess. Look, I am really insecure… But that is junior high level insecurity.

    And obviously Atwood was being gracious in complimenting a newbie who was wearing wildly inappropriate clothing in an inappropriate way. Nicest thing I have ever heard about her.

  2. Oh, BS, Buzzfool. I had a few encounters with certain female SF writers best know for their work churning out drek for a certain sci-fi franchise and a specific one was NOT a nice person even to fans and god forbid you were con staff….

    1. ” blurb-bukkake” is a set of word’s I’d NEVER have put money ever seeing in a serious blog post. Yet it accurately describes the trad-pub establishment.

  3. Brad, dude, look at where she’s writing this. Buzzfeed.

    Buzzfeed. Probably the only publication on or off Earth who could make Gawker look less bad.

    Buzzfeed, whose latest claim to fame is publishing an “intelligence report” that not even Penthouse Forum would have touched back in the day.

    All I had to do is see that link, and the article instantly moved to the category of “Why bother?”

  4. Eh.
    She’s a B*tch. She’s proud of it. And the rest of her self-image has accreted around that kernel.
    She’s a miserable person who takes pleasure in making others miserable.

  5. “Just in case we forgot how much Manhattanite progressives loathe and disdain anyone who lives between the west bank of the Hudson, and the eastern border of Sacramento.”

    Now that’s just hyperbole. They reluctantly admit the denizens of Chicago are people, too, and might be worthy of some lesser forms of respect.

        1. I thought that was seasonal, like election season. Or do they vote all year there?

    1. And don’t kid yourself. Sacramento isn’t “cool” either. Decades of hearing how “not cool” Sactown is from L.A. and San Francisco has conditioned me to wonder what’s up when somebody praises the place. Like waiting for the poisoned turn or the backhand. Even articles praising the virtues of Sacramento seem to focus on the things that are most like S.F. or L.A. and never mention the things that are unique.

      1. The _Eastern_ edge of Sacramento and points east leaves behind most of the urban area all all of the state government. Not that Citrus Heights or Roseville isn’t squirelier than Austen, but they’re miles ahead of SF.

        1. Well hello there, you sound like you’ve been here. I grew up in the Inventor’s Corner (my own name; you won’t find it on any map.) Interesting area of town, literally one mile from country club to the skid row strip. (Now largely car dealerships, which is a really smart placement that has raised the class of that street immeasurably.)

          1. So basically around the corner from where my ex lived a few years back, i know the area too.

            1. Technically I was on the other side of Watt, where it’s a little less volatile, but only just. Not Carmichael, not North Highlands, and “Arden-Arcade” is a damned stupid name IMO. It’s Sacramento, technically county, but I still consider it part of the city.

  6. In answer to your question: yes, it really is that difficult for some people to act like halfway-decent human beings. I blame bad raising for this. Something tells me her parents were largely absent from her life and never told her “no.” I’d feel sorry for her, except she probably makes everyone around her miserable.

    Second, I keep running into the genderflipped version of this, and it’s just as obnoxious. No, basic civility, tact, and diplomacy are not somehow “unmasculine.”

    1. The destruction of chivalry — which was never a goal of Suffragette feminism, but which was very much an objective of 2nd and 3rd Wave feminism — has enabled male boorishness at all levels. :/

      1. To quote Jerry Clower, who was once taken to task for holding a door open for a woman “I didn’t open the door because you’re a woman; I opened the door because I’m a gentleman.”

        1. I have yet to have any woman complain about me opening doors for them. Not once.

          1. Saw it a fair amount when I was stationed on the West Coast. Less in Hawaii, but there I think it was over ridden by the same laid back ‘aloha attitude that had about 1/3 of the shops closing up at wierd hours because the owner randomly decided to go surfing. The only reason Hawaii isn’t the king of Crazy in the US is that it would be too much effort to take the title from Cali, and it’s a nice day outside…

          2. When we were in Kazakhstan for our adoption, there was a lady there from New Jersey whose mother was accompanying her. I held the door for the mother and caught all kinds of hell for it. After a couple of times of doing that, I stopped. Ironically, her daughter understood the courtesy and didn’t have much problem with it.

