IS BEING NICE OVERRATED?

He’s nice!  Those were the first words that came tumbling out of my sister’s mouth as she described a man she thought I should date.

Nice.  Barf.

Shoot me now.

This was quite a while ago but as you can imagine, the horror of it all has stuck with me.  He’s nice.  Ack.

Is being nice overrated?

Is being nice overrated?

The word nice has become insanely popular lately, only to be overshadowed by “kind”.  Kind is the “it” word at the moment, flaunting itself as the even BETTER version of nice!  Kind is the nicer nice!  I’m not entirely schooled on the subtle differences but as far as I can tell a nice person wears home knit sweaters and eats whatever shitty food you feed them without complaint, while a kind person does exactly the same thing but while wearing oversized glasses and skinny jeans.

I could be wrong but I don’t think I am.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with being nice and in fact I’m sure it comes in handy, mostly for the people around you.  I kid.  Being nice is very important.

I just don’t think “nice” is the very first word I’d want someone to describe me as. It should be on the list, even the top 5, but I don’t want it to be number one.  Which harkens back to the “he’s nice” comment from my sister. At the time all I could think was where are my running shoes because I need to get as far away in the other direction as quickly as possible.  How boring does a man have to be that the first word that pops into your head is “nice”.

But is he interesting? Is he a rule breaker? Is he smart, confident, funny, and complicated? Is he a thinker? A joker? A world class kartwheeler?  Doesn’t that sound more interesting than … nice?

Thinking about that is what led me to ask  a bunch of my family and friends what one word they’d use to describe me to a friend if they had to.  Only one word.  I got:

funny
industrious
badass
practicalicious
real
confident
know-it-all
likeable
determined
and …
kind

It was a dangerous game to play but I was curious.  Which by the way is one of the top 5 words I would use to describe myself.  Curious.  I would never have thought to pick some of the other words that people used to describe me but they all fit.    That’s if you realize Know-it-All actually means super-pretty.

Chances are all of these people would agree that I’m nice, it just wasn’t the first word they’d use to describe me.

And it isn’t the first thing I’d look for in a boyfriend either.  I’m interested in a little bit more than that.

Like big muscles.

I’ve matured a great deal because in high school the criteria would have been big muscles and can name all the members of Duran Duran.

Give it a shot this weekend.  If you’re feeling brave.  Ask your friends and family what single word they’d use to describe you.  And just hope and pray that they’ll be nice.

Have a good weekend!

66 Comments

  1. Kathleen Aberley says:

    I did once… and without exception the answer was: Black Hat & Broomstick! 🙂
    It was years ago, so perhaps I should repeat the exercise?

  2. Melissa says:

    My husband was described to me as nice too. But he was so much more. In this day and time, Nice is a great thing to have going for you. If, “he’s handsome” was the first thing, I’d run…handsome doesn’t always equate nice… Says the girl who married two handsome chaps before finding her Nice Prince Charming. 3rd time I always say…stinkin handsome frogs the first two.

    • Monica says:

      There’s a lot of truth here. I wouldn’t brush off nice. I think it’s less that he’s boring and more that she wants you to have nice, and it’s more important to her that you find that than… say… acrobatic. Not that acrobatic wouldn’t also potentially describe the man in question but that after the hellish break-up nice is a great thing to get.

      • Pamela Pruitt says:

        I have to agree. Nice is really a great thing. So is decent. I was blessed enough to get both with my husband. He’s also muscular, tall, has gorgeous dark blue eyes and is a really funny story teller. The physical attracted me to him long enough to learn about the real person. I was coming out of a horrible 17 years relationship and definitely NOT LOOKING FOR DRAMA. If I had to use one word for my husband it would be Decent. And he really is. He can also be a total bad ass when needed, but he is kind to children, animals and old people. (which I have become during our 20 year marriage) Looks fade away, but personality remains. I’ll take a funny good man over a handsome bad guy anyday!

        • Karen says:

          Never once said they weren’t great things. In fact repeatedly pointed out they’re desirable characteristics. ~ karen!

        • Karen says:

          (I’d eat a 100% nice man alive) ~ karen!

        • Kim from Milwaukee says:

          That’s the key, kind to children, animals and old people!!! He can be mean to meanies and snarky when necessary, that’s what I want! I don’t care if he’s handsome in the conventional way, either.
          Most men are handsome in their own way, especially if they are intelligent.

  3. cathy says:

    Interesting, very very interesting.
    And while we’re at it, what’s the latest in the romance department?

