Sometimes I know exactly what I’m expected to say/do in order to be considered a “nice person.” But saying/doing those things feels unnatural.
Maybe examples are needed:
It feels unnatural for me to make small talk.
When someone says, “My sister’s husband’s brother is starting a business, and he could really use prayers,” I get super awkward.
At that point, I’m thinking, “I’m supposed to tell her that’s interesting! Tell her you’ll pray for her, Amanda!”
I’m not at all interested.
And I literally have no idea WHAT to pray in that situation. (I guess, “God bless So-and-so’s sister’s husband’s brother’s business”… ???)
I know I’m obligated, culturally, to smile and nod at whatever someone says, as long as they are smiling and nodding themselves. But if they are frowning and saying that something is sad, I should frown and agree with their sadness, too.
Either way, agreement is key!
…even if I happen to disagree with whatever they’re saying…
Because I end up arguing with myself between what I’m expected to say and what I’d rather say. And, even as I’m writing now, I’m not sure where to land.
As much as I believe that feelings shouldn’t be trusted and humans should discipline themselves to do what doesn’t come naturally– I still FEEL icky and fake when I obediently do what society expects me to do. I still FEEL like a sell-out when I pout empathetically and lament, “I’m so sorry you have been tired lately!” instead of pointing out, “I’ve got four kids and one of them is teething, but some of us choose not to dwell on it.”
Should I practice being “nicer” regardless of whether or not I want to do it?
Should I say/do what is socially expected of me, as an act of service and self-sacrifice?
Or did God make me the way I am–sort of awkward–because He has a job for me that doesn’t require a magnetic personality and lots of fans?
Maybe I should just keep being weird (which some consider “not nice”) because my equally weird friends love me this way.
I go back and forth all the time.
I’ve read the book How to Win Friends and Influence People.
It tells me that I can earn goodwill by offering a listening ear and generally making others feel good about themselves. Dale Carnegie recommends that I make every person I meet believe he/she is the most important person in the room.
Yet, I struggle.
For two reasons:
#1. Attempting to change minds this way feels slimey. It seems like a trick. What makes me better than a propoganda-touting politician, who kisses butts and wins elections on charm alone? What makes me better than a salesman, who is willing to say whatever it takes to make you comfortable so he can get what he wants from you? I don’t want to sell myself in exchange for popularity, because I don’t like the types of people who seem to have done so already.
#2. I don’t really want to be friends with people who talk about themselves (and their sister’s husband’s niece’s asthma) constantly. So why would would I want to “win” them?
Again–I know how that sounds!
It doesn’t sound very nice!
Sometimes I know exactly what I’m supposed to say/do in order to demonstrate niceness, and one of those things is to keep certain thoughts to myself.
But the truth is, I don’t want to be friends with certain people. That’s how I feel.
I can hear my words through the filter of someone who won’t appreciate this post, and I understand that they expect me to be friendly. They will think I’m just being mean, for no reason.
Perhaps they will think to themselves how glad they are that we’re not friends, and then they will go smile and nod and pretend to care about the poodle of a cousin’s gardener, who is a much better person than me.
But, for the rest of my readers, I hope I’m making sense:
Being ‘nice’ feels like a cheap trick humans play on each other when they’re too stubborn or lazy or corrupt to build relationships on something more substantive.
I don’t want to practice social niceties, because I don’t want more people in the world just saying what they’re “supposed” to say. I want honest, thoughtful, judgmental friends.
Be honest and judgmental: do you think I need to suck it up and be “nice” anyway? 🙂