Nice, SuperNice

Mother Theresa statue, Struga
Mother Theresa statue, Struga (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like 20 years ago, I was temping at a bank in New Rochelle. I was working for a banker — I forget his name — but he was younger than me by a few years. But he seemed older. He was getting over some kind of cancer. He used to buy me lunch almost every day. He seemed confused by me.

Then, he told me why. “You’re the nicest person I’ve ever met.”

“Really?” That seemed weird. I’m no Mother Theresa. I get impatient and insecure on a daily basis. I felt sorry for this banker — I mean, if I was the nicest person he’d ever met! Well, that just seemed sad.

Still. Nice gets a bad wrap. I remember in the book The Happiness Project when Gretchen Rubin is super-nice to everyone in her life for a week as a path to happiness. No one really notices her niceness and she’s glad when the week’s over ’cause it feels like kinda a waste of time. And niceness requires a lot of effort.

I have felt that my niceness is, at times, perceived as stupidity. (Especially at work — when the cynical males were perceived as smart and the young female optimists were seen as fools. Well ha! Fools have more laughs than cynics!)

I can’t help it. I am compulsively nice. And this kind of “nice girl” syndrome has cost me. Maybe in being nice I have swallowed some honest emotion.

Still. In the long run, I’d rather be overly nice than overly critical or mean.

My daughter and I had a screaming match yesterday and she accused me of being so mean. And ugh, that hurt. In a quieter moment, I asked my husband, “Was I mean?”

“When you two lock horns, no one wins,” he said. Which, I think, meant, ‘Yes, you were unfair or unkind.’ Hey, I thought, I’m sorry. And you only hurt the ones you love.

I don’t want to get into the deets of the argument, but my daughter and I talked it out later and we both promised to do better next time — to give each other a little more patience and more room to breath. Tough stuff. At least for me. Me? The nicest person you’ve ever met.

I have blogged about this before. And interestingly enough, I also wrote about my daughter four years ago in the blog post the power of niceness. I, then, too, referenced the Happiness Project and my resentment about workplace sarcasm winning over niceness. Weird. Four years later. I’m writing about the same stuff.

And still. Niceness wins. Every time.

Compassion, too.

This post was inspired by Daily Prompt: Nice Is as Nice Does

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Power of Niceness

I am really struggling with one of my daughters (Let’s call her C). She’s 10. Every single thing that comes out of my mouth, C can/will/does contradict.

I am tired of this and have asked her to make today a radically, completely, goody-goody nice day. Extreme niceness would be such a refreshing change. And it works. Why does my husband, Chris, have a Broadway career despite his steady slowing Parkinson’s Disease? The man is just plain nice. Over the years he has cultivated so many friends. He has no ego. Of course, talent helps.

I am in the middle of the book, “The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Businesss World with Kindness” by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval. It’s chock full of examples about how one simple act of kindness – helping someone with their luggage in the subway, let’s say – can change your world. In business and in life.

I have always been an exceedingly nice person. And at times, I do feel the sting. I think people have equated niceness with dumbness. In Gretchen Rubin’s book, “The Happiness Project,” she talks about research that shows negative people are perceived of as smarter people. I can think of a few examples of this at work (but since it is Lent and I’ve given up gossip, you’ll have to fill in your own names.)

While the negativist may win in the short-run, to sustain a long-term Broadway career, you mustn’t be all crabby and egocentric. You must be nice.

I would love to share this blog post with my darling C, but I’m afraid she’ll contradict me and be embarrassed by me. Mothering is not for the faint of heart. Or for the woman who is so nice, she is a doormat for her 10-year old. Niceness also means being nice to oneself and standing up for rightness.

This post relates to my Number 2 Rule – Escape through Literature. I got a lot out of “The Power of Nice” and “The Happiness Project.”