          3. I have.
            Fortunately, it was a solid oak door tall enough to admit a sasquatch, on a really strong spring. And she was a wee little thing.

            I have never again so thoroughly enjoyed watching someone somersault down the stairs, backwards

        2. My father knew Jerry Clower growing up; I think Clower was a couple of years ahead of him in school. That sounds like something he would say,.

    2. FWIW – there are some guys like that, but most of us who’ve realized how badly male and masculine behavior have been crushed down also believe in being gracious, etc.

      We’ve been taught to be “nice”, to not rock the boat, to not stand out from the herd. All, to be stereotypical, “feminine” traits, and guys who say “no” when being told to spend their time on someone else’s demands are often called jerks, assholes, etc. by people with no self awareness that they’re demanding someone else bend to their will and demands.

      People who first realize this can go overboard – it’s easy to push back too hard – but most settle out, with some exceptions as noted.

      The trick is to be a good person, not a nice one. A good person will sometimes have to be not nice.

  7. Brad, dude, you pushed my button. /rant on/

    The female author Emily Gould is describing is clearly A) depressed and possibly B) has Asperger’s.

    A lot of extremely talented people are both, these days. They’re not paragons of personal strength, who resist the urge to Nice because they are just that awesome. They’re FRIED. The tank is empty. The system moved the cheese at the end of the rat-maze one too many times, and now the person has run out of F-s to give. They know that every editor and assistant they are not bubbly and cute with is one more nail in their career’s coffin. They know that their sales are suffering.

    They just can’t do it anymore, is all. They can’t Nice anymore, they’re forced to rely on honesty and raw courage. Every day when they leave the house, its like going into battle with demons.

    That’s what happens when you’re surrounded by lying assholes all the time. When people tell you to your face that they loved your book, then turn around and give it a one-star review, that’s depressing. When everyone you know is a lying, cheating, two faced, phony weasel… that’s -really- depressing.

    Now add Asperger’s Syndrome, which is basically blindness to social cues. You don’t see the inquiring smile. You don’t understand the person is trying to draw you out. You want them to like you, and you like them, but you don’t know the rules. Can’t know them. Because your brain is built different. You’re a Nerd. You laugh funny. You dress weird. You’re just a bit “off.”

    You’re a blind man in a fish-hook factory, and the other workers think its funny when you get stuck on a hook.

    By the time you get to 40 or 50 years old, you are armored like a tank. Your callouses have callouses. You ran out of conversation ten years before, when you finally understood that the nice lady at the party didn’t really like you at all. She was saving up anecdotes about the funny author/nerd to tell her friends.

    Little Emily is profoundly deluded if she thinks any of that is about gender.

    Although, I will admit that male nerds have one advantage over our poor female counterparts. We’re not expected to participate in the nightmarish hen-house of feminine hierarchy, packed with fat, middle-aged harpies whose approval we are forced to win or be pecked to death. A healthy handshake and the implied threat of a punch in the face will still get you by in male society. The gym is your friend, young nerds.

    Frankly, I’m surprised more women don’t go postal, faced with the likes of Emily f-ing Gould.

    /rant off/

    1. You don’t have to be an Aspie to be silent in social situations. It is common in writers of both sexes, and not uncomfortable if everyone at the table is okay with it. Often it just means someone who is reserved and observant, rather than socially aggressive. The sweet little woman who is quiet like a mouse is pretty common in real life. I have worked with a few.

      Gould making a normal person into some kind of heroic anti-femininity feminist? That is weird.

        1. It’s not really either or, either, but a continuum. I have some of the symptoms, like somewhat high sensitivity with fabrics, but not so many I’d be on the spectrum. Not even really on the borderline. But still closer to that borderline than to completely “normal”. Which means I don’t quite get those normals. I have learned with age and experience, it was worse when I was a kid, but I can still be pretty clueless at times. And I do find interacting with lots of people pretty stressful, especially if it lasts long.

          1. Its -tiring.- Even if the people are nice, even if the occasion is happy, even if I know everybody. I get tired, and I have to go hide someplace for ten minutes to recharge. Outside to examine the shrubberies usually does it.

