Of being 'nice'


Recently, while amongst a congregation of fellow bloggers/writers/authors/poets/normal people, I happened to overhear a conversation. Since I’m rather ‘un-interactive’ at social events, I either stick with the handful of people who I know, or just float around the room - a drink in one hand and my trusty smart phone in the other, while eavesdropping on conversations. Yes, I like my gossip.  

So during one of such ‘floats’ (is that even a word?), I overheard two people talk about me. While the ‘contents of the conversation’ will be up for debate in another post, I was struck by a phrase that both these bloggers uttered at the same time - “Ah, Sid. He’s a nice chap."


See, in an ideal world  that would be considered as a compliment of sorts. And I do. But, frankly, it bothered me slightly. Because, this wasn’t the first time that I’d heard overheard someone say that I was a ‘nice’ person. According to FreeDictionary.com, nice means ‘pleasing and agreeable in nature’ or ‘exhibiting courtesy and politeness’. I suppose, in some ways, it’s better to be referred to as ‘a nice guy’ rather than say, ‘the fat guy’, ‘the stupid guy’ or ‘that prick’. But being nice has baggage of its own.


As a child, I was brought up just like most other kids around me. I was told/ taught to be ‘nice to people’, which if you think of it, is often confused with being polite or having good manners. But in the adult world, often, being nice means you come across either as a sycophant suck-up or a passive douche devoid of any personality or opinion.


But often, neither of it is the truth. I like meeting new people, sharing experiences, finding that ‘connection’, being selfless and generally being helpful. But, no I am not the epitome of niceness. I do have my moments of anger, sadness, frustration, selfishness, being unhelpful and generally crazy. But it’s rarely out in the open or in front of anyone else. And that, is perhaps where the problem lies.


“So, what exactly is the problem with being nice?” I hear you ask.


The problem, my friend, is that it is often difficult to be nice without being left with a ‘hypothetical bite mark on the bum’, as a result of your niceness. To me, being nice means a number of things. But it primarily means that you’re willing to go that extra mile for friends, family and sometimes even random strangers to bring a smile on their faces. No hidden agendas, no motives, no cunning plans. Of course, there are some expectations - in return, you expect some gratitude, some smiles, loyalty and some good karma. Or so I thought.


Let’s just say that I learnt my lessons the hard way and now I realise that being termed as ‘nice’ isn’t always a compliment. Instead, you could be :


Assumed to be a door mat or a push over and someone who is happy to let people walk all over you
A target for bullying - online and offline - especially, by people who take your ‘unwillingness to enter into conflict’ as a sign of weakness
Perceived to be sitting on the fence and not having an opinion about anyone or anything.
Taken for granted. A lot. And people assume that you are ok with it.
Attracting the wrong kind of people; some even going as far as guilt-tripping you into doing something for them.


But here’s the ugly truth. The first ‘rule’ of being nice, that no one really tells you about, is to be nice to yourself.  There was a point where I viewed myself based on how people viewed me. Of course, I soon realised some cold-hearted facts:


Not everyone is going like you. The sooner we learn to accept it, the better.
Do not be too nice to the point of being a doormat.
Do not be unconditionally nice.
Do not bend over backwards to help people who will not be there for you.
Set boundaries. Because your time and resources are very valuable.
I know what you’re thinking. All these points are merely pointing out the obvious. But when you’re too busy ‘being nice’, you tend not to realise these. So take a step back, and look around you. You may be surprised to notice that you may be being used as a ‘pseudo-therapist’ by someone you least expected.   You know that popular adage : Nice guys finish last ?   It’s untrue. Because Nice guys never finish. Because they are forever stopping to help someone and there is ‘always’ someone.   Of course, my transition is still going on. It takes time to sort of ‘unlearn’ everything you’ve learnt through your life. At least, these days I can fantasize about giving someone a piece of my mind or returning a rude/obnoxious comment with another one or perhaps never to speak to someone who hurt me. And some day, I’ll get there.   But here’s another side of that ugly truth - when it comes to me, anyway. If you do genuinely need help and ask me for help, if I can, I will. Yes, I may not drop every single thing as I have done in the past (yes, I have been naive like that) and be at your beck and call, but if you have been a friend to me, I sure as hell will be a friend to you.   Why? Because I’m ‘nice’ like that.  


This post is perhaps, very different to my usual write ups. It has been languishing about in the drafts section for a few months now. The more I read it, the more I felt it read like a diary entry. But then again, I’m hitting the publish button in the hope that it’ll help someone at some point. If nothing, I’ll probably re-read it some day and either laugh at my naivety of writing such a post or perhaps, I’ll be a much more of a realistic person then. I also want to express my gratitude to the friends who have always looked out for me and reminded me time and again about 'doing things for people'.  You know who you are :)