July 31, 2013 Leave a comment
I hate nice. Nice is a weak word. I prefer other words: assertive, direct, strong, badass, wise, thoughtful. Nice is exhausting mentally, and it requires thought. When I’m nice I have to consider other people’s feelings, and I can’t dismiss other perspectives just because I don’t share the same outlook. Humility, patience, compassion, and understanding are a necessity for nice. Self confidence with nice is a must; otherwise, you might get confused with someone who’s soft. Plus, when I am nice to people I feel vulnerable. What if they aren’t nice back? What if they try to take advantage or get one over? Moving through the world with a hard exterior is a natural defense mechanism – a wall that is difficult to bring down once it’s built.
If nice is so hard (for some people), why bother with it at all? Here’s a short list:
- It’s easier to get what you want… as long as you are assertive
- It feels better than acting like a jerk (usually)
- You don’t have to apologize for acting like a jerk
- You get what you give
- (For leaders) people will follow
- (For parents) your kids act like you act
- A kind word or a smile can change someone’s day in an instant (I know several people who did not commit suicide because a friend called to say, “Hi” or did something nice and created a sliver of hope)
This last point is important. When I see my kids in their natural habitat, they often mirror my behavior (scary). If I scream and yell when they don’t do what I want, they scream and yell when other kids don’t do what they want, or their parents for that matter. Another easy trap is to apply my expectations as an adult to my kids whose understanding of the world differs vastly from my own – and get mad at noncompliance, even though my commands offered no specifics other than, “Go clean that room or I will set fire to your belongings.” It is completely unnatural for them to walk through a room, see a mess, and think to themselves, “Self, you should go clean that up.”
If I bark commands to clean up, or generally criticize bad behavior, and fail to offer praise, I’m teaching my spawn to avoid criticism. The munchkins might not repeat the thing they did wrong – “I will not tell my brother I want to lock him in a box with tape around his hands and feet” – but there is no lesson in what’s right. If no one teaches you, how do you learn that anger is normal but it’s what you do once you’re angry that’s important? To try to give our kids the tools they need to get through life, I need to patiently explain, in a nice way, what the girl can do instead of threatening her brother with confinement.
My kids show me everyday that I get what I give, and the only choice I have is to try to lead by example. I can’t talk about being nice, and then talk down to waiters, or teachers, or anyone. If I constantly criticize everything around me, the kids will do the same. Basically, being nice is about treating people with respect; keeping your mouth shut when you feel threatened or hurt; having the humility to apologize when you fuck up; and accepting that the only thing you control in this world is your reaction to life.