  4. Centi says:

    In German we’ve got a saying: “nice” is the little sister of “shit” .

    • Jacquie says:

      Love that!

    • Bunguin says:

      I’m not surprised this is a German saying.

      Don’t get me wrong, I like it. I’m just not surprised it’s German in origin.

      • Andrea says:

        what’s the original German? “Nett ist die Schwesterlein von Scheiss”? I think I need this in the original, to keep on hand alongside my current favorite German word, “Backpfeifengesicht,” aka a face that desperately needs punching.

  5. MrsChrisSA says:

    Naaaaaice!!!!

  6. Marilyn says:

    I could think of worse things to be called .. and kindness if it’s genuime is one of the greatest attributes a Person could have …. my Mom and my husband are two of the kindest people I know and yes ..they are also two of the nicest.

  7. Ann says:

    I really doubt nice would come up in any of my friends/family acquaintance list, LOL. I can only imagine what I would get if I asked.

    creative would probably be #1. Everybody knows and thinks of me as the creative one. One who knits, quilts, sews, works kitchen magic everyday, ect

    #2-quirky
    #3-know it all-this is not necessarily a good thing
    #4-droll
    #5-passionate. This may or may not be a good thing since I think they would be saying it about the new, political me. Brought out by the idiocracy we have going on now in the US politically. Some say I have no filters, others call me some pretty stupid stuff like snowflake or libtard.

    All in all, when I look at these 5 attributes, I am actually fine with all of them. I am never going to be a fluent, funny, glib conversationalist. I am trying to improve the filters on my mouth but other than that, I will continue to stand and fight for what I think is right in this world.

    I knew I would not have the time or desire to go find people and ask them the question. So yes, it is speculation. But by age 63, you really should have a pretty good handle on who you are

    • Jennie Lee says:

      Hi, Ann! I’m a 64-year-old snowflake, myself! Thanks for fighting. Together, we are strong.

      • Ann says:

        They say some day an army of grey headed women will lead this world!

        • Jennie Lee says:

          I haven’t heard that exact one before, but some years back the Dalai Lama, for whom I have a lot of respect, made a statement that I’ve never seen explained. He said “The world will be saved by the western woman.” Interesting.

    • Deb says:

      Oooh, this 63yr old snowflake/libtard can totally relate! Actually, I think Karen could tell us how to handle this mess! Too bad she’s Canadian! We need her!

      • PMK says:

        Oh, the things you’ll learn. I have only ever been called a libtard by a hypocritical and bigoted MCP of a relative so I knew what that meant. I used to want to whack him with my shovel but now I just ignore him. I can still remember when he was voting NDP.

        I had to look up snowflake, though, and found a bunch of other terms that are new to me. Wow! There is a whole new language out there.

  8. Katie C. says:

    You forgot your other favorite description… He’s “Idris Elba.”

  9. danni says:

    I’m stubborn
    End of story. 😀

  10. Carol says:

    Many years ago when we were students, my boyfriend left the purchase of a greeting card (I forget the occasion) until the last minute and had a small selection of cards to choose from. He bought me the “Because you’re nice” card – the kind you might send your granny. This, as you can imagine, resulted in an epic fight and almost broke us up. He learned his lesson well and we’ve now been happily married for over 30 years. I am nice (and kind, for that matter) but oh, so much more!

  11. Susan Claire says:

    I would prefer not to invite critisism from my friends and family-because then I wouldn’t have any friends or family.

  12. Judy says:

    I totally get what you’re saying, but think about this: When someone tells you a guy is “nice,” it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s his #1 attribute. “Nice” may be just what they think you need to hear, possibly after being with someone who is “Not Nice.”

  13. Mary W says:

    Nice and kind are what is expected! Therefore I agree that the number one thing should be more descriptive of your own personality and likeability. Creative, energetic, curious, industrious, lean/muscular (in a very feminine way), challengable, (I made that one up to get a one word adjective) and even cute but cute doesn’t really count since it sort of just happens. Never mind, I used to be cute but don’t really care now about makeup, haircuts, clothes, etc. so that is the last word anyone would use for me so I guess you do have something to do with being cute. You are very cute – leaning more towards pretty and I know you care about your hair and stuff enough to put in the time, except for the nails part. Which is very OK with me because that means your doing something other than filing and painting in your spare time. You’re typing (do people use that word anymore?) and making terrific posts for me to enjoy.

  14. Valerie says:

    We have not met in person but the two words that come to mind when I read your postings are CREATIVE AND INVENTIVE.

