Embracing Kindness Over Niceness

No more nice girl or nice guy. The era of niceness has far outlived its usefulness and it needs to die. We need to embody torch bearers and truth speakers if we are going to collectively evolve. Niceness is a waste of our precious personal energy, pure and simple.

We are not doing anyone any favors by being nice. Niceness is about preserving an image of yourself; it has a core impulse that is fundamentally deceptive and dishonest with yourself and others. Niceness is a distortion of truth; it turns you into a pretzel, bending and twisting and folding yourself into a shape that you believe will be pleasing to someone else. You are selling yourself out to be easygoing, agreeable, and non-confrontational.

As Asia Suler of One Willow Apothecaries wisely writes:

One does not declare oneself to be nice.  Nice is a title that is bestowed upon you by those you have pleased, a reward for agreeability. Your skill at fulfilling this role is wholly judged, decided and anointed by others.

That other person that you are trying so hard to be nice to? You're really not doing them any favors with your efforts to be nice. You are selling them out too. You are dishonoring them as a sovereign, strong, wise, and powerful being. Your little white lies and your political evasion reveal an unconscious belief about the other person's (lack of) capacity to hold space for themselves. Your niceness casts a silent judgment: you can't handle the truth. And every time you filter the truth, or hide your feelings, or cover up your reality, you are throwing a pile of dynamite on top of the truth bomb that is eventually going to explode.

Niceness is about diluting the strength or softening the edges of what is real and true, and performing to fit what we think will be comfortable or acceptable to someone else. We act nice when we are afraid of offending or hurting or alienating another person. In our blog post about speaking our soul truth, we touched on a bunch of reasons why we might be motivated to withhold our truth when relating and communicating with others. Ultimately, that fear-driven act of niceness doesn't serve you or the other person.

Most of us can probably remember a time when we were on the receiving end of someone's misguided niceness. A typical scenario is the one where the guy or girl whom you have a crush on keeps stringing you along by saying maybe or suggesting possible plans, never saying fully yes and never saying fully no. Instead of rejecting you outright, they continue to be super nice... and rest in the comfort of vagueness. Instead of meeting the discomfort of delivering a clear no, they drag things out and eventually when the truth comes out, it probably hurts worse than if they had been direct to begin with.

To look at this another way, let's imagine an example from the other end. Perhaps you were once the one delivering the poison pill of niceness. Maybe you have received an offer of something you didn't want to receive. Or maybe you have been asked to give something you didn't want to give. Even though it's not what you wanted, you stayed quiet and went along with the plan because you didn't want to hurt the other person's feelings. Have you experienced this? You end up begrudgingly doing something that doesn't feel aligned, or doesn't feel in integrity, and hurting yourself in order to avoid hurting someone else.

By not speaking up, you get yourself into a situation that you don't actually want to be in. You end up there for the sake of keeping the peace, because you want to keep your image of being a nice guy or nice girl safely intact. But then what happens when you find yourself somewhere you don't really want to be, doing something you don't really want to do? Anger. Resentment. Am I right? And when that resentment finally bubbles up and reaches the boiling point, suddenly you are not such a nice guy or girl anymore. And you are certainly not kind.

Can we make a solemn promise to each other, to embrace kindness instead of niceness?

Niceness is deceptively other-adaptable. True kindness, on the other hand, is gracefully self-responsible. Kindness is grace and benevolence in action. Kindness is direct. Kindness is true. Kindness is clear. Kindness is sharp. Kindness is real. Kindness is about honoring and respecting; it's not about pleasing or comforting.

Practicing kindness means honoring your own truth, and respecting your own boundaries, while holding the emotions and experience of the other to be as sacred as your own. It is about being aware of our impact on those we are in relationship with... without distorting or withholding what is true for us simply because it touches another.

Let's stop being nice and start being kind.