The tyranny of “nice”

I like to think of myself as a “nice” person.  Many of us do, I’ve noticed.  I think it is especially true for women who were born in the “boomer” generation and before.  It’s something I cared about as a little kid, not so much as a teenager and younger adult in my 20’s and even into my 30’s.  Now I’m in my 40’s and “nice” is back on my radar.

Maybe it’s because of Luna.  Teaching a three year old how to interact well with others can be quite a challenge, especially if you are having trouble interacting well with others too.  So, the phrase, “That’s not nice,” seems to have been coming to the surface a lot more.

I’m coming to believe that “nice” is the ultimate in passive aggressiveness.

How many of us grew up with the phrase, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.”? If that’s not an instruction on how to be passive aggressive, I don’t know what is.

“How do I look?” asks the socially insecure person about to go out and risk something in an uncomfortable setting.  The person being asked doesn’t see or understand the concern, or perhaps doesn’t care and is focused on something else entirely.  So, instead of actually taking a moment to truly offer reassurance and comfort, says, “Oh, you look nice.”  Passive, non-committal, no effort, no fuss, no muss.  Or, maybe the person being asked has an unspoken resentment with the questioner and says something like, “That’s nice, but don’t you think you should . . .?” Passive and aggressive. Let’s undermine someone who is already feeling insecure by making them question themselves and their choices. Way to go.

Of course, there’s also the “nice” person who just doesn’t know how to constructively express an opinion that is different from another who genuinely thinks there is something that should be changed in order to improve the appearance and perhaps reduce the risk that the questioner is taking.  However, this nice person doesn’t want to risk hurting the other person’s feelings or getting into conflict, so may say, “That’s nice,” in a mildly questioning tone.

How about the ultimate passive aggressive use of “nice” in current trend?  Somebody does something not to your liking, “Oh, nice, thanks,” said in the most derisive and snarky tone possible.

Someone you don’t really like or want to deal with says or offers something to you, “Oh, isn’t that nice,” is the response with an underlying note of insincerity.

There’s a “nice” syndrome. It’s symptoms include resentment, impatience, insincerity, irritability and avoidance.  It can lead to bitterness, anxiety, and an unpleasant growth of cynicism. Left unchecked it can result in abject apathy or take the opposing course and result in violence and destruction.

Thanks for reading. Have a nice day.