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Don't Be Nice

·925 words·5 mins

How to be Kind

Folks have said, “what a nice person” about you. You’ve been applauded for your contributions publicly and people generally feel good about you. But there is a limit. You know it to be true. You’ve been nice, given above and beyond, yet still you feel like you don’t belong. There is something missing. Other time’s you’ve been a part of a group for a while and you’ve been nice, but your voice is not heard. I’ve just read a few points from the Professional Troublemaker (affliate link), and encountered an interesting distinction between being Nice and being Kind. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Not Nice Things

Doing things for the benefit of others often comes at the cost of something to you. Sometimes in the form of giving more time or resource. The community will always have great demands and needs, and it is be alluring to throw yourself to the problem; to win the favors of people in the community. At some point, you’ve done this so many times. You’ve poured yourself out endlessly; You’ve denied yourself of your priorities; you burnout.

You say "Yes" to the desires others, and say "No" to yourself and your dreams.

There are the types who only give to get. Here every action demands an equivalent expectation. You’ve made these contracts with other’s covertly, with no one agreeing to any terms and conditions. When the bill comes due, no one pays any attention, you are justified in your anger and lash out agressively or more often, passively. You are entitled to certain things, right? Why can’t they see that you’ve done some much for them, why is it so hard for they to do stuff for you?

You say "I deserve this, I've done so much for these people".

No one agreed to these terms of your Covert Contracts as Dr. Robert Glover calls it in No More Mr. Nice Guy (affiliate link). No one knows that they’ve entered a transaction between you and them.

In either of these two forms, there is something that isn’t working. You are doing nice things, but not getting the results that you expect. You’ve done this as a child, things worked then but it doesn’t work now.

Being the nice person also means that you don’t rock the boat and be that person who calls something out. You don’t want to speak up and talk about something inappropriate that happened. Or stand up for something that is wrong. People make complaints about decisions you’ve made and you take them as they are. You don’t want to be the bearer of bad news. So you instead want to keep things the way they are, good or bad.

You say "I'm not the kind of person who ruffles feathers, just shrug it off".

Think about it: being nice is just a way of keeping things that way they are. It’s a passive vote to keep the status quo. It is fertile ground for resentment and bad behavior. Niceness can lead to very not nice things. Nicities are just a way sugar coat the sour things, the rotten things about community and ourselves. It leaves no room for improvement for the community, until it eventually dies, a hollow death.

Capacity in Community

It’s not that you should not do things for the community. Every member should. In fact great communities are those where everyone gives to the benefit of the whole. It should however, be done with respect to their own capacities. Some can give large amounts of resources, while others not. To the community the differences are clear, but to the giver it always means a great amount. When you are in a community that takes, takes, takes, look out, that sounds like a cult.

Be kind to yourself, then be kind to others. Know your capacities in your life. Dig deep and understand what your needs are, where you are coming from and where you are headed. What do you need to move forward? Do the work to fill those needs and once you have what you need then you can freely be generous to others in your community. The trick is only you can determine your capacity. Expect also, that others will have different capacities that yourself. Some will have more, some less. That is okay, let that be enough.

Don’t be nice, be kind.

Being nice meets people where they are and allows them to be comfortable. Sometimes this level of acquiescence lets people get away with inappropriate things. Being nice is can be a form of quiet passivity, it is a vote for the status quo. Conversely, kindness is active. It meets people where they are and helps them move forward in the community. It does not aim to please. It just makes a contribution, how it is received will depend on how people see it. Kindness is compassionate. It speaks up when something inappropriate happens. It does the right thing for the community. It also understands that everyone has their own capacity for what they can and cannot do. It does not expect, but respects everyone’s ability and contributions to the community.

Kindness is King

Kindness keeps community. What we do for each other is what binds us to each other. A strong type of trust is supported by the kind actions we do for each other, for the benefit of our collective selves, of our community. Don’t be nice, be kind. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to everyone.