November 9, 2007

Are nice guys really nice?

I'm big on definitions. I think it's important to know what words mean, that when we are in conversation about something, we should define that something. My friends probably get tired of me asking "what does ...... mean?" My first memory of this is when I dated a guy who said wrote he was 'sensitive' in his profile. Oh good, I said to myself, that must mean he's thoughtful and considerate of the needs of others, which translates to he would be sensitive to mine. When I actually met him at a restaurant, he was rude ("discourteous or impolite, esp. in a deliberate way, rough in manners or behavior"). As soon as we greeted each other, he started into a critical diatribe ("a bitter, sharply abusive denunciation, attack, or criticism") against everyone and everything. The waiters, people standing in the lobby with us, the weather, his sister who lived in Utah, his boss, his ex-wife - he had something nasty to say about everything. I learned really fast that sensitive to him was apparently "easily pained, annoyed" and that he was not that kind and thoughtful guy I imagined him to be.

So what brings this up? Nice. The word nice. The person who is nice. Nice movie, nice child, nice view. We say it so much and we attribute good things to that word. We believe it's nice to be nice. "Nice guys finish last"....Can't find a nice guy"..."if you'd only be nice to me"....But what does that really mean? Nice is defined as "pleasing; agreeable; delightful, amiable, suitable or proper" and most of us are taught that being nice is the right way to be. I can hear moms in the market saying "be nice to your nice to that nice to your toys"...and it gets imbedded that we have to be 'nice' but maybe that's not always the right thing after all.

Of course, it's important to be kind and thoughtful, but if 'nice' means being agreeable, like in 'not rocking the boat'...'not making waves'...then does that mean giving up what we really believe or feel and just going along with the group or our partner so we don't cause any upset or bad feelings?

When I first married, many moons ago and when I was really just getting out of my teens, I remember being a home with my then-husband and seeing a spider. Not a little spider, but a really big hairy thing and I screamed, thinking that my husband would be a brave knight and rescue me from this icky thing. And he didn't move, didn't get up, just said to me something like "if you scream, I will never help you. If you ask nicely, I will do it." And what did I learn from this? To hold in my feelings, to be rational when I felt emotional, to 'be nice.' And I've spent a lifetime holding in my 'negative' feelings, thinking that there was something wrong with having them, and being agreeable and nice.

Emotions might be the revelation of who we really are. They're raw and real and what is really going on inside of us. They're what happens before we think, so it's not always a good idea to express them and sometimes it is the right thing to think first, like when our boss makes us angry or when our kids get on our last nerve. But in relationships, if we always think before we speak, if we routinely 'eat' our feelings and are rational, are we really there? Is the real us really showing?

The new BF and I just went through a time when we both learned to 'let it out,' to express what we really feel or think without thought to the affect on the other person. I'm not advocating name-calling or blaming or using bad words, just saying our real reaction to what we are hearing. If I don't agree with something or like what he's saying, I'm gonna tell him that. If I piss him off (OK, that CAN happen), he let's me know he's unhappy with what I said or did. I always thought if I really expressing myself, saying what I considered the 'negative things' in my head, that people won't like me or that I would offend someone and what's happened is the opposite. I'll hear him object to something I said and it makes me laugh, in a good way. I like being able to 'tell it like it is' and he is much more appealing to me, now that he's being real.

This all doesn't mean to be disagreeable for the sake of it and being reasonable still has a place and fighting fair is still the great virtue, but let's be who we really are. Let's show who lives inside of us. Let's tell the truth about what we think and feel. Let's be fearless. Let's be real.

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