  15. Jamieson says:

    My grade 5 teacher banned us from using the word “nice” in class. She said it had been stripped of its meaning as we were overusing and misusing it as a bland and generic adjective basically meaning “okay” or “fine”. I still find myself avoiding it.
    I too would describe you as curious, but we are talking about the definition meaning unexplainable and weird, right??

  16. Sabrina Campbell says:

    Better to have something else to say, something standout an.cod unique. Our preist was just talking about this very thing…you onto want to be described just as nice, it’s derived from the Latin of “pretty dull”. Or as Dictionary.com says: Origin of nice
    1250–1300; Middle English: foolish, stupid < Old French: silly, simple < Latin nescius ignorant, incapable, equivalent to ne- negative prefix + sci- (stem of scīre to know; see science) + -us adj. suffix.

  17. Pat says:

    When I was teaching grade 1, my students were not allowed to use the word “nice”. I printed it on the board and then put jail bars over it. “Nice” was in jail for withholding important information! They got it! Well, at least for that year.

  18. Larraine says:

    Way back over 50 years ago when I was in university, the girls I lived with might describe a guy as “the kind you’d like your sister to marry.” That pretty well said it all. Bounce that one off your sister and see what you get.

  19. Monique says:

    Nice and kind..great qualities in a young boy..young man..man:)
    Honest
    Faithful
    Clean
    Funny
    Smart
    Handy

    In no order..just great qualities:)

    I’ll ask at football tomorrow w/ mydaughters what they would say ..and vice versa

    But omg Nice matters so much to me in people..if they make me laugh on top of that..Winner.

  20. Dale Lacina says:

    Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent. With all those qualities in a boyfriend, you’d be dating a Boy Scout.

  21. Stephanie Hobson says:

    Sweet. I’d rather be called anything than sweet. Kind I can handle, but sweet is just the outside… no telling what’s under it. Some of the most wicked people I have met appear to be sweet.

  22. Jennie Lee says:

    “Kind” is actually very important to me. Another word I haven’t seen anyone use here, that’s important to me is “generous”. Other words that I hope others would apply to me are: considerate (similar to kind), honest, funny, open-minded, fair, creative, and optimistic.

  23. Jolene Wilder says:

    I like all those words to describe you……except kind. I don’t know you, so….. But really, I think you’re correct in that it’s over-used or not used correctly. To me, kind is someone like Mother Theresa. I had a friend who was truly kind, but she died. I think we do kind things, but to “be” kind???? We need to be more serious about using that word. Nice? I would ask…..is he sexy? Now, that’s nice. Have a good weekend!

  24. Robert says:

    A few words of wisdom from Mr Sondheim.
    “you’re so nice, your not good your not bad, you’re just nice”

  25. Jacquie says:

    Nice is just too bland. I’m too much for someone “nice”. I need strong, and witty; witty’s important.

  26. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    You are right Karen…but maybe people are so quick to say nice just because it is easier…don’t have to think much to come up with that one!…After this many years of sort of knowing you I can say you are a hard working…always ready to try…never give up sort of woman…one I would be proud to have as a daughter! Hugs

  27. Shannon says:

    Firework. (Need I add anymore…) ☺

  28. Linda in illinois says:

    Awesome, bodacious, energetic, lively, curious, no it all or can figure it out, loving, sympathetic, experimental, and at least 100 more How about you’re the best!

  29. Renee Ryz says:

    My daughter told me I was “selfless”. I thought that was such a lovely thing to say.

  30. leslie says:

    I asked my husband if he can think of one word to describe himself and it wasn’t a nice word! That being said… A nice guy is GOLD!

  31. Kim says:

    I actually did the word thing awhile back. But it was three words. I’ll share my list if I can find it. Also I always thought the difference between nice and kind was:

    Nice=doing what is proper/the right thing/etc because one feels obligated socially to do so/wants to look good/nice.

    And

    Kind: doing what is right/loving because that’s where your heart is.

    Nice people treat their friends and people who can do things for them well. Kind people treat everyone well.

    But that’s just always how I thought of it in my head and why my ex-boyfriend from a decade ago was certainly “nice” but was also a douche canoe.

    And where’s my list? I can’t find it. Suffice to say my friends all said I was awesome.

  32. jaine kunst says:

    I think you’ll just have to check him out for yourself. What does he do for a living?

