No More Mr. Nice Guy

Antonin Pribetic, The Trial Warriortwitted about an article on Social Validation and what it means for social media marketers.  The lede said:

Psychology Today published a September 2009 piece titled The Theory of Social Validation, which boils down to the fact that “you’re not great until someone says you are.”

I had a flashback to Adrianos Facchetti  writing for the nattily named Blog for Profit, vehicle of a lawyer disbarred for raiding an infants trust to teach other lawyers to be as successful as him.  Adrianos’ point was how he became acknowledged as an overnight expert because Google said he was.  This was part and parcel of what the marketers taught, to fabricate an existence, an expertise, and have others praise you for it.  And so you are.

It caused me to ponder my great failing for having neglected this lesson that others around me learned too well.  My failure to capitalize on search engine optimization, while others who stumbled into the blawgosphere minutes ago will appear higher on the Google page due to artful language and linking, was a clear indication of my failure to grasp the power of social media.  But it’s nothing compared to my failure to become an integral member of a tribe.

This was brought home by a comment from a fellow blogger, Scott Henson, the other day.  In a comment at best tangentially related to the post, Scott, better known by his blog name, Grits for Breakfast, wrote:

With respect, you’re a very smart person who has occasionally posted stupid things about others, particularly sweeping generalizations about young people based on snippets from blog posts, blasting anyone who thinks it’s the wrong approach telling them this is not the “Happysphere.” I largely agree with the point of this post, but perhaps you’re not the best messenger?

Putting aside his mixing of my posts about the Slackoisie with my posts about the Happysphere, I was surprised by Scott’s comment.  I emailed him after responding, asking if there was a particular reason why he chose to pick a fight with me.  I’ve got no beef with Scott, who has done yeoman’s work keeping tabs on Texas criminal law doings, even though he’s not a lawyer.   That he disagreed with my views on either the Slackoisie or the Happysphere was inconsequential. Plenty of people don’t see it, and that’s why I write about it.  Nor do I care about his characterizing my message as “stupid”, a reference to a line I had used in my post in a different context. 

It was the underlying message that disturbed me.  I would be a better messenger if only I was more of a team player.  Stick with the program, Greenfield, and stop telling the tribe that they aren’t wonderful.  As the blawgosphere ebbs and flows, many are young and new to the law and criminal justice.  Some bear the indicia of the Slackoisie, narcissism and entitlement, and most seek social validation, to be told they are “great”.  If only I fed them what they want to hear, they would love me in return.  Then they would willingly heed my message.

Why anyone cares what I think of them is beyond me.  Are they that fragile?  Who am I that anyone would give a hoot about my approval?  Or disapproval, for that matter?  As Mike Cernovich  recently wrote,

Until I have given you love or respect, you have no power over me.  I therefore care not what you say.  

I have no power over anyone in the blawgosphere.  If something I write hurts someone, its a product of their giving my words power over them.  I can’t hurt anyone beyond the power they attribute to me.  If what I write is “stupid”, as Scott says, then why would anyone feel badly about it?

So the answer, it appears, would be for me to embrace the Happysphere, write nice things about others on the team, or at least never speak ill of them.  When someone writes something particularly idiotic, find some positive spin to make them feel appreciated (Joe’s post spelled every word correctly, even the ones with more than two syllables), or at least give them the insipid “great post” no matter how worthless it is.  By doing so, I could ingratiate myself with other members of the tribe and bask in their warmth and comfort.

But this isn’t why I’m here. 

If there’s any legacy I hope to see as an offshoot of my posts, it’s that I was always an honest broker.  I wrote the truth as I saw it.  I called them as I see them.  For better or worse, I wrote what I thought.  Not that I was necessarily right, but that I never spun to curry favor or appease the tribe.  Marketers call this “being genuine.” They wouldn’t know genuine if it bit them in the ass.  Genuine is when you’re willing to have your natural allies call you stupid because you won’t stick with the program. 

I can’t tell you how many opportunities I’ve missed to gain the adoration of others on the internet.  From young lawyers, to bar association “leaders”, to those maligned by the criminal justice system.  I’m constantly tested to show them approval, what one law student told me was “respect” when she demanded that I acknowledge her worthiness.  It would be so easy to blow smoke up a multitude of butts, and I’ve no doubt that my show of deep approval for them would return to me in spades.  What’s so hard about telling people that they’re great, even if they aren’t?  It would make them feel very happy, like when you say “good job” to three year olds.  The smile on their faces could light up a room. What’s wrong with that?

