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  • Thu, 26, Apr, 2018 - 5:00:AM

It's time to stop being nice

When you hear the word ‘nice’ what do you think about? Does it denote kindness? Is it vanilla? Is it male? Is it female?

I have a problem with the word ‘nice’. When I was younger it was a word I never wanted to be called. It is a descriptor that proved I wasn’t interesting enough to deserve a better qualifier. In my eyes, ‘nice’ is someone who smiles at leering gestures, keeps the peace in the face of injustice, and ignores those in peril for self-preservation. ‘Nice’ is someone who dutifully smiles when a stranger tells her to. It is not someone who is brave, defiant or progressive. 

This is particularly relevant when it comes to ‘nice’ women. A woman who speaks up isn’t often thought of as ‘nice’. ‘Nice’ and ‘outspoken’ don’t often seem to go together. I wonder why.

For men, ‘nice’ is just as treacherous. ‘Nice’ is usually followed by the word ‘guy’. Being a ‘nice guy’ has come to mean that you are almost certainly not. ‘Nice guys’ demand female attention because they think that showing basic courtesy to a woman is a form of payment that should buy them sex or sexual attention, no matter what the woman’s personal opinion of them is. ‘Nice guys’ lure women into dates while hiding this caveat, and then pressure women to respond to their kindness or largesse by bestowing sexual favours.

Nice is toxic branding. And there are so many better words. According to the Oxford English dictionary, here are just some synonyms of ‘nice’: admirable, affable, agreeable, amiable, attractive, becoming, charming, commendable, compassionate, congenial, considerate, copacetic, cordial, courteous. And that’s just A through C.

Each word has a specific tone and the differences are emphatic. There are distinct contrasts between being delightful and being kind. Just as there are differences between being sympathetic and agreeable.

These more specific words make a person take ownership of the descriptor and try to live up to it. A ‘nice’ woman can choose adjectives that convey strength of character or decide to embody empathy. A ‘nice’ man can be respectful and responsible. They are no long ‘nice’, they are admirable and compassionate, decorous and courteous. They can even be copacetic if they are stuck in a 90’s time warp.

Being ‘nice’ is overrated. Being a thoroughly decent human being is much more important. So let’s not allow social ‘nice’ties to constrain us to outdated social paradigms any longer.

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Laura
Ferguson

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