            When I was 40 years younger, I had a lot more strength of course. I could carry on for weeks and weeks keeping the camouflage up. But eventually the smoke screen would fail, and the guy with the hammer would be looking for nails sticking up. There I’d be, sticking up. Dust off the resume, seek new position.

            That’s when I discovered the joys and sorrows of self employment. You make enough money to live, and you can tell Hammer Guy to cram it whenever he shows up, but its a lot of work. Which to me is a pretty good trade-off. I -love- dissing Hammer Guy. Almost as good as a weeks vacation.

            So when Brad posted that article yesterday, every one of my ‘cranky’ buttons got pushed. People like Gould really think burn-out is something to aspire to? You’ve got to be kidding me.

            What really set me off was the utter lack of brain. No less than Margaret Atwood made a point of walking up and schmoozing this Gould woman, complimenting her tats. Atwood is working the room!

            What does that tell you about the poor non-famous woman at the table, with the silence and the smoke breaks? She -can’t- work the room. She knows she should, and she is there to do it, but she can’t. She’s toast. Just trying to get through the evening in one piece.

            How did she get that way? Too many hammers, looking for nails to hit. That’s my guess.

            Reading back over my comments, I seem a bit harsh. Apologies to one and all if that was the case.

          2. I am completely neurotypical (the opposite of the autism spectrum.) And yet, I’m a bit off socially. This is because I learned early on that a lot of the social dance did not read as important to me (especially that status stuff.) I may be an artist, but I was raised by an engineer, and in many ways, that surfaces in the complete unwillingness to waste time on unnecessary drama. (Drama belongs on the stage. I act, too.)

    2. Oh yes, life with Aspergers is like that — the social cues simply aren’t on your wavelength. Worse, when you try to consciously do the social song and dance, it’s apt to get you perceived as insincere, which leaves you even worse off.

      1. They have a label for everything nowadays. We moved around a lot when I was a kid, and social basics are *different* across the breadth of the United States, at least at the child/adolescent level. I was in my late 20s before I learned how to handle the kind of social situations most people seemed to know about from birth.

        I could have adopted some DSM label and structured my life around it; instead, I made the effort to observe and adapt.

        I’m pretty sure I set off a lot of “smart ass” and “creepy” signals, but I get by at least as well as most people. Because when you start watching, you notice that a *lot* of other people seem to have social troubles too…

        And sometimes there simply aren’t enough social signals in common for meaningful communication. I call them “alien encounters”, and I just fired the second orthopedic surgeon because of it. No matter what I told him, he was running off preprogrammed responses like some meatware Eliza program. If they’d actually been relevant to my questions it might not have been so bad…

    3. They’re FRIED. The tank is empty. The system moved the cheese at the end of the rat-maze one too many times, and now the person has run out of F-s to give. They know that every editor and assistant they are not bubbly and cute with is one more nail in their career’s coffin. They know that their sales are suffering.

      This is precisely why I suspect that indie will not only save prose authordom, it will ultimately result in more people writing more books with less stress and anxiety, over time. Because none of us are stuck with having to play the gatekeeping game if we don’t want to.

      Back 25 years ago, there simply wasn’t any choice. Vanity publishing was verboten, and for good reason. You either ran the gatekeeping gauntlet, or you weren’t an author. So people danced the dance at the great liars’ and schmoozers’ cotillion, and prayed for a few lucky breaks. And if those breaks didn’t come, they grudgingly retired to the writers’ bar of bitterness and envy. Where ruined dreams are buried.

      Indie allows us all to bypass the cotillion, if we so choose. You still have to pray for a few lucky breaks. But then, fecund authors have a funny way of breeding their own kind of luck. So it’s not all dice-rolling. But you don’t necessarily have to go glad-handing in a room filled with people you’d never spend time around otherwise, and you can productively engage the marketplace without barriers and filters — agents and editors — messing with your head.

      It’s springtime for the aspie author.

      1. “It’s springtime for the aspie author.”

        I’m hoping. Because so far, the response I’m getting from Real Publishing is: no response. And the chances of me schmoozing my way to success are zero. There was never any schmooze in me, and I jumped through my last hoop back in the ’90s. Just not worth it. Now when they show me the hoop, I laugh.