It’s just not true.  And they aren’t three years old anymore.  Of course, if you don’t make others happy, they won’t tell you how great you are.  And that’s what social validation is all about.

There is no doubt in my mind that I could be much nicer to others, more agreeable to the tribe and stop writing things that don’t comport with the party line.  But if I did, I would disappoint myself and fail to be the honest broker I hope to be.  No matter what anyone wrote about me on the internet, I would not be “great”.

13 thoughts on “No More Mr. Nice Guy

  1. Jayne

    Great post! As in… it’s great fun to watch you jab at marketers and social media hype-types, being myself a legal marketer for over 15 years. No problem here. I have no illusions about my profession: Ever hear of a true marketing emergency? Nah.

    Question is; why, in your mind, is the act of being nice or community minded dishonest? After taking the time to read a blog post and if one truly agrees with a point or two, is it dishonest not to say so? Yes.

    Why can’t nice people who use the tools of the Internet be honest brokers? Some people are “nice” you know. While it’s not my life’s goal to be “nice,” (I’d probably make more money if I was tough and cranky, right?), but deep down honest, I’m nice. Sometimes that’s a handicap, but I can’t help it if I want to be an honest broker. Sure, some people are nice because their objective is to manipulate, sadly that may be the only honest broker they have in them.

    Along those lines there are definite personality types that one sees repeatedly within professions no matter what part of the world you are in. It has to be that way. Certain personalities are drawn distinctly to specific professions. Certain psychological traits are helpful, too. Factor in the methods used to educate individuals seeking to belong to a particular profession and you can’t help but get repeated “types.” Marketers are often “nice” people by nature. That’s what they do. There’s an awful lot of collaboration involved in various aspects of the profession that requires a less aggressive, combative and argumentative approach than that of a lawyer. So, they are nice.

    I give you permission to hate marketers because I occasionally enjoy your crusty diatribes and even agree with them sometimes – because I’m nice? No, because its fun. I certainly don’t expect you to agree with me on anything because that would be dishonest to agree with a “nice” person, right?


    Adrianos? There’s an irrelevant name from the past. He’s from the school if “if you’re a lawyer less than 5 years, don’t put your date of graduation on your online bio.”

  3. SHG

    Do you praise the foolish, the insipid, the dangerous?  If you were to watch a young man about to mug an old woman, would you smile, wave and wish him best of luck? 

    The problem isn’t that you can’t be nice, but that everything in life, or on the internet, isn’t wonderful. Sometimes, things are wonderful.  Sometimes, they aren’t.  Sometimes, they are downright awful.  The honest person calls each as they are, even if it means that someone’s feelings will be hurt in the process because they haven’t received the social validation they seek.

    Are you nice enough to be honest?  Do you consider that when you deceive, even just equivocate, in the name of being nice, you aren’t being nice to those who may be misled? 

    When it comes to marketers, I, along with others, have some fundamental issues dealing with the honesty of selling lawyers like laundry detergent.  Marketers, by definition, don’t see it that way, for if they did, they wouldn’t be able to be marketers.  Are you being nice when you sell inexperienced, incompetent lawyers as if they were the next coming of Clarence Darrow?  Most marketers I know will respond, “Oh no, all my clients are the best lawyers in the whole, wide world.”  Is facile self-delusion the same as being nice? 

    As it turns out, I’m really a very nice person.  It’s just a matter of who I’m being nice to.

  4. SHG

    Yup, funny how themes repeat themselves.  But Adrianos served well, along with his enabler, Grant Griffiths, in clarifying one of the most cynical yet accurate points about honesty we’ve had the pleasure to address: The manufacture of a false and deceptive online persona for personal gain.

  5. Antonin I. Pribetic

    It comes as no surprise that that the aphorism “nice guys finish last” is not in the social media marketing lexicon. Social validation theory is the snake oil sales manual for persuading others to buy a product or service no one really “wants”, but everyone “needs”: spiking the brain’s serotonin levels with acceptance and love. “Jonesing to keep with the Joneses.”

