Food for thought Jan 2019

Food for thought

When being nice can be more detrimental than helpful for your wellbeing

Recently I had an encounter where someone said to me, “you are such a nice person, you can do this!”  I realised it wasn’t a compliment but a way of blackmailing me into giving free services, and when I refused the person growled at me the whole time.  As soon as that realisation hit me, another one came in and hit me like a thousand bricks – I realised most of my life I’ve been ‘nice’ to people I didn’t need to be nice to for several reasons.

  • To avoid confrontations or justifying situations or explaining myself.
  • To avoid making decisions that might impact someone and then be blamed for it when it went pear-shaped.
  • To be agreeable and therefore liked.
  • Etcetera etcetera

But now, [#growth], I realise these reasons or actions were more detrimental to my wellbeing than helpful.  To avoid making tough decisions, I agreed to some questionable activities with questionable people even when not completely happy with their decision.  To avoid confrontations, I was dishonest by pretending to be happy with the decision while not, but not saying anything about it to avoid justifying my reasons in case they were not congruent with the others.  I was happy to pretend to be happy, so others won’t be unhappy because of me.  Talk about things spiralling out of control.  This is what they call slippery slope – one thing leads to another and then another and before you know it you are skidding at top speed down a slippery slope.

The problem with this so lies in society.  Most people think being nice equals being kind.  I studied positive psychology and I didn’t quite understand some of the theories put out there, now I do.  The most important thing is in knowing the difference between nice and kind people.

Kindness is one the most important qualities a person can have, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that kind people are also nice.  According to positive psychologists, being nice and being kind are two different things and can be differentiated by knowing a person’s motivation for the act.

Positive psychologists say that nice people are extrinsically motivated i.e. their motivation to do good deeds is driven by other people’s perception of them.  They need other people’s approval and validation.  They crave acceptance and live in fear of rejection.  Basically, they do nice things to be liked.

On the other hand, kind people are intrinsically motivated i.e. their motivation to do good deeds is driven by doing the right thing by all.  They have sound self-esteem and don’t need others to praise or approve them.  They do what is right by themselves and others.  They are not concerned about being judged harshly – they understand you can’t always please everybody but it’s important to do what is right.

Having said that it doesn’t mean all nice people have low self-esteem, or all kind people aren’t evil.  The simplest way to differentiate is by seeing the deeper meaning behind the act – their motivation.  Some people have an uncontrollable need to please people and therefore their acts can’t be authentic because their need to please people prevails the need to do good for humanity: their acts become self-serving.  Some people may argue that one can be kind and nice at the same time, but therein lies the control freak or the bully who is nice to have things their way and are kind to mask their self-serving acts.  This is when the thin line is blurred between two seemingly good things. 

There was once a princess engaged to a prince who smoked.  The prince desperately wanted to stop smoking but up until the point of their engagement had no reason to give up the bad habit.  He, somehow, thought the princess would save him.  One day as they prepared to do a final ritual before their wedding both were expected to lay down some ground rules that would have to be followed before the wedding took place.  The prince hoped the princess would demand he gave up smoking or the wedding was off.  The princess, scared of losing him in case she demanded he gave up smoking, not only encouraged him to smoke but also gave him an allowance from their marital budget to fund his bad habit.  To say the least the prince was disappointed.  The princess in being nice was actually being unkind.

As we power through this free trial month of 2019, what type of person do you think you are? Nice or kind? Or what type of person do you aspire to become this year?

 The bitter truth is that most people never want to acknowledge that as humans we tend to respect a kind person and ‘take with a pinch’ of salt a nice person.  I think this is because on some level, we all know that a kind person values themselves and what their act of kindness would do for humanity while a nice person only cares what people think of them than what their deeds might contribute to humanity.

Be kind always and don’t worry about being nice – your one act of kindness is already nice.

Which do you belong to? Kind or Nice.





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