Be nice, until it’s time to be unkind

“You’re going to need friends.” That was the statement he told me when I approached a screaming man on stage at an outdoor concert I recently worked on. As I assessed the man, I assumed he was a few inches taller than me, and probably at least 20 pounds heavier, and he wasn’t fat. It was pretty obvious that he hung out at the gym, and although he was one of the loudest of the group I approached, he didn’t seem drunk like a lot of the others. He also looked military. A marine I soon learned. Big, fit, Marina shape, and understated. Neither of those were in my favor if the situation turned physical.

The man and the crowd were upset because it was almost 8:00 and the concert was supposed to have started an hour earlier. The wind and rain had swept and drenched everyone and everything. It was wet and cold, and I had to deal with people who were soaking wet, cold, drunk and unhappy that the show hadn’t started. Also, it was beginning to look like the show would be canceled entirely. But we hadn’t been told anything official to job security, so I had nothing to say to the crowd (the concert was canceled shortly after my interaction with the Marine at the beginning of this article due to equipment damage and a worse downpour and lightning approaching). .)

He had several answers with which he could have responded to the comment that he was going to need friends. I could have puffed up my chest and told the boy that I didn’t need friends for people like him. That might have been true, it might not have been. Like I said, he was big and fit, and after talking to him a bit, I’m pretty sure he’d smashed some heads in his day. Sure, me too, but they didn’t pay me to see how tough I am. I was paid to keep the peace. My job was to keep people safe, ensure the rules were followed, keep the band and equipment from harm (sorry I couldn’t control the weather), and protect the interests of the promoter and host of the event. So I think of Dalton’s preached response to Patrick Swayze in the classic 1989 movie “Road House.” Dalton told the gorillas, “Be nice.” There’s a lot of truth to Swayze’s statement, and the advice to “Be nice until it’s time to be unkind” has served me well in many situations, including the other night.

My immediate response to his statement that he needed friends was to smile, put my hand on his shoulder in a friendly way, and say, “Why do I need more friends? You’re my friend, right?” We started talking and things were fine. I had the same conversation with several others that night. Being nice really works. It really is the key to keeping the peace, and that’s your job when you’re working security or jumping. Fights and physical contact with people should be the last resort. The chance of someone getting hurt, property being damaged, and lawsuits being filed increases when things get physical. Yes, sometimes it is necessary. That’s why it’s 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 in addition to your martial training in physically controlling people, it’s crucial to also study communication and how to effectively deal with people without getting physical, and the first key is to be kind.

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