    The same holds true for online lawyer marketing: “Get more clients! I have a proven method for instant credibility! As a former/disbarred/failed lawyer, I may not have had a lot of experience or clients, but I have a lot of confidence! You can trust me, I’m a trust agent.”

    I am bemused by the banality.

    In the spirit of sharing useless information; you likely know that it was Leo Durocher who is credited with the original quote: “Take a look at them. They’re all nice guys, but they’ll finish last. Nice guys. Finish last”. He was, however, referring to the opposing team and not about social Darwinism or dating tips for women. In the latter case, it was S. Desrochers, who debunked the myth that women prefer “bad boys”; namely that many “sensitive” men do not believe that women want “nice guys” due to their personal experiences. Durocher vs. Desrochers. Coincidence? I think not.

  6. Jayne Navarre

    Touche. I may be a marketing professional, but I haven’t checked my brain, soul, or ethics at the door.

    Fact is, every profession has its unethical actors, marketing, finance, medicine, and yes, even law; I hate it when that happens.

    Yeah, there’s a lot of potential for deception on the Internet but no more than off-line (think Drier, Rothstein, Stanford, Madoff, etc. etc.). Having said that, I concur that there’s something almost blinding about the authority of “print” that causes people to neglect their homework (“get stupid”). Sadly, it doesn’t take a genius to check out credentials. I don’t need anyone to tell me that you’re a pretty smart, knowledgeable attorney, (unless you and that legal marketer are making up all that stuff you post on your blog). Still, I’d search deeper before I’d pick up the phone. “Adrianos” may, in the attributed words of Abraham Lincoln, “… fool all the people some of the time, even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.”

    As to marketing lawyers like dish soap, well, I’d argue that there are some law firms that treat their associates and even partners like soap, so what’s the difference? Not my clients and not my approach.

    Perhaps your sample is different than mine, but I see and know marketers that have both self-respect and respect for the profession of law or whatever industry of focus. They don’t manipulate or skew the persona. Yes, it is their job to help their clients achieve the best possible position. They save attorneys time getting up to speed on their options. They offer guidance, counsel and technical expertise. The ethics and morals of any path are an important, no critical, choice. As mama always said, tell the truth, that way you don’t have to remember what you said.

    As to bad boys and nice guys, well, its not an either or option. They gotta have a both. (I’m sure you’re wife agrees!)


  7. Dan Hull

    “[B]ad boys and nice guys, well, its not an either or option. They gotta have a both…”

    Right now, you DON’T need both. Nice and not-nice are basic instincts anyway. They both surface when needed. Right now you need brutally honest–whether that is “nice” or not.

    The Ethos of Niceness in the legal profession specifically and in the Happysphere generally is making everything appear much easier than it is. The Slack (i.e., Teacups, Tubbies and older Looters) buy into that garbage already–and they are already trained to a very high level of lame.

    They are all very “nice”. And very expensive. They keep dumbing down all Work and Life. They threaten businesses and their customers and clients.

    My advice: Chuck Nice in the Happysphere for a few years. Dismantle the Happysphere. Make fun of it.

    Make it the Qualitysphere, the Honestsphere, the Competencesphere. “Nice” has just hurt; it continues to hurt.

  8. Dan Hull

    PS RE: the “community-minded” idea.

    That’s part of the problem. Digital Community Mindedness is the giddy music that lulls us into thinking that quality is: what another lame person tell us it is, anything that pops into our heads, “outside-the-box” (outside-the-box is often just a different form of stupid), easy, feels good, and above all done with our “friends”.

    “We will just have low standards along with other lames. In effect, we will ‘vote’ on what is good work and bad work. It will be more fun that way. It will feel ‘right’. We will hold hands and sing.”

    It is a world where there are no standards–and everyone gets a trophy for breathing.

    Everyone, please help to destroy that world.

  9. Ron Coleman

    It’s like Frank Burns said: It’s nice to be nice to the nice. Beyond that, kissing up has some limited social-networking / SEO payoff, but like most forms of blackmail — self-induced or otherwise — you never stop paying.

  10. SHG

    I remember him saying that to Hot Lips.  Made me want to wretch.  Hey, that could have been a formative moment for me.

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