Monday, June 20, 2011

The Not So Nice Side of Nice

While it is neither a male nor female issue, many people struggle with being too nice. We don't want to offend, we don't want to be scolded, we want to be liked by everyone, even if we don't actually like them.

I often struggle with this niceness thing, often finding myself acting in ways that go against my better judgment and treating strangers or people I don't particularly care for better than the people that I really, really do.

For example: I've often given ridiculously thought out gifts to people I barely knew when I've come to an agreement with my true friends that we don't really need to do gifts. Why? Because I wanted this new, untested, not really a friend yet person to like the really nice, incredibly thoughtful gift giving me. And once you're my friend, I won't have to give you gifts anymore. Yikes! This leads me to my first point about being nice...

Being nice can be manipulative. Whether it's to make oneself so meek to avoid being dealt with honestly or to "nicey-nice" someone into getting your way, nice is not so nice. Nice doesn't acknowledge boundaries, those of others, or those that should be understood about oneself. Nice does too much, but never feels like it has done enough. Nice is exhausting!

In the book, "The Nice Factor: The Art of Saying No," the authors describe the word nice as a "weak modifier." And it's true. Nice is not usually a way you want to be described. "That's nice," usually means it isn't. If someone says he's a nice guy, it usually means his other attributes aren't noteworthy. If someone says my dress looks nice, I usually change.

In describing a person, nice is now more commonly thought of as someone who is passive, submissive, mild, or as a past mentor put it "nice" is uptight and out of sight. Nice doesn't know how to say no. Nice doesn't have a voice, even when it comes to a cause that nice cares about because it might offend someone. When I imagine someone who is "nice," I tend to see a person with their feet side-by-side, sensible shoes on beige carpet, hands clasped, lips sealed and big eyes waiting for outside approval to say "Yes, congratulations. You're nice."

Say NO to NICE!!!

What's more important is for us to be kind. Kind is specific. It thinks of others and it is active. When I think of someone who is kind, I imagine them doing something to ease the suffering of another. I see them aware of their abilities and compassion and sharing that with the world. That kind person seems strong, capable, focused. There are accomplishments in their past, decisions they've made that have earned them this description. Kindness doesn't want for the acknowledgement of others. It just is.

Kind knows itself and doesn't need to keep proving itself again and again. Kindness pairs well with other traits like assertive, sexy, courageous, wacky, funny. Nice has to be constantly on guard, not letting down its facade, agreeing to everything to prove how nice it is. Nice doesn't want to impose, oppose or offend. Nice is self-serving, kind is selfless.

Kind is how you are, nice is how you think you have to be. If you're kind, you don't have to be nice. Instead, you can be a lot of other things, wonderful things, interesting things, strong things.

Above image from:


  1. I LOVE this post! It's the truth!

  2. This is such an important lesson for all women, as I think sometimes we get scared into being nice, and can lose our true selves trying to be "a weak modifier."

  3. Wonderful post...I struggle with being too nice myself but am very aware that it isn't how I want to be. Your last paragraph is beautifully put.

  4. Thank you Colleen and best of luck with being mysteriously and courageously kind! *wink*

  5. Gosh, I'm struggling with niceness just now, my postman keeps commenting on everything he delivers to our house and I find it such a breach of my privacy but just don't know how to approach this with him - I don't want to feel awkward every time I open the door to him - yes sometimes I hate being too nice.

  6. Hmmm... Not sure how to handle that as in the States, we rarely see our postman. Can you choose to avoid him and have him just deliver the mail? Maybe his only way to find conversation is to comment on your mail, and if you're not available for discussion, he'll get the hint to stop snooping. His job is to deliver the mail, not entertain the residents or filter their deliveries, so you'd only be encouraging his professionalism (and expediting others mail delivery) by letting him do just that.