Being nice is nice. It’s nice to be agreeable in new situations. It’s nice to be polite to people you don’t know.
Except when it’s not. Except when you need to look out for yourself, or someone is being a creep, or smiling feels fake because it’s a serious situation. Enter kindness.
Nice and kind are distinct. Nice means likable, agreeable. Kindness means generous and good. You can be generous and good while leaving a conversation that wastes your time or makes you uncomfortable. Being generous and good starts with yourself – by being kind to yourself and honoring your integrity. Being good and generous to yourself is good and generous to other people. It feels good to be kind. It can be painful to be nice.
Three of Kara Anderson’s anti nice girl resolutions in Why I’m Done Being a ‘Nice Girl’ stand out:
I will not use words like “I’m sorry” to soften a harsh conversation or fill an uncomfortable silence. I will apologize when I am in the wrong and on no other occasion. I will not surrender my authority in the name of avoiding awkward situations or the hurt feelings of others. I will embrace discomfort and the failure of words.
Women tend to apologize for things which are not our fault. (see Bullish Life: How to Communicate with Chutzpah). I often hear “sorry, I didn’t know you wanted that” at work. Which means “sorry I couldn’t read your mind or predict the future.” Really? You did not commit a wrong.
I won’t take the easy way out of any social situation. If I’m on a date and there is the question of physicality I don’t want, I won’t let it happen just because saying nothing is easier than “making a scene.” I will stop it and tell him I’m not comfortable with where things are going. If it turns out to be an issue I will leave.
I went on a friend date (frate?) in which the guy wanted to dance and hold my hand, and I did not. But I didn’t say anything because I was afraid to be not-nice. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, which meant I was being unkind to mine. I couldn’t expect him to read my mind, but that’s what I wanted so I didn’t have to “make a scene.” Hopeless. You must stay what you want, kindly and firmly.
I will not wait for anything or anyone. I will pursue what I want with intelligence and passion. I will not hope a job or a new client materializes soon; I will create the opportunities I want most by pitching the people I want to work with most. (So if I pitch you in 2015, remember this piece!)
It’s scary to be vulnerable and proclaim far and wide that you’re going after what you want. But you will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Strive for what you want. Write your goals. Consider the steps to achieve them. Try, try, reassess, evaluate, try again.
To Kara’s list I add trying to impress people. It’s tiresome. It comes with a desperate sense of seeking approval and validation from others. It keeps you outside yourself because you’re concentrating on boasting about your accomplishments or being witty. Approve of and validate yourself instead by staying present in yourself and watching your behavior and integrity.
You know how you can tell when someone wants to impress you? They keep bringing up how important their work is or how crazy they were when they were younger. Snooze. No one enjoys being with someone desperate to make an impression.
(But don’t be inappropriate. Wearing the same makeup to an interview that you wore to a nightclub will give a weird impression. Dress and act in ways that let you fit your surroundings [if that’s your goal].)
Being nice sometimes sucks. Being kind never does. Do you try to be agreeable and likable? Instead be good and generous, thoughtful and honest, to yourself and (by default) to others.