The Business of Being Nice

How often do we hear someone being described as “nice”? “Oh that Brittany, she’s such a nice girl.” That’s all good and well, but what the hell does “nice” actually mean?

For so many years of my life, I’ve heard this word “nice” being used by myself and others but never truly understood what it meant. How has this wimpy descriptor become so popular?

What does the word “nice” mean to you? We often tend to equate this with “acceptable”, “agreeable”, “kind”, or “sufficient” and generally accept it as a positive thing. But what happens when we cash in on this bogus idea and start sacrificing our authenticity for some sense of false admiration? I’m not saying you can’t call someone “nice” with the best intentions. I just implore you, dig deeper and find a more meaningful compliment. The fact of the matter is, concept of being “nice” has little meaning. We make light of females using the word “fine” when we’re upset, but how is “nice” any better?

Word choice matters. Nice and kind are not necessarily the same thing, although we often equate them. In an iconic scene of “Dead Poet’s Society”, Robin Williams challenges us to be more intentional with our words. “Don’t use sad, use morose.” The fact of the matter is, we’ve become lazy in our descriptions and in our language as a whole. Who wants a car that’s just “nice”? Perhaps you’d rather have one that’s “luxurious” or “fuel efficient”. If we describe cars better than people, we need some help. Let’s stop wasting our time on lazy descriptors and blanket terms.

She’s just so “nice”. I’ve heard this time and time again in my life. Why do we replace actual personality traits with this worthless placeholder? Because it’s easy. We’ve become so complacent in our connections with others that we lean on descriptors that have no meaning. How do you measure how “nice” someone is? How is this judged? Is she “nice”because she spends her time volunteering at the local homeless shelter? Perhaps she’s compassionate or kindhearted, not simply “nice”. We are so much more than this worthless word and need to stop treating it as the gold standard of humanity.

“Just be nice”. I often find myself sacrificing my true feelings for the sake of being “nice”, but who is that actually helping? If we allow ourselves to be sucked into the swirling vortex of pathetic that is the word “nice”, we do everyone a disservice. Recently, in a conversation with one of my friends I noted that I was sorry for how I felt on a touchy issue. Why was I sorry? Because I felt it wasn’t nice to take issue with something that was eating me alive. How often do we sacrifice our personal truths for the sake of being perceived as “nice”? How many times did you bite your tongue this week and kick yourself for what you could have/should have said? Now, that’s not to say you should go around spewing your personal truths at everyone like some sort of emotional geyser. Be healthy, be intentional, not just “nice”.

We need to stop settling for “nice” or “good”. I used to write that I “opt for memorable” when I interact with others. While I’ll admit that I’m not the most interesting person in the world, I think I can do better than just being “nice”. Some day when I die, I sure hope my headstone doesn’t read “She was so nice”. The truth is, I’m more than that, and so are you.

Skimming the surface. The issue goes beyond the use of the word “nice”. There are so many superficial conversations that we have each day. We ask one another how we’re doing as a part of our polite routine, but do we listen for any other response than “I’m good”? When was the last time we took time to check in on our family, friends or acquaintances and just listened for more than the standard reply. How often do we say we’re “good” when our faces betray that we’re drowning? We need to break the standard dialogue and stop using placeholders and blanket statements to describe our lives. I challenge all of you to be a better human and dive deeper. Ditch the lazy descriptors and create a culture of connection.

Grab the scissors. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to be “nice” to everyone all the time to be a decent person. While we’re all human and make mistakes, it’s okay to grab the scissors and cut ties sometimes. Now, this isn’t license to go out and be a garbage human who enjoys burning every bridge you’ve crossed. This is about boundaries, and the impact on your life.

If you’re a people pleaser like me, setting boundaries is particularly difficult because you don’t want to disappoint others. It seems that when “nice” people set boundaries, we receive a decent amount of pushback or are told we aren’t accommodating in one capacity or another. While we all put up with other’s crap on one level or another, don’t allow yourself to be steamrolled when you assert boundaries. You can set healthy boundaries while being respectful and mindful. Don’t fall into the routine of sacrificing your morals, dignity, or mental health for the sake of being “nice”. After all, that word doesn’t mean much in the scheme of things.

Getting to the core. Is your company’s core value “nice” or is it “excellence”? If people are just describing you as “nice” at work, you’re likely missing out on something much more meaningful. You wouldn’t submit a project that’s just “nice” or “good enough”, would you? Chances are, your boss didn’t hire you simply because you’re “nice”. They hired you because you are qualified, exceptional, or passionate. Stop settling for your work being “nice” or for simply being known as “nice”. Be meaningful and mindful in each interaction and intentional in your work. What do you really bring to the table each day? Be brilliant, be creative, be inspired, be authentic.

This coming week, I challenge you to be more than “nice”. Be “kindhearted”, “honest” or “genuine”. Make it your business to leave an impression instead of settling for “nice”. Dive deeper into your interactions with others and be intentional. I challenge you to use five descriptors you wouldn’t normally use in place of “nice” this week. Good luck!

Stay excellent, my friends. See what I did there?
-Brittany Bee

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