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Maureen Anderson Headshot

How Do Nice People Get Any Work Done?

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One of the bartenders in the restaurant where I worked as a cocktail waitress was amused by my inability to talk for the sake of talking. He thought it was the most important thing we did. I agreed, but it was a struggle. There's nothing I love more than sparking conversation, few things I find more annoying than the same exchange repeated over and over.

The first few hundred times I heard servers wonder if it would get busy that night, I was okay. I'd wonder right along with them, and toss off some remark about the weather or homecoming or whatever might have an impact on the evening's business. After a while, though, I ran out of responses.

It took a while to lose patience with the same old, but eventually I did. "This table didn't tip me. I wonder if I'll get cut. I thought it would be busier tonight." Shut up already! One afternoon a server stood at the bar, wondering if we needed "better table tents in here" -- like that would help business. I just looked at him. Then I walked away. Which the bartender thought was hilarious, because he'd set the whole thing up.

I used to know a man who worked really long hours, and I wondered how he got anything accomplished -- given how patient he was with anyone and everyone who wanted to gab. Maybe that's why he worked such long hours! He'd engage people who stretched one or two bits of gossip into hours, literally hours, of, "Well, I suppose I should get going... " He'd smile at them and not once betray the twitchiness I felt when I was with him, how eager I was to jump in with, "Yes! Let's all get going and get on with our lives!"

But seriously. How do nice people get any work done?

Jerry Weintraub is the author of When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead. He's worked with Elvis and Sinatra, has headed a movie studio, and has been the go-to guy for getting more done in this world than you might believe. He amused me very much when he told a newspaper reporter something he learned from his father: "When you walk in to work, in the office, just say 'Good morning' and go to work. Whatever you do, don't say, 'How are you?' Because people will tell you -- and there goes half your day."