That was a nice visit! The food was nice! It’s nice being here with you! Be nice!
‘Nice’ – a most overused word and ineffectual, I think. When applied to a person, it is also highly nuanced and culture-subjective. What is your imagery of a ‘nice’ person?
Ever wondered why we are nice? When others think us nice and we feel a flutter of gladness? Why do we bask in this reflected image of ourselves?
Is it a coveted approval for having conformed to the societal (our family, within our culture, in our community) expectations to ‘turn the other cheek’, to be kind, to avoid conflict, to eschew disharmony…?
Sometimes, I don’t want to be nice, in the ways expected of me. Kind, yes. Respectful, yes. Compassionate, yes. Empathic, yes. Nice… maybe.
I grew up in a collectivist society which culture is to consider the impact or consequence of our words and behaviour on the collective before we speak or act. Being considerate, in my book, is a good thing, as this leads to greater relatedness and belonging. Research shows that an increase in relatedness leads to an increase in wellbeing. Yet there is a down side and that is when this consideration for others and how they may feel or do turns into self-consciousness, fear or a need for external approval or validation.
So there is a place for being considerate of others, and there is also a space for being for your self, being self-ish.
What happens when “being nice” becomes a mindless act, our default position, without conscious appreciation or assessment of merit?
What does nice even mean to you now? Do you know what you are being nice about? Do you know the consequences of your nice-ness? Does your nice-ness mask a reluctance to be assertive? A capitulation of your convictions so you won’t be in a place of ‘discomfort’ or ‘disharmony’? A belief that being assertive is unacceptable?
How do we rationalise our ‘nice-ness’? That it, whatever ‘it’ may be, doesn’t matter? That we can do without ‘it’? That ‘it’ has always been so? That we’ll be fine, no problem. And so we shift our ground, as standing our ground would be opinionated, stubborn, uncompromising, confrontational… It would be ‘not nice’ .
And it is here invariably we feel a dis-ease. We feel compromised, somehow cheated out of something… resentful and angry perhaps.
That was where I was, being asked to assist so someone else is not put in a difficult position, so another ‘someone else’ can continue with her manipulation. I went through the gamut of emotions – sympathy, desire to avoid confrontation or tension, fear, anger… and several rationalisations revolving around my perceived reactions of others if I didn’t act ‘nice’, my egoic view that I could do anything so why fight it, my desire to be adaptable and flexible, the guilt for seeming petty if I refused… then it hit me.
This conditioned response must cease. Taking a few mindful breaths, I still the tumultuous thoughts and emotions, so I could recognise my dis-ease. In that instant I saw myself – the young girl who rationalise away her desires, beliefs, in an attempt to please, to be ‘approved of’, to hide my voice.
Well, this time I didn’t. I figured, if I didn’t even know the purpose of why I am compelled to be ‘nice’ or the value in it, that it is not meaningful then I won’t. And it felt damn good! And if you are wondering, I didn’t raise my voice nor did I swear… just politely say ‘no’. See what ‘good girl’ I am? 😉
Be nice, but only when it is a deeply felt sense of being and a mindful act.