        Also, how does one deal with the complete absence of communication from a company you’re trying to do business with? I mean, it wouldn’t be so bad if I got back a “not interested” or even “f- off, weirdo!” That would be something. I can work with that. But nothing? That pretty much stymies all forward motion.

        1. Alas, the resounding ‘nothing’ response seems to be SOP not just for the publishing industry, but the jobs industry in general. I get so very tired of sending my resume/applications out into the void and…nothing, most of the time.

    4. Fried? Try working several days after a major storm and being nice to an irate customer who doesn’t care that you haven’t been to sleep in two days and are tired, only that they haven’t had electricity those two days. Add to this that you’re not a nice person to begin with, and aren’t all that swift with social clues. And yet you’ve got to be nice because at that moment you are the company, and the impression the customer has of you is going to be projected on the company and everyone who works there.

      Yeah, it’s hard. And yeah, I probably bring all the holy water within a ten mile radius to a boil after I can let my act down just a little and vent, Because it is an act. It’s a persona I put on like a mask, a persona inspired by a bank manager and a school principal I knew growing up, both who treated every customer and student as though their business is the most important thing in the world. Because, as I later learned the principal once said, to a child that voluntarily came to his office with a problem it is the most important thing in the world.

      Let’s get something clear: I am not a nice person. A coworker once said if I ever came to work cheerful, they were going to leave because something bad just had to be going to happen that day. I not only don’t do bubbly, I find bubbly annoying. I virtually bite my tongue so much I have virtual callouses. I’m far more comfortable by myself than in a social situation. I am, in short, a grouchy, quick-tempered, curmudgeon with a mean streak.

      Yet I can still put on that persona. It isn’t phony, like the nauseating, two-faced, schmooze we’ve probably all seen. It’s merely a bit of cheerfulness and respect for the other person. That’s all. And it works wonders.

      That carries over to non-customers as well. If someone isn’t deliberately being a jerk and is trying to do the best they can, or, like you, having to deal with company decisions beyond their control, what’s the point of taking it out on them? Oh, I can be a huge jerk if I think the situation warrants: all I have to do is drop the persona. But if it doesn’t warrant it, why bother? Being polite costs nothing.

      Being rude costs a lot.

      For us it’s sales, whether it’s with a reader or with those with access to publishers or the publishers themselves. Being nice is no guarantee to sales, but being a jerk will cost them if you tick off people. There are authors I will no longer buy or read because of their behavior at Worldcon nearly two years ago. Their acting like jerks has cost them a reader, and I doubt I’m the only one.

      I don’t have much sympathy for someone who complains about having to act nice. I have less for someone who thinks men can get away with being jerks, because no one can. I have even less when they use the excuse that they’re fried. Yeah, I slip, too. But it’s a slip; I try not to make a habit of it. And when I feel myself irritable, I tried to pay extra attention to make sure it doesn’t come through, whether I’m wearing the persona or not.

      1. I don’t have much sympathy for someone who complains about having to act nice. I have less for someone who thinks men can get away with being jerks, because no one can.

        Agreed 100% on this especially. There is no free pass. I know it’s tempting to look at a particular example of the boorish yet successful male — *cough* Donald Trump? *cough* — and assume that un-niceness is the key to truly getting ahead. But I think folks like Trump are outliers. I also think that for every Trump in the world, there are a million failed examples. Because being a boor really does come with a mess of penalties. Which necessitate overcompensation in matters of capability or talent — but they won’t save you from being pilloried by the help, or your peers, or your boss, when you’re not present.

        And the moment your ability slips, you’re done. Because you won’t be worth it to anyone anymore.

        The acting world is notorious, in this regard.

        But then there are some worthwhile exceptions. I always like the story Eric Flint tells about the late Robert Urich. He wasn’t A-list. He was never any casting manager’s nor director’s first choice. But Urich was nice. He showed up to work sober, and with a good attitude, and with all his lines memorized. He came to the table drama-free, and capable. Thus Urich was never, ever out of work as a result.

        1. That example you mention is probably not a good example. There is reason to believe that he can and does schmooze in private. And that perhaps the public persona is also calculated.

