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Are You Too Nice?
By Joyce Shafer
A friend once said she believed the only thing to really fear was regret. Do you ever regret being nice, or being not nice?
I called the pharmacy to check on my mother's billing and asked for Janell, the woman who'd helped me before. After a pause, the woman who'd answered the phone told me Janell had died. Though I'd only spoken with Janell a few times, she always remembered me and was so pleasant that I commented on it to her, and thanked her for it. I was glad, when I learned of her death, that I had no regret about our interactions, and that I'd told her how much I appreciated her.
When I first moved to New York City, people kept saying to me, "You're so nice," as though it was an anomaly. I heard it so often that it began to annoy me. I even took a Learning Annex class in Manhattan titled, "Stop Being So Nice." It didn't work (grin.) I now find this humorous; and instead of being annoyed these days, I would say "Thank you."
I have "buttons" that can get pushed just as everyone else does, but I tend to aim at kindness or courtesy (often called niceness) first, whenever possible. People with more aggressive personalities think this is a flaw and aren't shy about telling me so (another grin). But I think that whenever possible during a challenge, conflict, or contrast, it's more productive to ask a right question than to make accusations or be rude.
This is a good way to stay in integrity and treat anyone else involved with integrity. (No one appreciates being treated without integrity. Look at the strife it causes in families, communities, and around the world.) Being able to do this automatically when triggered is something that happens after practicing it, perhaps after quite a lot of practice. Before this becomes automatic, you may state you need a pause when triggered and that you'll get back to the person soon; then do so in a more productive frame of mind.
Here's a moderate example of keeping integrity. My mother told the physical therapy people that she'd be happy to go to therapy at 2 p.m., but not in the mornings. The next morning more than one therapist came to get her at different times, and she had to restate her preference. When we spoke about this, she expressed her annoyance and feeling that they were ignoring her wishes. I told her this might be what was going on and it might be there was a longer-than-desired gap between people getting therapy and they were bored (which is not her issue, but theirs), or it might be something else entirely. Without asking them, we didn't have enough information to decide what this was about. I suggested she ask them this question: "What do we need to do so that you to come for me at 2:00 and not before?" This type of question states the issue, problem, or situation and involves the others in the solution. It shines a light on their actions without any rudeness or negative assertions. It is, well, nice.
Being nice can be relaxing, as long as it's genuine, that is. False niceness isn't nice at all, nor does it feel good the way genuine niceness does. It's better to go for politeness based on empathy than false niceness. Genuine empathy and false niceness are both energies that will be picked up on by the recipient. The first one creates connection; the second one does not and cannot, and may, in fact, create more conflict.
I recently read something that really resonates for me: Student says, "I am very discouraged. What should I do?" Master says, "Encourage others." This resonates because somewhere along the line, this very action, or at least being courteous to others when experiencing personal emotional upset, took root in me. And it never fails to make me feel better and to calm my emotions. I think this is because to do this requires me to take attention away from whatever has my ego-aspect off balance and place it, empathetically, onto others. The good energy my niceness inspires in them washes over me, and we are both nurtured. Whatever's bothering me may not be resolved by this nice treatment of others, but I feel better. And better energy being matched by Law of Attraction is a desirable path to travel.
We all share a journey that's not always an easy one. Even the briefest expression of empathy, and appreciation, can make a huge difference. This can even establish the nature of the relationship between you and those you do business with. This can sometimes be easier to do with strangers or associates than with family members you have contrasts with; but it can be done. It all depends on the result you desire; though, no result is guaranteed when one or more others are involved. But it is always a matter of whether or not you want to fill your life with small and large regrets or joys. It matters if you're invested in evolving you and your spiritual development and connection with all, no matter what others choose.
I watched a Joyce Meyer program when she sang a Willie Nelson song to her husband, altering one lyric line in a poignant way to explain why she'd been so difficult to live with the first several years of their marriage: "I was always on my mind." It's like this for many of us. It's understandable, but it can also be overdone by our ego-aspect that tends to forget we aren't the only ones in our life with needs, desires, concerns, and fears.
Can you be too nice? I don't think so. You can be too falsely nice in order to mask what you really feel or to avoid an unskillful sharing of your personal truth with others. But the world could use more niceness based in genuine caring, genuine courtesy, and genuine empathy for our shared experience of making our way through life and learning with lesser or greater or evolving awareness. It's a good practice, one you'll appreciate.
Practice makes progress.
Joyce Shafer is a Life Empowerment Coach dedicated to helping people feel, be, and live their true inner power. She’s author of “I Don’t Want to be Your Guru” and other books/ebooks, and publishes a free weekly online newsletter that offers empowering articles and free downloads. See all that’s offered by Joyce and on her site at State of Appreciation.