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Why You Do Not Want to Underestimate the Importance of Being Nice

Why we can't afford to let nice people become an endangered species

Have you noticed how people underestimate the importance of being nice.  They say, “Yeah, she (or he) is nice”, meaning, “they are so vanilla.”  They say, “You are too nice.”, thereby suggesting that too much of a vanilla thing is a bad thing. Or they imply that being nice puts you at a disadvantage, as if being nice implies that you don’t have a backbone. 

Or maybe you have an issue with your own niceness.  Maybe you feel that you are a people-pleaser who ends up being taken advantage of because your niceness leaves you defenceless.  

The flip side of being nice

Nice people care about the feelings of others – sometimes to the detriment of their own.  Caring deeply about the quality of other people’s lives is a great quality. Not caring so much about your own is unfortunate. Having a lesson to learn about how you, too, can benefit from a quality that you possess in spades and bestow on others selflessly may be a personal development issue.  Still, it  is surely not a fault.

Everybody needs nice people in their life.  The world has a desperate need of niceness right now.  An injection of genuine niceness into politics would do a lot to improve things.  Nice people seek harmony rather than polarisation, collaboration rather than conflict.  Nice people start from the – nice – principle that everybody matters.

Boundary issues

The perceived drawback with niceness is that it makes you vulnerable.  Niceness – that mix of care, kindness, consideration and self-abnegation – certainly leaves you open to assault from the ruthless and self-seeking. 

Is that the fault of the nice?

Should we dump blame exclusively at the door of the nice for failing to establish boundaries? Or should we argue that since these people bring something special to society, they are deserving of our protection?

 Niceness under threat

More and more we are obliged to witness the extinction of endangered species from our world.  Do we want niceness to go the same way? How well would we manage without it? How well would vulnerable groups, like children, the sick and the elderly do, without the nurturing virtue of niceness?

A healthy dose of niceness may well be required to help society – and the planet  -survive.

Isn’t it about time we turned our attention from trashing – or, at the very least, underestimating – nice to imposing limits on its nemesis; rudeness, callousness and contempt. 

We live in an abrasive, self-centred world. 

How is that working for us?

Not that well, it seems, given the massive problems that afflict our society.  Our affluent society boasts an embarrassment of problems, from drugs through poverty, stress, alienation, loneliness and race hatred to name but a few.

What are we doing about them?

Clearly, not enough.

The Cinderella virtue

Niceness alone is not going to solve those problems. But letting other people know that they count,    regardless of their views would do no harm. Finding a way to make mutual respect an essential part of public and private life could diminish tensions.   Conceding that everyone is valuable regardless of their circumstances, could help the marginalised to believe in themselves.  Self-belief, in turn, could help motivate them enough to find a way forward.

Niceness has long been a Cinderella virtue.  The time has come to rethink that. 

Although niceness has never been glamorous, once upon a time, it sat in a healthy relationship with good manners and the social graces. At the present time, not so much, I would say. 

The time has come to see niceness in a new light.  Are we going to suddenly put it on a pedestal and fetishize it? Hopefully not.  We cannot afford to devalue it differently by making it the latest five second wonder.

Social grouting

Instead, how about we start to see niceness  as social grouting? Niceness isn’t any sexier than grouting.  However both are hugely necessary to the cohesion of the structure in which they belong.  Society without niceness would be a far more precarious environment than it is now. So, let’s stop underestimating being nice  and turn our attention instead to the issue of “trashing”.  Isn’t it time that society celebrated the importance of being nice and, in the nicest possibly way, trashed the tendency to trash?

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