            1. Many believe that there are two Trumps.

              One Trump is the public Trump who can be somewhat nasty.

              The other Trump is much nicer.

              Even with the News Media (and the Democratic Party) looking for people who have actually been abused by Trump, nobody who worked for Trump has come forth telling “how terrible it was to work for him” and nobody has come forth telling “how Trump sexually abused them”.

              As for Urich, well he may have privately kicked his cat/dog at time. 😉

              1. Or Urich had developed a mindset a bit like Michael Caine, in that he saw acting as a job, and if he wanted to get paid, he did the job, and accepted the ups and downs (like dealing with prima donnas) that came with the job. The job wasn’t Life, as it seems to be for far too many in Hollywierd.

            2. Ah, sorry about that.

              Back before the election, when I was suffering from severe TDS, I was a strong supporter of the Many Trumps Theorem. One Trump calculated to let a segment of the general audience read what they wanted into them, and the others for one on one meetings, based on reading the other participant.

              Now I have some other models that I think might explain the same evidence.

          1. Mandy Patenkin might be a somewhat better example. As well as as a good example for a breadth of skills for having consistent work.

        2. Also, once somebody gets where they can dictate their terms, or at least they think they can – with writers the big bestsellers – they can then afford being boorish. At least for a while. Or it may even become a successful role, people sometimes seem to expect the creative genius to be a boor in social situations and may even be somewhat suspicious of whether that genius part is real or not if the person is too nice. Perhaps because they then suspect the person got where he is by smooching rather than just being brilliant, while the crank presumably has to have been brilliant or he wouldn’t have gotten there with that attitude.

        3. In the publishing world that would have made him the equivalent of a midlist author. Always delivered on time, minimal editing needed, steady and predictable sales.

          They would have dropped him like a hot rock.

      2. > And yet you’ve got to be nice because at that moment you are the company

        That’s something I’ve tried to point out to various corporate types. Your customer bought your product in someone else’s store or on someone else’s web site. They never saw your fancy buildings, your trophy secretaries, or your expensive furniture. They don’t care about your credentials or your corporate structure. Your *entire* company, as far as the customer is likely to see, is the harassed flunky on the help line, with the meter running to get rid of the caller in less than four minutes, or else he will be called in to explain why he’s wasting so much time per call.

      3. “Fried? Try working several days after a major storm and being nice to an irate customer…”

        I feel your pain. I’ve been there. I don’t do it anymore. Tank is empty. They don’t give me the irate customer these days. They keep me tied up in the back and throw meat in occasionally.

        I’m talking about the man or woman who’s been the “nail that sticks up” for twenty years, with idiots trying to hammer them down the whole time. You don’t get to chose whether you’re that nail. You stick up. When you see the guy coming with the hammer, you learn to deal with him. This is harder for women than men. A man will take the hammer off him and hit him with it. Women are not allowed to do that. I don’t know what they do instead, but I suspect there’s a lot of suffering in silence involved.

        The core of the matter is that Mr. or Ms. Protruding Nail is going to fail at dealing with the irate customer. Every time. It doesn’t matter how nice they are. It doesn’t matter how hard they try. The customer -will- go ballistic. Its a given.

        Because protruding nails protrude. They’re weird and wrong. No amount of hammering will push them down with the other nails.

        After you see that gong show a few times from the nail point of view, your armor gets pretty thick and you get really fast on the draw. In unavoidable social situations, you find a dark corner and you defend it. Like the lady in the article. Take a lot of smoke breaks and don’t talk to the sharks.

        Hearing a shark complain though, that’s a whole other level of stupid.

        1. Women are allowed to stick a knife in the hammer holder’s back when he or she least expects it. Often a whisper rumor knife, but there are other sorts. Facts are optional, but plausible is necessary.

          However, this only is allowed for women who can play the game of fitting in. It doesn’t work for the nail-sticking-out type. It also works better for the woman who can hang onto her grudge for years to get her revenge.

          Now you know it’s the receptionist in the office who is going to screw up First Contact by insinuating that the linguist who declined dating her in high school is sleeping with the boss’s fiance, thereby starting an interstellar war!

          1. I’ve seen that show too. Hospitals are the absolute worst for this. Its unbelievable. I suspect patients sometimes die from nurses using the patient to knife each other.

          2. That is an excellent story idea. It reminds me of the one Alan Dean Foster wrote in the 70s where the aliens postponed a ceremony to catch the latest episode of their favorite show.

  8. Brad, your remarks reminded me of an incident that happened in my high school English class. Appropriate, given the tone of the OP.

    My senior English teacher was pretty much the top dog in the school as far as rigor and high academic standards, while the woman who was the head librarian was something of a termagant. One day one of the guys in the class noticed the English teacher had been pleasant in some sort of dealing with the librarian when he didn’t have to be. So the student asked the teacher, in class, why he had been so nice. The teacher grinned and said “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

    That has stayed with me for decades as a good rule of thumb when dealing with difficult people, something I have to do in my job pretty much every day.

      1. There’s a reason that Scott Adams (of “Dilbert” fame) long ago moved the hyphen, leaving him with “cow-orkers.” Privately grinning at that construction is probably the only thing that saved my job a couple of times.

    1. “You catch more flies with honey, than with vinegar.” This is a truism which has stayed with me for decades, too. Occasionally, principle demands that we not be nice. Once in a blue moon you really do have to bring your pimp hand to a situation. But these occurrences are rare. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they should be rare. Deliberately. Because constant stick — versus carrot — is exhausting for all parties involved. And contributes to the corrosion of civility in an already civilly-strained society.

      1. I’ve had people who were yelling at me at the start of a conversation end that conversation by apologizing. Constant courtesy works in some situations. (Of course, that assumes the person has a modicum of empathy to start with; narcissists and sociopaths don’t really care.)

        1. narcissists and sociopaths don’t really care.

          It’s the rise of the functionally sociopathic narcissist which creeps me out the most. Our publishing world especially seems to have a surfeit of such. Or, at least, SF/F publishing seems to have attracted more than its fair share of such unsavory folk. They are experts at crafting cults of personality, and desire — above fame and money — the power to influence.

    2. Something that my wife and I both do is make it a special point to be nice to hateful people. It’s has less to do with catching more flies with honey than vinegar and more knowing they find it highly annoying.

      1. That was the ONLY thing that allowed me to keep my sanity in the years that I worked retail customer service. Watching a jerk get even more upset because they couldn’t rattle me and I stayed polite and–if the situation warranted it–as sugary sweet as my years living in the South had taught me never fail to set someone’s teeth on edge…

      2. Yes, which can be a lot of fun in and of itself. Then there’s also the verse from Proverbs about a soft answer turning away wrath.

  9. I’ve gotten a sense over the past few years that people forget one of the reasons for “manners” in any society is to provide a framework of situational behavior. When you meet X type of person, you do a,b, and c. N type person in a social situation? Do i. If you are passing on the street, you do not have to acknowledge X, N, or D, but nodding to P and M is considered appropriate. Yes, these were ideals, and yes, they were convoluted in some ways, but it gave people without people-reading-wiring a very good way to learn how to interact.

    1. I’ve heard the theory that manners become more important as the population density increases (see Japan.) Not manners as a whole: detailed, involved mannerly structures. Makes sense to me.

  10. Given the number of people in my state (Texas) who are likely to be armed, I’ve been more mindful of late of the old saying that an armed society is a polite society and try to act accordingly.

    1. I’ve been accused of having a romantic’s view of the past, when men would duel over disagreements. What people forget is that there was often a long, protracted path leading up to those duels, during which one or both parties had ample opportunities to honorably settle the dispute — without one side or the other having to cough up his dignity.

      Being an insta-dick all the time was a good way to shorten the path, and wind up with a lead ball flying between your ribs.

      1. One of the things they did in the musical Hamilton was to have a song that went through the dueling procedure, because duels are so critical to the history of that particular Founding Father. It specifically mentions the multiple points at which a duel can be called off, starting with a simple apology and going through the various stages of mediation, right up to the moments before taking arms.

