by Colleen Wainwright | The Communicatrix
How to get people to pay attention to you (Part 6)
None of it works—and neither will you—unless you’re nice.
Imagine meeting the most striking person in the world.
She is gorgeous, brilliant, fit, and insanely capable. He is witty, strong, handsome, and 100% fearless. Each of them (I’ll let you pick your preference) is unattached, and—holy bananas!—is madly attracted to you. And you, of course, are madly attracted to them. You start planning your life together. You imagine all the amazing things you will see, taste, and accomplish together. The world is your collective oyster! And then you see her—or him, you know, depending—kick a dog, yell at a waiter, and make a toddler cry.
Now how do you feel about spending your life together?
Niceness: the other all-things-being-equal rule
If you’ve been following this series closely, you’ll doubtless recall something I pointed to in the very first installment. That thing is the “all-things-being-equal” rule, and what it boils down to is that skills come first and mean the most: more than formatting your résumé a particular way, more than having a Fabulous Marketing Plan, more than anything else.
Except being nice.
Bob Burg—who is kinda-sorta-exactly THE guy when it comes to networking your way to success—puts it this way:
All things being equal, people will do business with and refer business to those people they know, like and trust.
If we run that through the Actor Filter™, it basically translates thusly:
The most wonderful and well-known actor in the world won’t do as well as the most wonderful and well-known actor who is not an a**hole.
But isn’t being nice for suckers?
Yes, occasionally jackasses get ahead. In fact, you see it all the time.
What you don’t see, however, is when they don’t.
I’ve sat in ad agency conference rooms, witnessing the fate of actors with a whiff of jackass about them, and trust me: they do not get hired. Completely by accident, as I related in that story I linked to before (which you have read, of course), I witnessed karma looping back around in the form of one troublesome actor’s poolout in a three-spot campaign “coincidentally” getting dumped while one less troublesome actor’s spot got double the airplay and paid her rent for a year.
Just think of your own life: if you have two people almost equally qualified for a job, only one is a delight to be around and the other makes your teeth hurt, who are you going to hire again? Mr. Nice Plumber or Mr. Hostile Plumber? Ms. Sweet Nail Technician or Ms. Bitch-on-Wheels?
Or just think about whom you enjoy inviting into your home: your fun friend or your mean cousin whom you see only under parental duress? A working set is like a home, and its cast and crew like an extended family, especially when you’re starting out. They may put up with Hateful Glue-Sniffing Star because mom and dad over at the network make them, but no way is a jerky day-player getting asked back.
Being nice, 101
Hopefully, your own parents raised you to understand both the main point and finer details of being nice. But if you’re ever in doubt, the Golden Rule (i.e., “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you”) comes in handy. Before you snap at someone, think of whether you’d enjoy being snapped at. When you screw up and do it anyway (it happens), think of what you’d want someone else to do if they’d screwed up. And then apologize.
Nice is putting other people before yourself. Nice is doing good for your fellow actor, or at least not gossiping about them or indulging in other schadenfreude-tinged activities. Nice is not a surface thing, done to reap rewards or make yourself look good; nice is a mode of operation that makes the world—your world, like everyone else’s—a better place to live in.
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BOOK(s) OF THE MONTH: With multiple demands on your attention (not to mention the stress of family gatherings, crowded stores, and Mass Holiday Fever), this time of the year can be tricky for reading. My suggestion is not to stop, but to adapt: enjoy a collection of engrossing (no pun intended!) interviews with actors and other artists; pick up a book of short stories; or re-read an old inspiring or engrossing favorite you haven’t picked up in a while. Just don’t give up—reading makes you smarter and keeps you saner!
Want more ideas? Sign up for my (free) newsletter! Almost every month I send out useful (and specific, and nice) information about how to promote yourself without being a tool, and connect with people in a way that makes them love you. It’s not about acting explicitly, but since you’re a smart actor, that shouldn’t scare you.
Colleen Wainwright is a writer–speaker-layabout who started calling herself “the communicatrix” when she hit three hyphens. She spent a decade writing commercials and another decade acting in them for cash money. Now she uses her powers for good instead of evil by helping creatives learn how to strut their stuff in a way that makes the world fall madly in love with them.