niceHere’s the way most 12-Step meetings work.   Each week there’s a leader who get ten minutes to talk about how the program (that’s what we call it) has helped them, often called their Experience, Strength and Hope.  He then chooses a topic for the meeting and other members can share on the that topic.  Over the years, a standard repertoire of topics has developed but every once in while, someone tosses out a new one.   Thursday night, someone chose Being Nice.  There aren’t many topics that can leave me speechless but this one not only left me speechless but somewhat annoyed.  Where in our literature, I thought, does it say anything about Being Nice?   I can be very literal when I don’t like something.  Yet, at the same time, I wondered why I found the topic so annoying.  While sitting with nothing to say isn’t my favorite way to spend a meeting, it often leads to a week of contemplation in which I learn something about myself and my attitudes.

When I got to my car after the meeting, I Googled Nice on my smartphone and found synonyms like pleasing, agreeable, delightful, amiably pleasant and kind, all reasonable goals for a man trying to improve his relationships.  Still, Nice gave me the willies.  Thinking back, I realized that the men I think of as passive all liked the topic, while those I think of as aggressive … myself included … had trouble relating.   And there it is … many men don’t see, Oh, he’s such a Nice Guy, as a compliment.  And they are not alone.  The internet is littered with negative articles about Nice Guys.  An article on Your Tango says that women don’t date Nice Guys because they’re to busy being Nice to be genuine and they tend to be doormats.  Your Tango also draws a connection between Nice Guys and passive-aggressive menWho is the passive aggressive man? it says.  He is that guy who avoids responsibility and conflict through passivity and withdrawal. He is the “Nice Guy” who reels you in with his adoration and once you are in the game he turns the tables so quickly your head will swim until you decide to take a hike.  What aggressive guy wants that connotation?  Psychology Today posted an article titled Why Nice Guys and Gals Finish Last in Love that says, among other things, that Nice people do not make their partners invest and are too available.   So, since most of us aspire to romance in our lives, Being Nice carries a societal connotation that not everyone aspires to.

In fact, I found an article on the Publishers Weekly Blog titled, The Worst Word in the English Language is “Nice” that was even more on the mark. It says:  If you ever want to say nothing in the most efficient way possible, just say something is “nice.” Ever tried to introduce a significant other to your family, asked your parents afterward what they thought, only to have them respond “oh, she is nice” or, “I thought he was nice“? It’s what you say when you don’t know what to say.  No other word ostensibly expresses contentment and acceptance while also harboring 14 (approximate) subterranean shades of doubt and pessimism. As we know the word today, nice’s dichotomous connotations–its simultaneous positive/negative implications–make it the linguistic equivalent of a rider; a lousy, tag along meaning slapped onto a sterling one.  In other words, calling someone Nice is what we used to call damning them with faint praise.  No thank you.

It’s good to know I’m not alone.  So, you call me Kind, you call me Delightful, you call me Pleasing, you can even call me Amiable … but please, don’t call me Nice.  It gives me the willies.

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7 Comments on “Nice?”

  1. cherperz Says:

    I am more than a little surprised that someone being called “nice” is a negative thing or that you were annoyed by the topic.

    Really? Merriam Websters dictionary says:

    adjective \ˈnīs\

    : giving pleasure or joy : good and enjoyable

    : attractive or of good quality

    : kind, polite, and friendly

    And that is BAD? I know I am guilty of describing a number of people as being nice. I don’t use the term because I can’t think of a different adjective. I use it because I think “nice” conveys that I think the person is a kind and good person. Nice would, also imply that the person is moral and ethical. If none of those adjectives applied, the word “nice” might be replaced by the word “bad”.

    Personally, I probably would be using even less attractive words than “bad”. You know my propensity to use trashy language and slang…so in those instances…shithead and douche bag might apply. (note: for all of you that say people only swear because of their limitations to use the proper words…I do know how to describe selfish, irresponsible, narcissists…I just prefer to call them shitheads.)

    I think there is a segment of both sexes that avail themselves to be doormats, thus not limited to those that would be called “nice guys.” It is a trait that I find equally unattractive in both sexes. I gather from a male perspective, you might find it especially so in a man. As a woman, I find it equally distasteful to see a woman who lives solely for “doing for her family” to the deterrent of anything being done for herself. They may see themselves as a martyr, I tend to see a person being taken advantage of.

    I don’t think of myself as aggressive but I am very assertive. AND yet, I try to be very conscientious and kind. I do consider myself a nice person. There are far worse things a person can be.

    • oldereyes Says:

      As I said, I’m happy to be called any Webster’s synonyms. It’s the numerous connotations I don’t care for. And it’s also my observation that many guys who want to be called “nice” are passive-aggressive, and p-a men make me nuts, which also plays into my opinion. I’m assertive, sometimes aggressive, and very direct. Some people don’t consider being as direct as I am as “nice.” I would not, in fact, describe myself as nice.

  2. Hmmm. I’m seeing this both ways. I can understand your points, Bud: “nice” seems “average,” “fair” or “meh.” No guy wants to be those things. When I think of “nice” the way you’re defining it, I realize that my correlating vocabulary is “too nice.” And I admit that I either don’t trust a guy who’s “too nice” or I find him completely boring and even asexual. (My boss is a great example of this.) Sometimes “too nice” guys try too hard, and that’s a turn-off.

    That being said, I see cherperz’s point, too. Because when I think, “What’s the alternative to wanting to date a nice guy?” the answer is “a bad boy.” That has all its own connotations and problems. The notion of being “too available” is an interesting one because it’s a way I have never seen any guy I was interested in. In fact, as demonstrates your point a bit, I am completely disinterested in guys who are too available.

    I’ve realized recently that I myself have been too available, historically. And yes, that has meant that I don’t make others invest in me. That corresponds to something Angie’s husband once told her: that maybe the reason I’ve had trouble in my love life is because I was “too nice.” Huh. Interesting.

    • cherperz Says:

      You make a really interesting point, thesinglecell. You know what I think the issue here is…it’s the word “too” in front of any of the adjectives. When I was first engaged to my husband in 1969, we had a tiff and he said I was too ready to diss my friends in lieu of doing things with him. He was right. Too anything is probably not a good thing.

      Isn’t everything a balancing act. Not too much but just enough of “whatever”.

      As far as Bud’s ascertation that nice is an adjective that infers that someone is mediocre or worse yet, a weak, passive pussy….I am still not convineced.

      I consider guys like my husband or Bud, for that matter, nice guys. Not too nice….not so nice they become cloying but nice guys worth keeping for the long haul. Bud has been married nearly 50 years (isn’t that what he said?) and I have been married now for 42. If these guys weren’t nice guys they would be ex-husbands.

    • oldereyes Says:

      As I said to Cheryl, my problem with “nice” is the connotations, not the definitions, and in that respect, I think “too nice” is one of the connotations I object to. And I think if you date someone who describes himself as a nice guy, there’s a good chance he’s passive at best and passive aggressive at worst. But that’s only my opinion.

  3. oldereyes Says:

    And I have to say, I’m pleased to have generated a few long comments on a Saturday post 🙂 . I’ve been thinking about a post on things that men and women see completely differently … and this may be one of them.

  4. awriterweavesatale Says:

    love this. My least favorite word too:) I’d love to use it in the upcoming issue of The Woven Tale Press: You can see most recent issues here if not familiar with us:
    If interested, please email me at
    Thanks, Sandra

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