I wonder why we hold “nice” is such high regard. ”Nice” is defined in my handy online dictionary as, “pleasing, agreeable, delightful.” Pleasing, agreeable, delightful all sound appealing. Who doesn’t want to be nice, right?
The problem is that some people trade on pleasing and agreeable. Somewhere along the path, they have decided that “nice” is the way to get through this world. It’s almost as if the broad range of human emotion and human interaction is reduced to “nice and agreeable.” When presented with a challenging situation or difficult person, nice is the only resources they have on hand.
When the difficult or challenging event occurs, most humans feel many emotions and may react in different ways. Anger, frustration, sadness, fear, etc., are normal responses, and each might be appropriate and healthy for in our imaginary difficult situation. The person who only deals in niceties may feel all these feelings too. But the feelings are often perceived as “bad” or “wrong” or “uncontrollable” so they are pushed down deep inside and what is given to the world is “nice”.
This pushing down of real feelings and responses is often learned in early childhood. In an effort to get children to conform to some imaginary set of social rules, we tell them to be “nice.” Imagine two chidden fighting over a toy, the adult tells them, “Be nice,” which really means, “Stop asking for what you want and be quiet or else you’re gonna get it.”
Sometimes the mandate to be nice is overt and more often the message is sent in a thousand subtle but unmistakable ways. Whatever the method, the child learns the lesson well.
Emotions help us understand ourselves and the world around us. Our emotional, feeling self akin to one of those indoor-outdoor thermometers. Emotions give us the temperature inside ourselves, and how that temperature relates to the outside world at that moment.
Pushing down our emotions doesn’t make them go away, but we can bury them so deeply that they become more difficult to identify and use in daily living. It’s almost crippling to react to this complex world of people and events with “nice” as your only acceptable response.
There is hope. Most people can reconnect to the world of their emotions and develop understanding, flexibility, and confidence using the emotional gauges we’re born with. It takes effort, and it’s often frightening to consider letting those feelings out, and dealing with the consequences. The reward comes from greater self-knowledge, increased understanding, and more fulfilling relationships with others.