Sunday, March 2, 2008

On being nice.

I worked pretty hard on that last post to make it about marketing decisions—how much troupes charge for shows—and not whether a troupe is worth seeing or not. Still, since I put it up, a question has poked at me: “What if someone who’s been improvising a couple of years happens to read it and gets pissed off because I said I don’t want to pay $10 to see their show?”

Being opinionated and vocal
and hating it when people are mad at me…not always a great personality combo meal. But after ranting about unsolicited feedback, it gets me to question two: “Who the hell do I think I am to say stuff like this?” (Also: I am conflicted about blogging in general.)

Jill Bernard, who is wise, has added a couple of thought-provoking pieces (here and here) to her collection of smart essays. Though she’s talking to the people on the receiving end of opinions, it got me thinking these things:
  • I’m just a person with opinions—I’m not responsible for how people react to them. 
  • On the other hand, I’m going to stick with my online rule of trying to talk only about principles and philosophies and not about people or personal stuff.
So that’s online. What about in person? Within troupes—or between friends? (First of all, I’m not about to lie and claim to never say mean things.) 

I’m thinking lately that in my little corner of the improv world, there's often a freaky politeness thing happening. Kindness is good but over-politeness can be destructive—and do horrible things to the accuracy level of one's self-awareness. For the sake of this ramble, I’m defining them this way:
  • Kindness is being thoughtful of people’s feelings—actually being nice.
  • Over-politeness is protecting people’s feelings—so pretending to be nice. 
Kindness is generous and empathetic. Over-politeness can be selfish and fearful. Kindness is discreetly telling someone her skirt is tucked into the back of her pantyhose; over-politeness is keeping your mouth shut so she won’t be embarrassed. (My friend Cassie calls these "food-in-your-teeth conversations.")

One of my favorite parts in the growth of a troupe is getting to the point that you no longer have to be overly polite. You can say what you think without worrying your team won’t like you. You can do anything on stage without fear you’ll be rejected. You can express ideas without wondering if people are only agreeing to be nice. It’s the sign you really trust each other, and it feels really, really good. 

(Tantrum is most of the way there, I think. Unless they really hated my chili.)


  1. “Who the hell do I think I am to say stuff like this?”

    You're a legend.

  2. Save the funny for the stage. You may need it someday.


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