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Being "Nice" Isn't Always Nice.

Updated: Jan 11

I'd like to think that most people that know me would consider me a pretty nice person. Kindness is something I deeply value and try hard to embody and demonstrate in my life. The unfortunate truth is, however, that sometimes that desire to be perpetually "nice" can end up having some decidedly "not nice" consequences. It can even be skillfully used against you by those with selfish motives.

So what are some signs to watch for? How do you know when being nice may not be that nice after all?

1) When you find it impossible to say NO.

Nice people don't like disappointing others, or hurting their feelings. That is a good thing, unless it circles back and ends up trapping and hurting themselves, and sometimes inadvertently the very people they think they are protecting. For instance, you may agree to join a committee you don't really have time for, or go on a date with someone you aren't very interested in romantically, just to be nice. But is it nice though? If you neglect more important tasks and relationships to focus on ones you didn't even want to be part of? If you arrive in body only, and by doing so hold others back from connecting with people that actually want to be there? Saying no is often the greatest kindness you can offer to all involved. Manners matter of course, so be firm yet tactful when declining. Saying no has always been very difficult for me, so I tend to over explain at length, to soften the blow. I am finally learning though how unnecessary that is. Give a reason if you feel you should, but anyone who keeps pressuring you beyond that is being a bully and intensely disrespectful. No means No...whether the subject is physical, intellectual or emotional, and you have every right to say it, even when you're nice. Never forget that.

2) When it silences your personal truth.

Why do we usually laugh, even if we don't find a joke funny? It would be perfectly acceptable to sit there neutrally, but somehow we feel compelled to mold our responses to what we think those around us want to see and hear. This generally doesn't hurt anything if it's as simple as giggling politely at mediocre comedy. But what about when we are deeply afraid to speak openly about our spirituality, or sexuality or personal reality of any kind, because somebody might not approve? When we feel we must live, or think the way another wants us to, even if it's completely the opposite of what resonates with our own heart. But...if you care about someone, shouldn't you pretend and hide behind a mask, if necessary, in order to keep them from feeling sad? The answer to this is a resounding NO.

If you are embracing your personal truth, and living it out loud in love and kindness, YOU are not hurting anyone. If someone else CHOOSES to be hurt simply because you are not who they expected you to be, or because you are not the same as them, that is no fault of yours. You can be nice and be unique. You can be nice and be genuine. Even if not everyone "gets it," and even if someone gets very mad about it. Be real anyway, and bless the ones that need to witness your courage in order to find their own.

No one can truly, deeply know you if you are hiding the parts of yourself that you think they might not like. The truth is, they might not, and that's ok. Let them go without hostility. Make space for the ones who love you in authenticity. They are your people.

3) When it makes you afraid to speak words that need to be said.

If your child was playing in the street and a car was coming that they couldn't see, you wouldn't just sit there and say nothing to avoid interrupting their fun. No way! You'd shout as loud as you could until they heard you that danger was coming, so they could get out of the way. But what about when someone you love is an alcoholic, and engaging in self-destructive dangerous behavior? Is it more loving to ignore it and enable them, in order to keep the peace, or to bravely encourage them to get the help they need, even if it upsets them? I suppose that is up for debate, depending on the circumstances, but the point is that sometimes difficult topics ought to be addressed, regardless of discomfort. And just because someone reacts in anger, and accuses you of being rude for saying things they don't want to hear, it doesn't necessarily mean you actually were unkind. Another example - if an employee at your favorite restaurant treats you badly and you stop going there, you might not initially mention it to the manager, in an effort to be nice and not get the worker in trouble. It's not a big deal to just eat somewhere else from now on, right? But what if the owner is your close friend, and asks you point blank why you haven't been in for awhile? Is it nice to THEM to say nothing, when the employee could possibly be driving away other customers? Food for thought at least.

I'm not suggesting that you have to go out of your way to force your opinions into every situation. Some things are really none of your business, and I firmly believe in allowing everyone to live life their own way, without judgement. But when you are intimately involved or if asked directly, it is not mean to tell the truth. Your delivery has the potential to be nasty if you aren't cautious in your approach, but an honest expression of the facts, or your personal feelings, is not.

4) When it allows abuse to continue.

Abusers will often pressure victims into remaining silent, by convincing them that telling might hurt the feelings of other family members. Narcissists and gaslighters may accuse YOU of not being nice when you react perfectly rationally to their bad behavior. This can confuse good people into allowing abuse or impropriety to continue, or even sometimes into taking the blame for things they were never at fault for. Remember this - studies show that most abusers will go on to mistreat others if left unchecked. So speaking up, and bringing serious misdeeds out of the shadows, may protect a future victim from ever becoming one. Also remember - what you allow or don't allow is teaching others how you expect to be treated, and also teaching your children powerful lessons they will take with them into adulthood. Don't let anything happen to you, without responding apropriately, that you wouldn't want to see happen to them. If you are, or have been, the victim of abuse, do not blame yourself. I urge you to see a therapist, trained to deal specifically with these kinds of situations, that can help you find safety and healing. Don't forget to be gentle and kind to yourself too.

The common thread here is fear. Be courageous. Be warm, loving and kind. And yes, be nice. But only when nice really IS nice. It's important to learn the difference.

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