Are You Nice?

Since answering Nat’s questions yesterday, I’m surprised that people aside from Nat seem to think I’m “nice”.  It’s not something I’ve ever aspired to. I don’t go out of my way to be mean or anything, but “nice” seems to require an effort I’m not always interesting in making. 

I’m not actually sure what “nice” really means. I’m not sure I know any genuinely “nice” people. I know people who are always smiling and solicitous and doing stuff for others, but then I hear them grumbling about ingratitude and being treated like doormats, so that doesn’t seem nice. Or there have been people who seem really nice and then I find out some really distasteful stuff about them and I can’t think of them as nice anymore. Maybe I’m just cynical (and not nice), but it seems to me that people who put on airs of niceness usually have a hidden agenda.

Anyway, I Googled “nice”. Here’s How to be Nice and why I never will be:

  1. Smile. A smile will let people know that you are pleasant and inviting. I can’t. I’m not pleasant and inviting. I smile at people I know and/or like and sometimes I smile at a stranger if he/she looks like they could use a smile. Otherwise I go through the world looking unpleasant and uninviting.
  2. Say hello. When you’re walking past someone, even a stranger, try to acknowledge their presence with simple “hello” or “hi” or even just a wave or a nod in their direction. No. I don’t think this is a good idea. Because then they’ll want to talk to you. It drives me crazy when I pass the same person in the hall at work 20 times a day and each time they feel they have to say hello or make some inane comment.
  3. Ask people how they are doing. Also not a good idea. I never know what to answer when people ask me that. I usually say, “okay” and then they go into a big, “Just okay? Come on… life is good..cheer up…Smile!”. Then I’m annoyed. So I try to remember to just say, “fine”. No one can argue with that. I try never to ask people how they are. For some reason they never say, “fine” when I ask. They tell me exactly how they are and it takes a long time and mostly I don’t care.
  4. Be a good listener. Listen when other people are talking to you. It isn’t nice to just ignore other peoples’ opinions and stories. Ha Ha. It takes up a lot of time in your life to listen to other people. If I’m out relaxing and doing nothing but talking to people, that’s fine. I love to hear stories and opinions. Blogging is also all about listening and responding to stories and opinions. But, when people hang around your workstation blathering on and on about shit that’s going on in their lives or complaining about work or coworkers when you’re trying to get stuff done, I stop listening. Or when someone calls you and keeps you on the phone forever even after you’ve said good-bye several times… Or when strangers on the bus or train or plane or park bench or grocery store start bending your ear with some insane theory… (Of course, some strangers can have some really mind-bending things to tell you that are worth storing up for future reference).
  5. Be courteous. Always say “please,” “thank you” and “you’re welcome.” Well, okay. I usually say please and thank you. That’s not necessarily “nice” just polite and civilized. Just because you’re not nice, doesn’t mean you have to be a boor, right?
  6. Be positive. Don’t be negative or critical. Keep looking for the positive in any given situation. I have a lot of trouble with this one. I reckon if you keep your expectations low, you’re bound to be pleasantly surprised every once in a while. If you keep your expectations high, you’ll often be disappointed. Disappointment is depressing while pleasant surprises are fun. Ergo, it’s better to be negative because it’s more fun.
  7. Be humble. The key to being nice is remembering that you are not “better” than someone else. Huh? What kind of advice is that? So you have to have low self-esteem in order to be nice? I like myself better than I like a lot of people. I know there are lots of people that are better at a lot of stuff than I am and that’s okay. I focus on the stuff that’s important to me and I think I just may be better at that stuff than some other people.
  8. Offer to help. If you see someone struggling, even doing something as simple as carrying a bag of groceries, or holding the door for someone. You can also be nice to the community and the world by volunteering. I pretty much always do stuff like hold doors or help carry stuff if it looks like it’s needed. Again, I think that’s just polite. I don’t do a lot of volunteering though. There just never seems to be enough time. And I’m not nice enough to give up the little free time I have.
  9. Be sincere. Ah ha! That I usually am. But being sincere and being nice don’t always go hand in hand. If someone asks me for a favor and it’s a huge imposition, I’ll say no. Sometimes even if it’s just a semi-huge imposition and I don’t particularly like the person, I’ll still say no. That’s sincere, but not nice.
  10. Don’t be a jerk. That covers a lot of territory. I have my jerk moments. I’ve done jerky things. I’ll probably do jerky things in the future. That’s a whole other blog post – doing stuff you know is wrong or really not nice or even mean. Sometimes I feel badly afterwards and regret having been a jerk, but sometimes not.

19 responses to “Are You Nice?

  1. Personally? I have found that being overly nice just results in excess niceness and THAT results in too many people wanting to constantly be around you and talk to you and do things with you and THAT will never do as for the most part I cannot stand people. I mean, you know, except for all you people here. And the close group of people I keep around me and love, love, love. (!!) Beyond that? I don’t have the desire.

    Oh! And sincere: I’m always that too. Which I think is great and, unfortunately, other people sometimes think of as “blunt.” Whatever.

    Wow. I’m coming across very attractively here.

  2. Bullshit!

    You’re a total out and out Bitch… and THAT is why I come here!


    Seriously though, aside from some deep seated issues about Maritimers, I think, you’re good people.

    Happy New Year XUPPIE!

  3. Silly XUP you didn’t have to go all the way to Google to find out how to b nice. Just pattern yourself after me. The only thing I have more of than niceness is humbility.

