Be Nice

There’s a lot of talk about sexism in tech. For the most part I shut it out, even the sincerest stories tend to irritate me. But I think that’s to do with my own feelings on the subject – particularly, that I don’t really know what they are.

Having taken a brief moment to consider it, here’s my position (Spoiler alert: this applies to a lot more than just sexism in tech): be nice.

That’s all I wanted to write on the subject. Two words. But people love rules. Or rather, people love to find the exceptions and loopholes that rules beget. So I wrote some other words.

Simple as it sounds, there’s thought required in being nice. You can’t do or say whatever you want nicely and call it okay. As they say, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Take for example the phrase “You’d look so pretty without makeup.” I think we can agree that at face value it looks like a compliment, but the reality is that most of the time it’s going to come across as a [adjective] pick-up line. There’s a time and place for that (depending on the adjective you chose), but hopefully we can agree that at a conference isn’t typically the time or place.

So think first. We all have good and bad brain days, but take a moment to think first. Be genuinely formal. As you get to know whom you’re conversing with, you should be able to judge how casual you can safely become.

When you’re at a public event, also take into mind that setting. You and your friend my be perfectly okay with edgy jokes and cursing, but are other people around? Be mindful that what you say could be overheard and reflect badly on you/your company/the event itself. Likely the event has a code of conduct, or the organizers are actually counting on decency from the attendees.

If you think you might have offended someone accidentally (sorry that we live a world where this happens), apologize. Maybe you didn’t offend, or maybe you can make an adjustment.

If you have been offended, give the offender the benefit of the doubt (sometimes there’s no doubt, in which case you may need to report the incident). Maybe they’re having a bad brain day, and you can politely let them know that what’s been said could be taken the wrong way. I’d bet that most of the time, you can resolve the situation and both be better for it.

So let’s all just make an awesome effort to be nice, sound good?

Here are a couple catch phrases I wanted to work in but didn’t:

  • Free speech allows us to be rude, but human decency begs we that we aren’t
  • Hold yourself to a higher standard than the minimum the rules allow for

I’m really not looking for an argument or debate here. My point of view is ‘be nice’ and if that bothers you… well… I don’t know what to do about that. Sure, maybe you don’t agree with some of my more specific points. That’s okay. Most of us here are perfectly capable of making judgment calls which is a requirement when dealing with people. I just hope that if you have the opportunity to be nice when others might not, you go for it :)

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