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Being Nice

One of my resolutions is to be a nicer person.  Kind of vague, I know.  I had an idea in my head when I first wrote that on my resolution list, which basically involved reverting back to an innocent, non-cynical, pre-ruined by the facts of life version of myself.  Somehow, I don’t think I’m capable of pulling that off.

I still want it, though.  I spent some time in February really trying to figure out where I want to be and how to get there, and I’ve come to a few conclusions.  I know that I want to go out of my way to be more helpful to people, even if it makes me feel uncomfortable, even though it might be hard work, even though I’d rather be at home.  But exerting effort, venturing out of my comfort zone, giving up some of my precious personal time – that’s really the easy part.  There are two things that will be harder to change: my thought life and allowing my emotions to control how I treat people.

That feels quite daunting; attempting to change the moment to moment thoughts, feelings and reactions I have to the people and events that make up my life.  How does one do that?  Where to start?

I used to be a nicer person.  Not that I’ve turned into a mean girl; I’m not purposefully hateful, rude or disrespectful.  I don’t do whatever it takes to ensure my own comfort, safety, happiness or success at the expense of other people.  I don’t generally think I am better than, more important, smarter, or more capable than the people around me. 

But my thought life is not all that I wish it to be.

Certainly I have a normal human level of selfishness and self-centeredness.  But beyond that, I am often irritable, impatient and judgmental, feelings that spill over from my thoughts and into my interactions with others.  And though it pains me to say, I am sometimes condescending in my thoughts toward other people.  These are things that I learned to be over time, and I can clearly remember when I did not think and feel that way.  (That is a whole topic for another post.)

If I can learn to be that way, can’t I learn to not be that way?

For now, I’m working on the task of being nice.  Going out of my way to help, offering help before someone has to ask me, donating my time and energy willingly.  It feels wrong to say that I have to “practice” being nice, but I think it’s pretty normal if you’re not looking forward to helping someone wash their car or alphabetize their movie collection.

What I am practicing is the willingness in my heart, which has really been an extension of Practicing Thankful.  I am focusing not on the hard work or lost personal time, or whatever it is that feels negative about the task at hand.  Instead, I am reminding myself that I get to spend time with someone I care about.  I get to be helpful.  I get to ease their burden.

So many rewards for being nice.

26 Comments Post a comment
  1. Triple S, you are seriously one of the nicest people I “know!” You always have a kind word to say to everyone who visits your blog, and I can tell you have the biggest heart. I’ve often thought you must be the nicest person in real life.

    I think most of us have judgmental and harsh thoughts towards others sometimes, but it’s what we do and say that matters the most. The thoughts don’t necessarily mean anything as long as we don’t act on them.

    I feel so honored to be a blogging friend!

    March 14, 2012
    • Oh, Angela, I could say the same things right back to you! In fact, consider them said 🙂 (I’m not nice enough to retype it all, haha).

      I am nice in general, but I do wish I could get back some of the innocence that you lose as you grow up in this world, that I didn’t think negatively about people, that I didn’t judge people before they even speak to me. I wish I acted on my thoughtfulness, instead of it literally being “thought”fulness. I wish a lot of things about myself.

      I hope my blog isn’t getting too boring, but I want to work through this and develop a plan that will help me get back to at least the habits of that innocence, if not the real thing.

      Thank you for your support in all that I do, you have been a great blogging friend indeed. I am the one who is honored!

      March 14, 2012
      • And for the record, last night I wrote the title for a new blog post I want to write: Be Nice Just Because You Can. We must be on the same wavelength! Please don’t think I’m copying you when I write my post (but I will reference your post, if that’s okay).

        I think I’m going through the same thing as you. I want to be nicer, but it’s more than that. I want to be less cynical and judgmental, and have a positive thought FIRST and not after I’ve internally chided myself for being negative.

        And your blog isn’t negative at all. It’s greatness!

        March 14, 2012
        • Have at it!

          You hit it on the head (with way fewer words, too). I am going to practice until I am at the point where I’m not having to chastise myself for those thoughts. There are layers to what I’m thinking of as “Nice”, but I think that’s a basic element.

          March 14, 2012
  2. I really like the thought about getting out of your comfort zone and helping someone. I think actions like that tend to build on each other. One kind action here or there plants a seed and before you know it you have organically grown a life change just by cultivating a few simple ideas.

    March 14, 2012
    • Hi Simon! I love that idea: “before you know it, you have organically grown a life change”. That’s just what I am trying to do, take small steps that will plant the seeds that will grow into a better me.

      March 14, 2012
  3. I have the feeling that underneath it all my basic self is loving and creative, but my self-concept, created in order to fit in, pretends to be nice and “loving”, and that is inauthentic.

    What would happen if you tried to find what makes you Happy, and pursued that?

    March 14, 2012
    • You bring up a very interesting point! I wonder, are you really being inauthentic, or is it a matter of being polite and behaving “nicely” at work or in public because that’s the right thing to do? Even though you don’t feel that way in your heart at that moment.

      Your comment reminded me of a conversation we had here about revealing different faces to different people or groups: https://steadilyskippingstones.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/i-dont-feel-like-writing-this-post/

      To answer your question, that’s what I’m doing now. I thought about what would make me truly happy, and made resolutions based on that. Being nicer in my heart, my thoughts and my actions would definitely make me a happier person!

      March 15, 2012
  4. Believe it or not, I ALSO had a blog post about being nice in mind! For the past several years my new years resolution was to be nice. When I worked at the public library 2 years ago and worked closely with the public one on one, I came in contact with people across the spectrum of education and wealth. I was surprised to find out it was usually the people you wanted to avoid, the worst looking people, were often the nicest. Seeing how the people I dealt with could either make me feel crummy or make me feel good made me want to be one of those nice people too. If these nice people, the ones who looked like they didn’t have such a pleasant life could do it, so could I.
    Also, it’s amazing how consciously being nice elevates your mood!
    I know reading my blog you must find this surprising 🙂 I don’t come off too nice most of the time!

    March 14, 2012
    • Well, I’m interested to read your Nice post! I think you’re nice – I’ve never gotten a different feeling from your blog at all! I worried about you when you were gone a while, and you had a few posts that felt like you were sad or dissatisfied. I was wishing you just happiness.

      Your example is so close to what I have noticed recently! While working the register, I realized that I was most definitely making assumptions based on the customer’s appearance. And I was so wrong, so often. We also have a wide variety of customers. I particularly remember one disheveled and grimey looking older man last Wed. who was delightful and pleasant and funny. But when he came up to the counter, I thought, “Okay, here we go… Wonder if this one is even sober?” When he left, I thought, “I am a supreme bitch.”

      I also have pulled myself out of some foul moods by pretending to be in a good mood, basically forcing myself to be nice at work. You are right, that (mostly) totally works. Here’s hoping that we all reach our Nice goals!

      March 14, 2012
  5. Just a thought . . . Take the time to consider the difference between “nice” and “kind.” One is superficial, one is the result of actually caring. The kind person asks “how are you doing” and actually listens to the answer 😉 I am most emphatically not a NICE person, but I do strive to be a polite and kind one!

    March 14, 2012
    • That’s very interesting! I never considered much difference between them, but I know it’s important to be clear with your intentions. So many people interpret words in so many different ways. I truly want to embody the genuine connotation of nice or kind. I don’t want to fall into the trap of pretending, but I do think that changing your patterns of behavior take practice and reinforcement. While I sometimes have to pretend to be in a good mood, I think that’s different.

      I’m really glad you brought that up! It’s certainly something important to think about!

      March 15, 2012
  6. Who was it that said, “let charity begin at home?” I have ALSO been thinking I needed to be kinder and gentler, and I realized it needed to start with how I “talked” to myself. This, of course, is a work in progress. So far, I seem to last about 5 minutes before I’m thinking something critical!

    March 15, 2012
    • It’s hard for me to imagine you needing to be kinder or gentler. When I think of you, “gentle” is the first word that comes to my mind. I know that what we show of ourselves here is only a small (and mostly well behaved) portion of who we are. Still, that is how I see you, and I know that goodness is a great part of who you are!

      Just take up my montra that practice makes perfect! So far, you’ve gotten to 5 minutes – that’s, like, 5 times better than 1 minute, right? Every time you catch yourself being mean to you, make her stop! It won’t be long before you’re up to 10 minutes!

      I came down on myself pretty hard about the first Thankful gap, so I know what you’re talking about. We are our own worst critics! But forgiving myself for that failure was a huge step for me. I’m not as hard on myself as I was even six months ago. I still find faults galore, but I am getting better at seeing them in a…let’s say a saner light ;). Like you said, it just took me being kinder and gentler with myself. I’m still practicing that!

      March 15, 2012
  7. I love this and it goes so well with Renee’s post this week on my blog (about toxic friendships). Thanks so much for your awesome comments there too! Great conversation.

    March 15, 2012
    • Hey! Thanks for stopping by here! That was a great conversation; I love those.

      It seems that a lot of us are contemplating our niceness of late. But, you know what? I think if you’re the type of person who thinks about that and desires to be nicer, then you must be pretty ok in the first place. Those toxic friends aren’t worrying about how nice they are! Also, the fact that we already have basically nice hearts is part of the reason we get stuck in those friendships in the first place. We are too kind-hearted to drop the dead weight right away, we want to help them (even at our own expense), we automatically assume it’s our own fault, etc., etc.

      Boy, being human ain’t always easy!

      March 15, 2012
  8. This is an interesting post that throws up food for thought. I’m not sure what it means to be a nice person. Someone who places others before themselves? Someone kinder or less judgemental? Actually, just this week, I was thinking how I could be less nice. I kinda feel like I’m being nice at the expense of myself which really doesn’t make sense. So I’m not sure where the balance is.

    Anyhoo, I think you have to be a nice person to think about wanting to be nicer in the first place! So it means you’re nice enough already! 🙂

    March 16, 2012
    • I think being nice is a lot of things, both specific in deed and word, and intangible in thought and feeling. It has taken on a lot of different layers for me.

      You’ve brought up another great point: there is such a thing as being “too nice”. There’s being nice and then there’s being a doormat. There’s being nice and then there’s sacrificing all of yourself for other people.

      *I wrote a much longer response originally, but I decided to turn it into a post of it’s own. (Yes, it was that long!)

      March 16, 2012
      • Lol, I look forward to that post – I’m sure it’ll be another interesting read 🙂 I’ve been thinking and like you said, being nice has a lot of different layers. I think even at its most basic level, it would still mean being a little less selfish. And it’s not possible to be nice without it being at our own expense. There will be times when we will have the capacity to be nicer, and more giving to others. But there will be days when we don’t and that’s ok because we must always be nice to ourselves first. The trick is to recognize this and it should all balance out 🙂

        March 18, 2012
        • Haha – it won’t be too interesting for you, since it’ll be mostly copy and paste. I agree with you about being less selfish, that’s a good explanation for what I see in myself. And that’s another interesting statement about all of it being at our own expense. I agree and disagree at the same time, haha, depending on how I look at that statement.

          March 18, 2012
  9. I think you are right that we need to practice kindness and niceness and love. We have to learn how to play nice, share, listen, and stop focussing on our selves all of the time. I think we can get rusty if we don’t practice. Maybe it’s like bowling. You have to practice to pull off a perfect game now and then. Most of the time you don’t, but you work at it. If you stop practicing, you lose your accuracy, it becomes a lot of hit and miss, and gutter balls. Bowling came to mind because I haven’t bowled in year, but I remember the concentration you needed and the slow steady improvement that came when you practiced.

    March 16, 2012
    • That’s a great analogy! There are things about living that some people think you shouldn’t have to practice, that if it doesn’t happen “naturally”, then you are being fake. I don’t believe that at all. To me, practicing the habits that I want to have means not allowing myself to get distracted or scared off because I don’t normally do this. I’m not faking it, I’m just not good at it yet.

      I think it’s okay to practice being who you want to be.

      March 16, 2012
  10. vicki #

    Michelle,
    I don’t know how many times I have to tell you this, but you are a nice person. I think what you are trying to get at maybe is that you want to be more giving, Giving of your time, giving of your advise, giving back to the world of what you have been blessed with. There is nothing wrong with that. Our society puts us in positions where we have to become strong, stubborn, to think for ourselves and to stand up for ourselves which sometimes takes over our life without us even knowing it. (this may have been said in all those other posts but its late and I didn’t read them lol) We become complacent and routine in our own little worlds to protect us from harms way, Next thing we know we wake up a little different then we remember. You have helped me in more ways then one. Give yourself a hug and a break. Keep up the good work and as time goes by you will realize how much you do for people. Here is an idea, instead of thinking about who you may have been short to that day, think about all the people you were nice to. Sometimes when you dwell on something to not do you do it more often. just like if you go to bed saying i don’t want a bad dream over and over in your head you have a bad dream. So instead think of butterfly’s over and over and you will see butterflies in your dream. i hope this made sense. Chat with you soon
    Your friend always
    Vicki

    March 16, 2012
    • “We become complacent and routine in our own little worlds to protect us from harms way, Next thing we know we wake up a little different then we remember.”

      You said it perfectly.

      And I think you’re right about the more giving part. I am basically nice, but I don’t give of myself as much as I should. But there is more to it, naturally :). It’s never simple, is it?

      I’m glad you think I’m nice ,though!

      March 17, 2012
  11. I have to practice being nice. My first instinct is to be judgmental. I usually am wrong. Thanks for this post.

    April 16, 2012
    • I struggle with being judgmental, too. I usually keep it to myself, but if I ever do complain or gossip, it blows up in my face – usually I find out I’m wrong.

      April 16, 2012

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