‘Nice’ – the story of a dangerous word

Growing up my grandfather had a saying he appeared somehow able to invoke into every conversation – ‘its nice to be nice’. As a child the tag line had everything a 10-year-old could ask for: it was short, catchy and made absolutely zero sense. From time to time a person can still hear him busting it out. In fact, in the last decade or so he’s added the following to his repertoire – ‘it costs nothing to be nice’. Another feel-good statement to add to the collection used around the world on a daily basis.

I know what you’re thinking – what a sweet message to share with the grandkids! In the past I would’ve agreed, on the surface this sounds quite lovely. The problem, and yes there’s a big one, is that while these phrases ring with all the effectiveness of a hallmark card, life – like those things we stuff the birthday gift cards in – turns from sentiment into sediment. A bit extreme, of course, or is it? In the hierarchy of things to be, is being nice the first or best thing? After all, as the other saying goes don’t ‘nice guys finish last’?

On the list of adjectives to describe oneself where should being nice find it’s place? Of all the words used to describe us (or in the case of parents used to describe their children) I wonder where things like honest, curious, or inquisitive, fall? My guess is certainly not in the top 3; probably not even in the top 5. No, we prefer being nice (what that exactly entails who knows) followed likely by an invective of things not to be – don’t be mean, don’t be rude, don’t be whatever. While I’ve been able to expand some thoughts on this I was glad to recently come across  a book that is far better able to articulate this than I am – ‘Not Nice: Stop people pleasing, staying silent & feeling guilty…and start speaking up, saying no, asking boldly and unapologetically being yourself.’ In it Dr. Aziz Gazipura demonstrates how damaging making being ‘nice’ your number one priority can be.

For the sake of brevity, here are some points of highlight from Dr. Gazipura’s best seller:


“Being nice does not come out of goodness or high morals. It comes out of fear of displeasing others and receiving their disapproval. It’s driven by fear, not virtue.”


“This is what being nice is. It’s monitoring yourself to make sure you come across in a pleasing manner and don’t offend anyone. It’s making sure others like you and don’t have any negative feelings.”


And a final excerpt for consideration;


“At it’s core, being nice is about being liked by others by making everything smooth. No waves, no friction. It’s based on this (woefully inaccurate) theory: If I please others, give them everything they want, keep a low profile, and don’t ruffle feathers or create discomfort, then others will like me, love me, and shower me with approval and anything else I want…’


Having a hard time digesting the above? Good, because you should…I know I did and still do. Programmed to be nice we lose our focus on being what’s more important than being nice – being honest. The longer honesty is put off the heavier the weight of its burden becomes. It sucks making this kind of change in our life. It’s an enormous undertaking, re-engineering our core code but the sooner we start deleting the lines that call for the execution of our ‘nice’ disposition and replace it with the ‘respectfully honest’ function the better adjusted and likely happier we’ll be as people.

Here’s a link to the book : https://www.amazon.com/Not-Nice-Pleasing-Speaking-Unapologetically-ebook/dp/B076VVH14M


No, I don’t have a discount code nor do I get paid in any way for mentioning this or any of the other books/videos/podcasts I source. I personally just think it’s worth reading. In the end I’ll let you be the judge. If you think it sucks and I’m a douche for recommending it please feel free to drop a line and let me know.

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