Monday, 18 July 2011

In which it's nice to be nice


In Sunday's final of The Apprentice, one golden message shone through. The nice guy actually won. It was a particularly glorious victory for Tom, as earlier in the show his inherent niceness had been highlighted as his biggest flaw. "You're a really nice guy, aren't you?" said Matthew Riley. "My wife is probably one of the nicest people you would ever meet, but would I go into business with her? Not on your nelly." Aside from the warm glow his wife has no doubt carried around with her ever since, it was a loaded statement.

WHY can't nice people succeed in business? At what point in life does niceness suddenly go from being the goal ('Do unto others,' 'don't kick little Timmy in the groin,' etc) to a massive obstacle that will keep us out of the shiniest offices and off the top of the pay ladder?

After all, it's nice to be nice. The clue's in the name. It's why nice biscuits and Nice in France and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence are all named after the concept. So when, and why, did niceness' stock plummet so badly? I believe we can blame the following:

Grease

It is a sad moment in one's advancing adulthood, the first moment you realise that Grease is morally corrupt. For years you are caught up in the sexy, fluffy, retro faux-adolescence of it all, and then as the darkening clouds of conscience move in overhead, one day you suddenly realise that the message is: if someone doesn't like you for who you are, you should change. Take up smoking, backcomb your hair to dangerous extremes and sew yourself into some gynaecologically threatening trousers. Then dance. Dance fool, dance.

Grease is the ultimate piece of anti-nice propaganda. Yes, it is also pro-fun and pro-singing in public, but that doesn't excuse its dubious conclusion. Grease 2 does exactly the same, it is worth noting, but with a boy instead, who must jump a motorcycle across a ravine before he can snog Michelle Pfeiffer.

Mr Nice

Howard Marks, aka Mr Nice, was a notorious Welsh drug smuggler with connections to the mafia. He wasn't literally Mr Nice, in the same way that Miss England is rarely the embodiment of all that is great about England. Remember the way Curly in Coronation Street actually had very straight hair? It's like that.

"He's too nice"


Popular culture likes to perpetuate the myth that women aren't attracted to nice men. This is sometimes true - if the nice man is also unattractive, has an odious personality or particularly pungent odour. We can also, it is fair to admit, be attracted to complete bastards. But mostly if the bastard is also handsome of face, charming of personality and smells like croissants mixed with fresh laundry. If, however, the man combines favourable appearance, personality and fragrance with being an utterly lovely human, they have basically won the lady lottery. This, I promise, is true.

Nice, boring people


Sadly, niceness and dullness do have a tendency to get confused. Ask yourself this: do I hear the teacher from Peanuts every time they talk? Have they never, in the five years I have known them, ever made me laugh? Do I sometimes forget what they look like and just see a hazy pink balloon where their face should be? If so, they are probably boring. They might also be nice, but one has little to do with the other.

But now, hopefully, nice is on the up again. We can all say 'oops-a-daisy', give lovely hugs and never push in front of anyone in a queue, ever, without fear that it will hamper our careers.

And that will be, well, nice.

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