The Darker Side of Nice

Keeping a safe distance

Keeping a safe distance

No one has ever accused me of being too nice.  It’s not that I’m not nice (here we go), it’s just that you will usually hear from me if I disagree with you or if I think something is amiss or unfair.  A shrinking violet I am not.

I’ve lived in the South most of my life, and my not-niceness is definitely not Southern.  We Southern (and Asian) women are expected to not create trouble or conflict.  It’s just not nice or ladylike.  My family falls into the not-nice category in the same way.  You generally will know exactly where you stand with us in a matter of minutes.  When I have brought boyfriends home, they were just shaking in their shoes.

I’ve always admired those people who can keep their mouth shut.  They seem to just let grievances slide off them like water off a duck’s behind.  What equanimity.  What poise.  What patience.

What a façade.

The trouble is, the anger, resentment, bitterness is still there (except for the few that are really not bothered by such things).  It just tends to come out in less obvious ways.   Think:  the meeting where everyone states their agreement verbally or by silent assent but afterwards complains about the decision.  The relationship where everything is fine and dandy, but everyone knows about how mistreated someone is except the person who is supposedly doing the mistreating.   The chores or tasks that are either poorly done or never get done because someone is “too busy” or “forgot”.   The offhand comments which seem benign on the surface, but have an edge or are really hurtful.  Overlooking obvious opportunities to be helpful (“why didn’t you just buy one for me too?”)

Insults and injuries, if not resolved, take their psychic toll. In the absence of overt (hopefully, civil) conflict to resolve the insult, one may then resort to the equivalent of sniping from a safe distance.  A sniper can get shots off without having to risk being held accountable.  With conflict, even if emotions may tend to run high and into uncomfortable territory, at least the issues, including the conflict style itself, can be addressed and then resolved.  Trying to fix a problem with someone who denies anything is wrong is nearly impossible. I’m not certain, but I think mind reading skills are required, and last I checked, that is not one of the five human senses.

Sniping in relationships, whether personal or professional, is also not conducive to a productive or intimate relationship.  Being unwilling to discuss uncomfortable issues is not being honest. Without honesty there cannot be trust or intimacy, and the depth of the relationship will be confined to the equivalent of a wading pool.

To my family: I love you and thank you for always being honest with me.  I value your transparency and willingness to be authentic.

To all the too-nice people out there:  I love you dearly too.   You are so easy to be with and I love that about you.  But it’s OK to tell me what you really think and want.  I want to know.  I want you to trust that our relationship can withstand your truth.  In fact, our relationship will improve and deepen because of your willingness to be honest and up front with me.  I won’t let you down.

3 thoughts on “The Darker Side of Nice

  1. Thank you so very much for continuing to share your perspectives… so many critically-important insights and life lessons… in such an honest and selfless way. The world needs millions more generous and authentic people like you. Peace, Frank

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