Such a Nice Girl

Whatever happened to her?

“Is that what you want on your tombstone? Here lies Cassie, she was NICE?” L.J. Smith “The Secret Circle”

I know all about being “the nice one.”

Leaving college with an English degree at a less-than-opportune time economically meant my job choices weren’t ideal. I spent about a year (and a miserable holiday season) working at a Best Buy, a mostly thankless job where I was occasionally praised for my attention to customers.

I moved on to a job with the online sales division of a local camera shop. It mostly consisted of listing products online, double checking information, cleaning and photographing incoming items, that sort of thing.

But every now and then, we screwed up. Big time. A flaw in our database would relist items we’d already sold on ebay. We’d have to contact a customer and tell them that, oops, sorry, that thing you were just willing to give us a lot of money for doesn’t actually exist.

Beyond that, sometimes we had customers who were just angry. Maybe over a shipping charge, maybe over receiving something and disagreeing with our definition of “small scratch,” whatever. We would get a number of unhappy people calling us.

It was during my second month there when my supervisor said to someone else “If he’s mad, give him to Ashly. She’s the nice one.”

For awhile I took some pride in this, it was recognized that I had a skill with talking to customers! I did something well! Praise! Hooray! And it was true that I had better luck than most other people I worked with when it came to talking down an angry customer and trying to figure out what we would be able to do to solve a problem.

I ran with this label. I would mention it in interviews, “I was called ‘the nice one’ because of my skill with handling angry customers.” I thought it was nice to have a skill I could cite that people deemed profitable, unlike that whole “writing” thing which, as we all know, is a frivolous talent you don’t have to pay for when people will do it for free/experience. Who needs a writer, I need someone Good at Customer Service!

It wasn’t until my current job where I realized what people really meant by “the nice one.” It wasn’t praise because I had a way with words and the ability to stay calm under pressure.

It was recognition that I was willing to take abuse.

People didn’t think it was impressive that I found ways to sound empathetic to a customer’s issue. They didn’t see value in calm but effective debate and citing of policy. It wasn’t about being able to read people, come up with an appropriate response, match tone, any of the things that I actually do when dealing with a difficult client or customer or parent or student.

No. It was “wow, she will let people scream at her for a long time without fighting back.”

And lemme tell you, when you’re still dealing with emotional and mental damage from a history of emotional and mental abuse? That is not really a good thing to realize.

But even better: once people figure out you’ll put up with it, they’ll just keep making you take it. It gets harder and harder to stand up for yourself because they can hold it against you. “Wow, you’re usually so NICE, what happened?” Why can’t you be NICE? Why can’t you just take the shit getting thrown at you, you did it up until now, what changed? What makes you think you suddenly have the right to scream back?

You keep it up, it’s going to destroy you.

So you stop being nice. You stop taking it. You start snapping back, you refuse to “be the bigger person” all the time. You realize other people aren’t playing fair because they’ve decided what’s fair is what makes them feel okay, no matter how it impacts anyone else.

Just…fuck being nice.

Seriously. Fuck it.

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