There’s no getting around it; I was a massive teacher’s pet. At school it wasn’t just my mega nerd brain that helped me find favour with the faculty; I was a goody-two-shoes, a people-pleaser, a conflict-avoiding brown-noser who only ever got given detention once in her life, and was immediately sent home when she got there and the teacher said, “Chloe, what are you doing here?” When I look back on my childhood, I cringe at the thought of how basically everything I did was dripping in the desperation of, “Look at me! Look how good I’m being!” The thing is, though, people don’t really notice you for being good.
Well, actually, that’s a lie: you do get noticed for being a good girl…who can help the teacher out with the other children. You know, the naughty kids, the ones who really get the teacher’s attention, because they demand it with their sheer, utter defiance and terrible behaviour. That’s the kid you get paired up with for joint assignments, because they’ll benefit from your good influence. Never mind if that’s the best thing for your progress, or if it feels like a punishment for good behaviour, the teacher needs you to do them this solid and you, nice girl that you are, comply.
But it’s not just school; difficult people get the most attention in almost every area of life. The annoying ones on reality shows get the most screen time. Customers who kick up the most fuss tend to get the best refunds. When I worked in publishing, the meanest, most demanding authors on our list were the ones we spent the most time on, if only to appease them and stave off a rant. It’s not always the case, but it often goes best for those who demand more – and I’m starting to wonder if it’s time to say, “No more Ms. Nice Girl” and finally start getting my way.
Except, I can’t. It’s not in me to complain, to kick off, to participate in any kind of conflict even if it’s for my own benefit or for the good of all humankind. And, frankly, I don’t want to get my way if it means being manipulative or disruptive or aggressive or any other kind of “ive” that makes someone else’s day worse. I will never make it onto The Apprentice, and I’m completely fine with that (and, in my current jobs at a church, charity and Christian magazine, it’s highly unlikely that being nasty or selfish will get me very far anyway…)
So if it’s unfair that mean people get their way, and it’s not a game most of us are interested in playing, I say it’s time we change the rules. I say, let’s stop pandering to the rude, the abrasive, the people who say it loudest to ensure they’re heard. Don’t let that difficult customer wear you down, just so you can stop them arguing. Don’t listen to that bad friend who keeps moaning about anything and everything, including you. Don’t give in to requests from that family member who always gets their way, because it’s easier to get on with it than to get into it. Sure, good customer service, being helpful, loving others are all things we should do openly and willingly, but if you reward someone’s terrible behaviour they’re only going to carry on being terrible. Without consequences, their actions won’t change.
And let’s celebrate the nice guys and girls. Let’s champion those who are kind, and thoughtful, and who don’t make everything about them. Tell your friends that you appreciate the brilliant qualities they have. Give nice customers the extra special service. Go above and beyond for the people who go above and beyond for others. Difficult people are often going through difficult times, and we should absolutely address that and be kind no matter what, but let’s not let nice girls go unappreciated – because the world could certainly use more of them, even if it hasn’t noticed yet.
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti