I don’t mean this in some nihilistic sense, by the way. And I don’t mean it in the sense that when someone does something nice they are doing it for purely selfish reasons, to “feel good”.
That’s an old argument for others to make (though I think that it’s quite valid). What I’m going to say is far more practical and far less philosophical.
Whether people are “good” or not, “nice” or not, at a fundamental level is irrelevant to your daily experience of them. What matters to you is if people DO good.
Do you do good? I hope so. Does that make you nice. Hell no.
In fact doing good and being nice are totally different when you take a short term view. In the short term, being nice is often quite bad.
A lot of the issues in modern society revolve around this difference. Now, don’t get me wrong…you can definitely do bad in the attempt to do good. I’d say that the real goal is to be kind, which I think is totally different from being nice.
The difference becomes quite obvious when you look at the definitions (from Google):
Often, giving someone pleasure and satisfaction will get in the way of being considerate.
It’s not nice to stick a needle into a 2yo but it’s kind because vaccinations prevent them from getting sick later.
The reason it’s important to understand the difference is because as in the example above, being nice can get in the way of being kind and kindness determines the success of people and long term relationships far more.
The fact is that other people are annoying. Even your favorite people will piss you off if you spend enough time with them. Each person is a combination of both positive and negative traits and impulses, including you.
Now the balance will vary from person to person and your positives with one person will be negatives for another person. In short term or very limited relationships like you have with the barista at your local Starbucks or your next door neighbor the exposure is so limited that it’s easy to always present a positive demeanor towards them–to be nice.
But when you are with someone for long stretches of time, it’s impossible to hide your worst. Hiding your worst would be the nice thing to do, but then when it leaps out at them later, they’ll feel confused and betrayed.
It’s far kinder to let them know in advance what your weaknesses are and in what ways you don’t meet up to their ideal image of what they want in a partner (business, sex, dating, girlfriend or other).
Now it’s not nice to tell people that they can’t have exactly what they want, and it’s scary to open up to people because they might not want to be with the real you.
Now, that’s true, but the alternative is really far, far worse.
If you don’t let people know what you’re really like, and they sign up to be with you, you’ll be stressed working to tamp down and hide your negatives. That pressure builds up over time and definitely takes a mental and emotional toll.
You’ll always be terrified that when they find you out, you’ll lose that person and of course you’ll also be unhappy because you’re not living out the life you want.
You’ll start to resent that relationship because of the sacrifices you have to make for them and one day, who you really are will come out.
And when that happens, that person has every right to be angry with you for running a bait-and-switch scam on them. If you really care about that person, you’ll feel terrible when you see how deeply you hurt and disappointed them.
The worst part is that it was all preventable if you’d just communicated properly up front. Sometimes even when you try, you’ll mess this up because it takes time to know yourself, for sure.
In a new relationship, when you’re more worried about keeping them and you’re caught in the fantasy ideal you’ve projected onto them, it’s easy to make promises and think that you’ll keep them. It’s hard to look back to your past and accept the future it predicts. I’m not saying that you can’t break past behavioral patterns, but what I am saying is that you should warn people in your life about those proclivities so they can be prepared for them when they happen.
I make a habit on a first date of asking women what’s wrong with them. What’s not good about them and what might make it so I wouldn’t like them.
It’s a great chance for you to find out what’s gotten in the way of her having successful relationships in the past—and her too because a lot of women have never thought about it before.
Some girls might say that they are always late, for example. And that might be ok for you while it might drive another guy totally crazy.
One time a girl told me that she had a really bad temper. I asked her some questions about what kind of things trigger it and then when she blew up at me several weeks later, I was shocked at first, but then I realized that this is exactly what she warned me about so I didn’t take it personally though I noted it so that I could do a better job of not triggering it again.
Conversely, I’ve seen plenty of people reluctantly try long distance relationships when they already knew that they would want to see other people, but didn’t want to tell their partner. They don’t want to seem like they don’t really love their boyfriend, and they don’t want to hurt their feelings or seem slutty for going off to a foreign country and finding a new guy within a few weeks.
So they make some vague promises, pushing it off until later and hoping it will all work out somehow. Then a month later she posts a picture on her Instagram and there is a comment from a guy who seems far too familiar for a girl who is supposed to have a boyfriend.
Then the suspicious boyfriend confronts her about it and she tries to innocently explain it away…this drags on for week or months.
She wastes time pretending that everything is fine, hiding what she’s doing and placating him because she wants to be nice to him while he’s wasting time he could spend looking for another girl—worrying about his relationship with her, monitoring her closely and parsing every bit of information he can get to figure out what’s really going on.
It would be far kinder for her to have said that she really loved her boyfriend but that she wanted to have a different experience and the freedom to do what she wanted without having to think about him and his feelings and that she understands that this might mean the end of their relationship forever but that it’s something she needs to do.
Or maybe, she could have said that she’s going away because she thinks it will be a good experience for her and while she’s scared about how that will affect their relationship, it’s important for her and she doesn’t know how she’ll feel about him when she’s away so he shouldn’t expect anything from her until she has some time and that she understands that she can’t expect him to wait for her or be available to her if she wants to be with him again.
I know this isn’t easy. And it’s not even simple, because it can be very hard to communicate to others the uncertainty that we feel and it’s very natural to avoid these kinds of difficult conversations.
It’s much easier to procrastinate and put these things off and say that we’re being “nice” by saving them from dealing with truths they wouldn’t want to handle. We decide to take what we think is the easy route of denying what we really feel and believe and trying to manage it all by ourselves.
My client was recently in a situation where because he wasn’t upfront about his needs and wants he started seeing other women on the side and when his “girlfriend” found out that he was getting his wants and needs met elsewhere, she flipped out and started wreaking havoc on his life and the side girl’s life too.
This girl was disowned by her family after the “girlfriend” contacted them and told them about what their daughter had really been up to on all those trips and he lost his job as part of this too.
Maybe you’re honest enough with yourself to admit that it’s not your attempts to be nice that are the problem, but your fear that no one will accept the real you.
Well..I’ve got GREAT news for you. Other people, especially if they are decent and well adjusted, are walking around terrified of the exact same thing. And when you are willing to be up front about how you might disappoint them, they can accept it because they know their shit stinks as much as yours.
And when you can be honest with them and they can be honest with you, you have a real basis for negotiation which is what successful relationships are actually all about.
I have a friend who was an inveterate swinger. He dated a girl for many years while he openly continued his swinging lifestyle. She wanted to marry him and have a family with him. He reminded her about his swinging ways and his intention to continue that. She said she wanted to be with him anyway.
You never know…everyone has skeletons in their closet and it’s only when you are kind and confident that you can play, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”
And if you have a hard time being honest with yourself, I highly recommend reading, Radical Honesty