How many times have I told my kids to be nice? Be nice and share your toys with Susie. Be nice and give Johnny a turn. It drives me crazy when parents act like saying please is a golden ticket that gives their kid a free ride to whatever they want. Maybe this is just more of me getting meaner, but I can’t help but wonder in hindsight if sometimes I have taken away my children’s voices all in the name of being nice.
I recently watched my daughter panic at an invitation she wanted to turn down but struggled with declining and still being nice. I know I taught her this, but in hindsight I’m not sure how avoiding is any nicer than being straight forward.
I know she isn’t the only one who has trouble with what nice actually means. One time a lady at church was talking about a co-worker that was constantly harsh and abrasive. From the description the co-worker was toxic and should have been avoided. But the church lady decided the best way to deal with her abusive co-worker was to try harder to be friendly, and make her a cake. And most of the women in the room seemed to agree that her “Let me reward you for walking all over me” attitude was a great idea!
There is no shortage of the opposite extreme either. Strong personalities seem to smell us from a mile away. But I’m learning it’s not nice to reinforce that pushing and manipulating is acceptable. Even when we’re interacting with moderate personalities, our hesitation and beating around the bush can be hard to interpret. Is the hesitation because I have other plans, or don’t like Chinese food, or am not interested in spending time with the person who offered the invitation? Or maybe, I just need a little encouragement.
I’ve also noticed that when I’m talking to someone who is obviously being nice or encouraging, I catch myself wondering if their compliments are sincere or if they have some ulterior motive. It’s like I’ve spent so much time putting a positive spin on everything to be nice, that I wonder if the tables have turned and I’m on the receiving end.
I absolutely believe that when sharing my feelings it’s vital to do so with kindness, tact and sensitivity. However, honestly is equally important to be honest for the greater good of the relationship. Additionally, it’s important to be sensitive to the other person’s needs and wants, to be aware of their body language and strive to truly understand them. When I’m authentic, it creates a safe environment of trust.
I’ve had years of building bad habits that will take time to break. But I’m working to be content with who I am, and then maybe I can help others to do the same. What are your best tools to find a balance between being nice and being honest?