Be Nice, Until It’s Time To Not Be Nice

“You’re going to need friends.”  That was the statement said to me as I walked up to a man shouting at the stage of an outdoor concert I recently worked.  As I sized the man up, I guessed he was a few inches taller than me, and probably outweighed me by at least 20 pounds, and he wasn’t fat.  It was pretty obvious he spent time in the gym, and even though he was one of the loudest in the group I was approaching, he didn’t appear intoxicated like many of the others.  He also looked military.  A Marine I soon learned.  Big, in shape, former Marine, and sober.  None of those were in my favor if the situation turned physical.

The man and crowd were upset because it was nearing 8:00 and the concert was supposed to have started an hour earlier.  Wind and rain had swept in and soaked everyone and everything.  I was wet and cold, and had to deal with people who were wet, cold, drunk, and unhappy that the show hadn’t started.  Additionally, it was beginning to look like the show would be cancelled entirely.  But no official word had been told to us working security, so I had nothing to tell the crowd  (The concert was cancelled shortly after my interaction with the Marine at the beginning of this article because of equipment damage and a worse downpour and lightening moving in.)

I had several responses I could have replied with to the comment that I was going to need friends.  I could have puffed up my chest and told the guy I didn’t need friends for the likes of him.  That might have been true, it might not have.  As I stated, he was big and in shape, and after I talked with him a bit, I’m pretty sure he’d smashed a few heads in his day.  Sure, so have I, but I wasn’t getting paid to see how tough I am.  I was getting paid to keep the peace.  My job was to keep people safe, ensure rules were followed, keep the band and equipment from being harmed (sorry I couldn’t control the weather), and protect the interests of the promoter and event host.  So I chose the response that Patrick Swayze’s Dalton preached in the classic 1989 barroom bouncer movie “Road House.”  Dalton told the bouncers, “Be nice.”  Swayze’s statement has a lot of truth in it, and the advice to “Be nice until it’s time to not be nice” has served me well in many situations, including the other night.

My immediate response to his statement that I needed friends was to smile, put my hand on his shoulder in a friendly way, and tell him, “Why do I need more friends, you’re my friend, right?”  We started to talk and things were fine.  I had the same conversation with several others that night.  Being nice really does work.  It really is the key to keeping the peace, and that’s your job when you are working security or bouncing.  Fighting and getting physical with people should be a last resort.  The potential for someone getting hurt, property being damaged, and lawsuits being filed, increases when things go physical.  Yes, sometimes it’s necessary.  That’s why it is also important to be trained in a variety of physical responses to handle those situations with the minimum amount of force needed to control the situation and end it quickly.  But besides your martial training to physically control people, it is crucial to also study communication and how to effectively deal with people without going physical, and the first key is Be Nice.