Many years ago a woman told me that I was too nice, that she and some of her friends had decided that no one could be that nice. I felt a little offended at the time. Um, was this some sort of really bad compliment? Did you have a meeting about me? And which friends? And am I supposed to conjure up some rudeness for you and your friends? What is so wrong with being nice? But I listened and nodded and agreed, "ya, I'm probably a little too nice." Essentially, I apologized for being nice. Canadian much eh?
Stereotypes (and women who struggle to trust kind men) aside, I never forgot that comment because it taught me to pay attention to niceties and how people use them and I still wonder if there were an imaginary scale, when would being too nice tip the balance the wrong way, with whom and why?
I've learned both publicly and privately, I'm not that nice. Frankly, who is? I can be sarcastic, callous, opinionated, and selfish plus I tend to laugh too easily about things I should take more seriously. I've made many mistakes with people's feelings, some irreparable. I know a few people who might think this is total bull. And yet, overall, it's true: I tend to default to kindness, optimism and idealism. And mostly, I like people to feel comfortable and happy. Sorry. I just do.
Cynics might call nice smarmy. But I'm no sycophant. I have no dual intentions. And this isn't about "approving" some and not others either.
My entire work life revolves around communication skills. Thus I have lots of opportunities to both model and reflect on effective communication. Despite many years of practice, I am by no means an expert at any part of it and yet I have come to one conclusion: we humans--from the day we arrive--crave human contact and we thrive when others honour our dignity. In verb form, to honour means to regard with respect. It also means to fulfill an obligation, a duty. In my interactions with people, I feel obligated to start there. Why start anywhere else?