I know two very nice people. One is truly nice, rarely saying anything remotely negative about anybody. I don’t think it works in this person’s favor though. People tend to take advantage of my nice friend, acting as if they can do or say anything they want without any fear of retaliation. Which is pretty much true.
The second nice person has a bit of an edge, a nicely rounded edge indeed, but still an edge. Probably all people would agree that he is extremely nice.
You don’t want to come off as Mary Poppins. Or like Elwood P. Dowd in the play Harvey by Mary Coyle Chase, who famously said:
“Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say,
‘In this world, Elwood, you must be,‘
– she always called me Elwood –
‘In this world, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant.’
Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”
You don’t want to appear to be so very nice that you come across as fake and condescending, like some sales staff (you know the type) at so very many places. Over the top, grit your teeth friendly. No edge at all, just annoyance. Or maybe it’s so fake, it’s all edge. Who can tell.
So, how to maintain an appropriate balance?
1. Keep gossiping to a minimum. Sure, it does seem to be human nature to form a bond with other people at the expense of someone else. But it can be a very slippery slope. If you’re frequently discussing other people in a negative fashion, how trustworthy (not to mention nice) can you be?
2. Don’t tease cynically, don’t tease with malice. Some people just can’t pull this off. It comes across as being mean. If you’re not getting laughter when doing it, then don’t.
3. Don’t judge people harshly. Don’t judge people at first glance. Admittedly, there are some people who probably shouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt, but give it to them anyway.
4. Don’t avoid confrontation at all costs. Avoiding it doesn’t make you nice; it makes you a patsy. Of course you want to choose your confrontations wisely. Same thing with swearing. Do it so infrequently that when you do swear or confront, it has an impact. Not what people expect from a winsome person. Which you are, but with an edge.
5. Listen when people talk. Don’t talk over them, don’t pretend to listen, don’t cut them off because you’re bored with the topic. Find a way, albeit a charming way, to halt the monologue, but in a polite, pleasant fashion so they’re not even sure how the topic got changed. Then tell me how you did it, because I don’t have a clue.
6. Last one and the hardest one to achieve. Apply all of the above to family members. If you can do that, anything else is a piece of cake.