        What the song *doesn’t* mention is that most duels were not supposed to be to the death. They were, instead, a way of showing that you weren’t afraid to stand up in front of someone who could potentially shoot you, and a lot of duelists deliberately shot wide. It was considered very bad form to have dueling pistols with accuracy aids such as sights. (One of the reasons that Aaron Burr was vilified in the time after shooting Alexander Hamilton is that he was a noted good shot who had been observed doing target practice in the time leading up to the duel.)

        But it was very formal, and very structured, and persisted for quite some time after it was made illegal because there wasn’t a ready replacement.

  11. I suspect a big part of the problem is that she is, in fact, pretending to be nice. At a guess, she is not hugely popular with children and dogs, who can spot a phony in 15 seconds. If you have to pretend to be nice, if you have to pretend to listen to and care about people……YOU have the issue, not the people you are pretending to be nice to. No one is nice 100% of the time (well, almost no one). But this person sounds like a real piece of work, to be avoided at all costs. Especially as it seems she says one thing to you, and another to other people when you are not around.

  12. Socializing is a learned skill for the otherwise introverted and contemplative … but I think you have to start by being observant, and having the internal set of rules that TxRed mentioned … then building on it. It gets easier and more convincing with practice.

    1. Yeah, and if you are so reclusive that a once a week outing is challenging, you’ve made the learning process very difficult. Yeah, a relevant impairment can limit the amount of exposure you can learn from before you need to recharge, but you are still hurting yourself. Especially if you get much less out of each hour of practice.

      The world is not made out of problems solvable by a single person. Multi person problem solving is tremendously useful, so useful that the great costs of social interaction are more than offset.

  13. You know, this poor kid is suffering from [a lot of things, but right now] a lack of appropriate role models. You see it in the article: she came in, looked at what her peers were doing, and promptly tried to become an agglomeration of the successful traits in her peers.

    She missed four points.
    1. The reason for behaviours (being respectful and interested in people, and wanting to help others get ahead) can be as critical as the behaviours themselves. When I offered the use of a pickup to a coworker who was moving, the important behaviour to model isn’t “acquire a pickup and offer it out to coworkers.” The important behaviour is “be interested in helping other succeed, and offer time and help to make their lives much better.”

    2. Modelling solely after your peers will only help you fit in. It will not help you get ahead or succeed; for that, you need to model the attitudes and behaviours of people who are and have succeeded. She’s finding that now, after a few years: all her misdirected effort has only managed to place her in the middle of the herd, unremarked and unremarkable.

    Perhaps she should have paid more attention to the authors she wanted to become – to Margaret Atwood, who was not drinking everything in sight, but instead seeking out people and finding something to compliment about them. Or to her editor, instead of the other interns.

    3. Life rarely consists of either/or propositions, especially on social behaviours. There is a wide range between withdrawn and drunken social butterfly. Her choices are not imitating the worst excesses of introversion, or the constant strain of maintaining the persona she first put on when she was younger and bubblier. There’s an entire range inbetween, called “growing up”, and “maturing”. These options include, as Brad mentioned, taking mental health breaks. They also include looking at what persona you have crafted, and how you want to change that, and making deliberate effort to change.

    4. Most of adulthood consists of knowing what needs to be done, and then doing it whether or not you want to. That includes being nice to people you work with. If she thinks she has it bad now, just wait until she hits thirty, and adulthood starts including not eating dessert, and exercising consistently – not for vanity, but to retain physical ability.

    1. Complete tangent: I look at your fourth point, about how you have to exercise consistently in order to retain physical ability, and think something along the lines of “I’m over thirty, and I don’t exercise consistently, and I still have physical ability—I walk everywhere!” And then I have to mentally smack myself in the head. I miss the obvious sometimes.

      1. Eh, it got pounded into me when I had to relearn how to walk in my twenties. So I learned it earlier than most folks, and straight from the physical therapist’s mouth, instead of the slow dawning realization most folks get.

        Keep walking! Enjoy those knees while you got ’em!

        1. Oh, I do. My husband screwed up his knees in high school (short version: knees on too tight and doing cross country wore holes in the cartilage.) We are keeping an eye on the kids to know whose knee setup they inherited, in case any of them want to go into sports.

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