  4. Nice is hard work. I know. I tried it a couple of times. Listening, in particular, is overrated. I have perfected a “sincere, concerned” look, which, when accompanied by frequent nodding and the occasional “Uh huh” or “Really?” does the trick. Instead I get to contemplate what I’m going to have for lunch or whether or not I need to go to the liquor store on my way home or other important stuff.

  5. I agree, it’s hard to be nice. Those extra muscles that pull up the ends of the mouth drag down with disuse and take effort to activate.

    I was frowning through the office yesterday and a guy (that I don’t work with) *seriously* said to me, all sing-songy, “You’re not SMI-ling! Let’s put a smile on that pretty face!” and all I could think was, if I were a man or his boss, would he consider saying that at all??

    That probably wasn’t nice of me. I shot imaginary arrows from my eyes and breezed past.

  6. Lesley – Don’t worry. I love you more with each word you utter. The thing about people who hang around people who are “nice” is that they all figure they can get the nice person to do stuff for them and give them stuff. What other reason could there be for hanging around the chronically nice? They’re no fun. They won’t gossip or make fun of others for one thing and they’re always doing martyrish stuff — which is boring.

    Kitty – I have many fond memories of the Maritimes and made some good friends out there with whom I stay in touch — just so you know. And thanks for loving me as I am. Happy New Year to you, too.

    Raino – Okay. Now I’m going to feel obligated to be really nice to you when we meet.

    Bandobras – How foolish of me. I do believe there was a photo of you next to the Google explanation of niceness, though. I probably should have included it.

    CP – Damn! Do you think I’m secretly nice, beneath all the jerkiness and limited concern for my fellow human being?

    Pinklea – See, now that’s not sincere. It would be much kinder to just say, “Could you stop talking and go away now, please?” (Notice the polite use of the word “please”)

    Nylonthread – Man, I hate it when people say that. The very last time I was ever in a pick-up type nightclub (many years ago), as soon as I walked in the door some dickhead sauntered over and said, “Hey! Smile gorgeous!” And I said, “Fuck off, asshole!” and left the club and went home swearing off that scene forevermore.

  7. Many of the people I know who are described as “nice” are also slightly….how can I put this?…………weird. Not that that is a bad thing, but the correlation is interesting, don’t you think? Personally I like quirky, whether it comes with “nice” or not. I think you qualify.

  8. I think you can be nice and not be a completely doormat. It’s a delicate balance. I’m pretty good at it these days, but wasn’t always. Now that I’ve basically come out of the nice closet, go find out some unsavoury things about me. Just don’t tell my mom. She thinks I’m nice ALL the time 😛

  9. I would opt for “honest” over “nice” any day. I speak what’s on my mind, for better or for worse, and I don’t appreciate anyone biting back what’s really on their mind out of some misbegotten notion of not wanting to hurt feelings. I believe open and honest expression is the highest goal in most any relationship (though there are times for exceptions!).

    “Nice” is invariably sugar-coating and skirting truths. I want no part of it.

  10. wow i am pretty damn nice cause i do like all of that LOL

    so i am alive. it was NICE of you to post that lovely NICE comment on my blog that you miss me. 😛

    posted, just for you

  11. Loth – Ya, “nice” is a weird sort of word anyway. Nice always feels false to me. Nice always seem like people are trying too hard. What’s the difference between nice and kind? Kind seems more genuine. I don’t know why.

    Violetsky – Damn, that WAS nice of me, wasn’t it?

    The Maven – Your mom thinks you’re nice all the time? Wow. You’re good. I salute you for finding the balance between nice and doormat. It IS tricky.

    Zoom – You want me to rate you? I’m not sure I know you well enough to do that. Maybe you should do a poll just for the people who know you well and interact with you on a fairly regular and consistent basis. Or, you could go through the 10 “niceness” factors above and come up with your own rating. Let me know.

    Susan- Ya, “nice” does seem like a kind of namby-pamby word. Like if you got all dressed up in your hottest new gown and your hubby said – oh, you look nice. Like I said to Loth above, maybe “kind” is a better word. Kind, to me still says you can be honest unless you’re really going to hurt someone with honesty. Nice says you want people to like you at all costs. Doesn’t it?

    Jobthingy – Hey! Excellent. Nice to see you emerge from the hols. I’ll go check you out now.

  12. Right back atchya: The love on this end grows and grows too! 😉 (The “chronically nice” – great description. It is kinda like an ailment or disease.)

  13. Can I clarify, it’s not so much that you’re a nice (although by the definition given there you are and I am.) It’s that you’re probably better at being nice than I am… 😉

  14. Lesley – Mwah, mwah

    Nat – You seemed pretty nice to me. I really am terrible at being nice. I can’t pretend I like someone when I don’t — not even if my life depended on it, I think. And I suspect that’s what being nice is all about — being gracious and attentive when you really just want to push someone in the mud.

  15. i’ve only gotten to #2 and i LOVE this! my husband does this and it drives me nuts. seriously, he’ll say “hey” to me in our house at least 100 times a day. i don’t like it in the way you mean either.

    this is very true, “people who put on airs of niceness usually have a hidden agenda”.

    i love every single entry here and your responses, and i agree on almost every single one. not every day, all day long but some times. the #7 one popped out b/c of the truth in that, i’ve always wondered WHY it’s like that.

    i like your spirit, your honesty and your sincerity. you rock.