The lesson for this week is brought to us by the actress, Tichina Arnold. You may remember her from the very popular 90s sitcom, Martin, as the feisty, yet funny, Pam. In recent times, you may remember her as the mother on the sitcom, Everybody Hates Chris, starring actor Terry Crews and produced by comedian, Chris Rock. At any rate, this week Arnold delivers a powerful message, what I have titled as, “The Importance of the Nice-Nasty.”
To understand why the nice-nasty is important, one must first know exactly how to define the nice-nasty. The nice-nasty, quite simply, is a way of responding to a negative situation, more specifically, a comment, which is equal parts nice and nasty. So you might be reading this and wondering why someone would even want to respond in this way. Well, I’m glad you asked. Here’s why. In life, people can be rude. Really rude. How many times have you had a co-worker or even a family member throw a casual verbal jab at you? In these moments, the person being jabbed is usually upset and wants to respond with a jab of his/her own. The problem is, if the person responds in kind, then the situation can be flipped to make the responder look like the initial aggressor.
As always, I have an example to illustrate this. I remember being in a staff meeting a few years ago with my co workers. On this particular team I was the youngest person, so I frequently got all of the baby comments and treated as such, as well. The person on our team who was most senior was always making these snarky comments towards me because she had been in education for the span of my entire life, and she took every opportunity to remind me of that. As I saw it, I only really had two advantages: One, even though she had worked for many more years than I had, she and I were hired for the same position as peers, which made us equals. Two, I had a graduate degree, and she had only completed undergrad, which is somewhat important in the field of Education. Additionally, I had experiences outside of the field of Education.
In this particular meeting, she and I disagreed on how to proceed with our project. In voicing her disagreement, she became so frustrated with me that she literally began yelling and cursing at me in front of the entire staff. I was livid to say the least. First, I was tired of her always picking on me because of my age. Secondly, I was angry that she was allowed to make such disrespectful and unprofessional comments without someone saying anything. I realized that I had had enough, so I decided to verbally confront her in the moment. Although I refrained from cursing, I did raise my voice. I felt that I had earned it based on how she acted, not only in this meeting but throughout the course of our experience working together. But she, a seasoned professional and an expert manipulator, pulled the ultimate bait and switch. She immediately began crying on cue and whimpered a glorious speech about how her entire heart was in her work and only wanted to do what was best for the team without the fear of being attacked for her passion. And even more to my surprise, it worked. She won the sympathy vote from the office, and I now appeared as the aggressor.
That incident was a defining moment for me because I learned that although I was right in my beliefs, I needed to improve my approach. Had I known then what I know now, I would not have responded by raising my voice; instead, I would have given her the greatest nice-nasty ever and proceeded with my day, winning. But I didn’t know. And my lack of knowledge and experience cost me. This is why the nice-nasty is important. It allows the person who uses it to address the situation at hand, while negating the other person’s power to play the victim card. As such, a person who uses the nice-nasty effectively is able to avoid looking angry or flustered, both of which are characteristics that would signal aggression to any audience members at the time of the incident(s).
If you are reading this, you may not understand how Tichina Arnold plays a role in this week’s lesson. Well, here’s how. A couple of weeks ago, the rapper known as French Montana posted this picture about Arnold to his Instagram account.
Like the aforementioned comments, those made by Mr. Montana were rude. Very rude. And for making such a comment, it would be quite normal for most people to respond in like manner, maybe to post an unflattering picture of Montana and throw additional verbal jabs. Mrs. Arnold, however, did no such thing. Instead, she hit him with quite possibly the best version of the nice-nasty since Claire Huxtable debuted it on the Cosby show. If you haven’t read her response, please see the following link: http://thegrio.com/2014/06/09/tichina-arnold-destroys-french-montana-in-instagram-caption/.
Let’s break down the elements of Mrs. Arnold’s response, and in doing so, the way to administer an effective version of the nice-nasty will become increasingly clear. In her response to Montana, Mrs. Arnold is nice in that she phrases her words as if she is genuinely concerned for Mr. Montana. She doesn’t post an unflattering or demeaning pic of him or anything of that sort. In fact, she doesn’t even outright insult him even though he clearly did that to her. Instead, she asks him what he does for a living and offers to help him advance in his career, citing her 30 plus years of experience as proof of both her longevity and credibility. In the same breath, however, she hits him with the nasty by pretending as if she doesn’t know what he does for a living. In truth, although she knows that French is a rapper, she also knows that he’s not really famous (a pseudo-celebrity) and is lacking in longevity and overall relvancy, two areas where she holds a clear advantage. Because she has created a name for herself, she uses those two things to hit him hard, all the while appearing to be just writing her post out of concern for him. There’s a snarky undertone to her entire post, but she doesn’t outright insult him so she can’t be labeled as aggressive or inappropriate. In the end, she delivers the ultimate death blow by suggesting that he join her team and possibly contribute to her charity work! Ouch! It was brutal, but it was packaged so neatly that she couldn’t be accused of being messy. Now that’s how you deliver a quality nice-nasty!
As I stated earlier, delivering the nice-nasty is a necessary tool for advancement. In climbing the ladder to success, someone is going to say (and possibly continue to say) inappropriate and rude comments to you. But you can’t respond with the same energy, or you will pay dire consequences and possibly be labeled as aggressive and rude, even in rightfully defending yourself. The opposite of this, just ignoring it and being a doormat, is an unattractive situation, as well. As such, in order to respond in a way that let’s the other person/people know that you’re not a doormat while not coming off as aggressive or defensive, you must perfect the art of the nice-nasty. When done right, it will make even the rudest person humble him/herself. Don’t believe me? Just ask French Montana.