We’ve all heard the trite phrase “If you can’t think of anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.”
Women, in particular, have been drilled in this area. “Girls are filled with sugar and spice and everything nice.”
But being “nice” isn’t always a virtue. Sometimes it can be a liability.
Interestingly, if you follow the etymology of the word “nice” you’ll find its origin lies in surprising places. It stems from the latin word “nescire” which means “not know.” The adjective form of this same word was “nescius” which meant “ignorant.”In other words, “nice” is directly related to the concept of stupidity.
But what does this mean for us, here, in the present? Do “nice” guys really finish last as our Latin ancestors predicted it would?
I would like to make a case that they do…finish last, that is. And that it’s true socially, professionally, and most importantly…its true with regard to our health and well being.
Now…To be clear, I’m not suggesting that we all become a**holes, turn to the dark side and proceed to making other people’s lives miserable. But what I am saying is that there is a difference between being “nice” for its own sake and being “kind” to someone out of a genuine desire to serve. There is a difference between being nice and being real. Healing happens in the realm of authenticity and kindness. Not in the realm of niceness.
When I say the word “nice” I’m using it for those folks that say “yes” when they really ought to have said “no.” I’m using it to refer to those who take on too much and then resent those around them for asking it of them. I’m referring to those who buckle under the weight of so many voices asking for a mountain of little niceties…when all they really want to do is take a f**king nap.
I hereby free you from your self-imposed obligations. And in case you have any guilt or remorse around it…seriously – stop. You are doing no one any favors.
Here are five reasons YOU should put a stop to being “NICE”:
- People around you will cultivate unrealistic expectations of you: When you constantly say “yes” to every request, people can often take it for granted that you will always be there. That’s not to say that they are trying to take advantage of you. Perhaps some people are, but my hunch is that its not the majority. Rather, it is simply the case that you have not held up a boundary. As a result, no one knows what or where your boundaries lie. Until you hold up a stop sign, no one will stop. They will assume you are a freeway of “can-do’s” with no rest stop in sight.
- If you take on too much, you will have less time for self care. When you say yes to taking Sally to wherever and babysitting Tom’s next door neighbor’s cat (a cat who lives 45 minutes out of your way) that is time you are removing for yourself. Its energy you are not giving to yourself. It’s harder to take time to exercise when you’ve already committed that time to another person’s chores. Again…I’m not saying you should never do these things for other people. But what I am suggesting is that you practice discernment. Be clear about those things you are taking on out of an authentic desire to serve and those you are saying yes to out of patterning.
- When you take on the needs of other people’s at the expense of your own, you may begin to harbor toxic emotions that create stress. You probably know the feeling. You give and give and give…and at one point or another you start to feel like you’ve given too much (you probably have). You feel taken advantage of. Sure…maybe you didn’t tell the other person about your challenges…but if YOU were in THEIR shoes, you would have intuited THEIR needs and backed off. Why can’t they do that for you? Well…because they are not mind readers. And they probably don’t pay as much attention to other people’s subtle cues as, perhaps, you do. It’s lovely that you want to help others and that you pay attention. Expecting others to do as you do, however, is a fast track to disappointment. In fact, expecting anything from others can lead to dangerous territory. When you say no when you mean no…you prevent feeling resentful of their requests. And they stop asking you to do things that you don’t want to do.
- You may find yourself in very real danger. I was in a BART station recently. A man that was clearly unstable came up to me. I didn’t know what to make of it. I was standing next to a bunch of my friends’ luggage (they needed to add fare on their tickets). I felt trapped. I didn’t want to just run away. But I felt uncomfortable. Then he reached out and grabbed my arm. Not violently. But still… I had no idea what to do. I deserve not to be touched when I don’t want to be touched. But I have been drilled to be “polite” to such an extent that I didn’t know how to communicate that assertively. This is what gets so many people into trouble. Its as the villain in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” claimed….that people will often ignore their gut instincts in favor of being polite. If you never learn how to cultivate healthy boundaries, you could be put in a dangerous situation. In my case, it worked out fine. There were people around who helped me and asked him to leave without offending him. But what if….
- Being too nice is exhausting. Tired people don’t make healthy choices. And finally….choosing to be nice when you would rather not…it takes energy. It requires will power. And if you spend all that will on holding back your own desires and needs, you won’t have any left over at 10pm when you’re fighting an urge to eat ice cream while watching Netflix.
Again – I’m not suggesting you go out of your way to harm others. Nor am I suggesting its a “dog-eat-dog world.” All I am saying is that you have needs as much as I do. No one but you can communicate them. No one but you is responsible for communicating them. At the end of the day, do you want to be known as “nice?” Or do you want to be known as someone who is “real.” Do you want to be admired? Or do you want to be known?