‘Are you on NICE?’ by noula diamantopoulos
Nice is one of those words we use a lot, but what does nice mean? All I can come up with is that nice means so many things, and that it’s meaning has become ambiguous and therefore unreliable. When someone uses the word nice, it’s meaning is questionable and leaves the recipient wondering whether the delivery imparted sarcasm or ‘niceness’.
When I asked my students what nice meant, they mostly came back with the same response: “It means… nice?”
It’s such a strange word because we can all see niceness and feel niceness and taste niceness and hear niceness and even think niceness… niceness is what our senses experienced as nice. That’s nice! We use the word nice so often that it comes out of our mouth unconsciously, before we have had time to think more deeply, wishing instead to rush the conversation to it’s conclusion – well that’s how it feels to me when someone uses the ‘nice’ word.
“How was dinner?”
“How was last nights outing?”
“How was Peru?”
This brings me to feel that we seem to have become lazy and stuck. Why do we use this ‘nice’ word so often? Are we suffering from ‘niceness?’ Is niceness an overlaying universal measurement of kindness and goodness where we are all left feeling that we have been nice to each other? But what does that mean?
And then another thought develops. Is it possible that the desire to be nice and to experience niceness; prevents us from discovering how we feel at a deeper level? Is our ability to self-develop impaired because of this ‘nicenessness’ syndrome?
Nicenessness is a variety of behaviours, actions, deeds and or words that are displayed so that we are liked. Now we may be suffering from ‘niceness’ without awareness believing that we are just being – yes you know what I am about to say – believing we are just being nice. Well, isn’t it nice to be nice?
I guess it is, but what does that mean, ‘nice?’ And why do we often have conditional niceness statements like: “Yeah it was nice but…”
And then there is the case of extreme opposite thinking. That’s when your thinking tips the scales and ends deadpan on the floor when you ask: “Are you suggesting that we are not to be nice?”
We go from the North Pole to the South Pole in one swift stride, without venturing into the forest or depths of the sea that lie in between.
My suggesting is to ‘know thyself’ and be aware of why we do what we do, and what might be driving our actions, deeds and words. My question is a pathway to becoming authentic. And how can you know that you are you, if you do not know yourself, or even know how to know yourself?
Here is the antidote to the nicenessness syndrome and a (read one) pathway to discovering who you are – a pathway to becoming authentic. I would begin with removing the word nice from the lexicon. I would look for other words that I might use to replace the word nice – I might even carry those words on me and keep them handy and begin to use as often as I can remember.
This will slow down your communication a little, as you truly begin to explore which is the most appropriate word that best expresses what you are feeling at the time. Goodbye niceness, hello authenticity! Well at least the practice of authenticity.
Here’s a list that may assist you to get started:
You can even be metaphorical and use words from the visual or culinary arts to express yourself. Like the colour blue, the flavour of a spice, or you can go even wilder and liken yourself to an artist, an animal or a wise muse. This way of communicating is playful, and it engages your imagination and the imagination of the other, and the journey you will take may take some curious twists and unfurl insights and new learnings.
These are a few simple processes that move you along a path of knowing yourself. And if you practice meditation or mindfulness, then this approach is along those lines, for it creates a pause in your automatic thinking responses. And in that pause you in-quire. You check in with yourself by asking: “What do I feel about this?” and then be as quirky or as deeply meaningful with your response with your new words, and stop being nice for the sake of niceness.