  33. Engineer Guy says:

    The word”Nice” isn’t icluded in the poem, but if you think about it, it is there over and over.
    Curiosity

    may have killed the cat; more likely
    the cat was just unlucky, or else curious
    to see what death was like, having no cause
    to go on licking paws, or fathering
    litter on litter of kittens, predictably.

    Nevertheless, to be curious
    is dangerous enough. To distrust
    what is always said, what seems,
    to ask odd questions, interfere in dreams,
    leave home, smell rats, have hunches
    do not endear cats to those doggy circles
    where well-smelt baskets, suitable wives, good lunches
    are the order of things, and where prevails
    much wagging of incurious heads and tails.
    Face it. Curiosity
    will not cause us to die–
    only lack of it will.
    Never to want to see
    the other side of the hill
    or that improbable country
    where living is an idyll
    (although a probable hell)
    would kill us all.
    Only the curious
    have, if they live, a tale
    worth telling at all.

    Dogs say cats love too much, are irresponsible,
    are changeable, marry too many wives,
    desert their children, chill all dinner tables
    with tales of their nine lives.
    Well, they are lucky. Let them be
    nine-lived and contradictory,
    curious enough to change, prepared to pay
    the cat price, which is to die
    and die again and again,
    each time with no less pain.
    A cat minority of one
    is all that can be counted on
    to tell the truth. And what cats have to tell
    on each return from hell
    is this: that dying is what the living do,
    that dying is what the loving do,
    and that dead dogs are those who do not know
    that dying is what, to live, each has to do.

    • Muff Hackett says:

      Wow! What is the source for that poem Engineer Guy? I sit here with my beloved cat (settling comfortably near the end of her ninth life at 17) and agree with you.

      • Engineer Guy says:

        Apologies for the delay, we had a little storm roll through named “Harvey”. The author of the poem is Alistair Reed and is readily available via Google. Glad you liked it.

  34. Laura Bee says:

    My daughter wasn’t even three yet when she saw a dog at the park and said “Mommy, look at the big, white, fluffy, nice dog.”
    I was so proud of her for using all those words, I never thought how the dog felt about it.

  35. Markus F says:

    I only know you in a one-way kind of way and that would be “Authentic”.
    Beautifully authentic.

  36. Ellen says:

    Lately I wish I was NOT nice at all. Some people think they can walk all over you. My white hair is going to turn blonde because I’m so mad right now!

    • Karen says:

      Yup. You need to learn to say no. They won’t expect that, but they may need to hear it. It doesn’t mean you aren’t a nice person it means you’re nice but not a doormat. Being someone who admittedly gets a lot of stuff accomplished I can tell you people think that makes me the person to ask to do stuff for them. Like I magically have more hours in the day than they do, lol. I don’t. And I often say no. The same thing is probably happening to you. ~ karen!

      • Catherine says:

        I know I’m late to the game here but, nice does not and, historically has not, meant any of the things we think it means. (“Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya…”) In the past is simply meant that it was something appropriate or correct or well, just satisfactory. So one had “nice”manners, or one’s attire was nice. If anything “nice” became shorthand for overly correct, fastidious or precise. How it came to mean an agreeable person who doesn’t make too many demands on you is something I will never understand. Although, looking at the word’s etymology can help you see how it came to mean what everyone thinks it means.

  37. karen j cosme says:

    Don’t you do things in fives…like books? Or is it just books? Well, here are my top five…for me or anyone else.
    1. open
    2. woke
    3. true
    4. generous
    5. imperfect

    For you, Karen? BOSS.

  38. Bunguin says:

    Yes. Nice is overrated. Perhaps more accurately, nice is overvalued.

    As someone who was taught to be ‘nice’ at all costs, I can say this accurately. Nice is fine, nice is good. Nice isn’t tantamount to all other qualities or modes of being. Being too ‘nice’ too often, for m,e meant letting everyone walk all over me because otherwise I was ‘mean’ and not ‘nice’

    With conviction i can now say, f*ck that.

    Be nice, be kind, but be something else first (smart, adventurous, thoughtful, baddass…). Be nice second.

  39. Karen Jeanne says:

    I’m both curious & afraid to learn what my friends & family would say about me if given the chance. Pretty sure they’d just go with “nice” or “sweet” to avoid being totally honest, & admitting they think I’m a weirdo. It’s very trusting of you to have asked… I wondered, did you ask everyone face to face or did you pose the question on social media?

  40. Lily says:

    I asked my best friend what adjectives she’d use for me and she said: ‘cheap, easy, tastes great, less filling.’
    I’ might be in the market for a new best friend.

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