Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Power of Nice

A friend and colleague and I had a bit of a public spat (in a faculty meeting) recently, after which I went to his office and, well, told him off. Then I later received an email from him of the sort I am always sorry I actually sent.

What to do? Counterattack? Let it escalate? That is, after all, what so many of us tenured college professors do.

But I felt bad. I was correct, I think, on all the issues, but it was really unfair of me to blow up; I should have communicated my mounting frustration sooner, before it led to an explosion. I spent much of the weekend angry with him, angry wih myself, and not sure what to do. And then I saw somewhere the title of a book: The Power of Nice.

Oh. Be nice.

I had already made an appointment to speak with him. So before going to work this morning, I stopped by my next-door neighbor's house. She buys great wine, and I bought a bottle from her, explaining the situation. She suggested putting the bottle in a gift bag. All she could find, however, was an enormous Oscar the Grouch (Sesame Street) bag. That's perfect! I realized.

I went home and made a "speech bubble" from white paper that said, "Me--Eric the Grouch--is very sorry for losing temper! Can I come out of can now?" (Oscar lives in a trash can.) I taped that to the bag. And put the gift bad in a brown paper bag.

So then I showed up for the meeting and told my friend I had brought a peace offering. I pulled out the oscar the Goruch bag. He had a great laugh, was delighted with the wine, and we had a warm and productive conversation.

This nice stuff works.

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