Difference between "Good" and "Nice"

The difference between good and nice has been on my mind a bunch lately. Trying to sort out the difference, and trying to make some promises to myself about what I want to do with my fresh thinking on this.

It started a few weeks ago when a friend and I went for a looooong walk in the park. She had suggested we meet, because I had alluded to a difficult situation and she was kind enough to offer her support to me.

So, we walked around Assiniboine Park, enjoying the beautiful evening…she hugged me, and let me cry, and listened to me, and listened to me some more…in the way supportive girlfriends do. She let me vent, and I ranted and railed for a while. She heard me, and let me know she did.

And then she proverbally “kicked my butt”.

She let me know I was being unreasonable, and demanding of another person in a way that wasn’t fair. She told me I was expecting more than was possible, and the way I was trying to work it out just increased the demands in a situation that was already overwhelming for another. She told me that although my situation was painful and difficult, I didn’t have a full grasp of the other’s position. She, having more experience than I of where the other was at, let me know what it was “really” like.

Funny thing was, even though she was setting me straight, telling me how I got it wrong, I wasn’t offended. Strangely, I became more relieved…the whole thing started to make a lot more sense, and though it was still difficult, it didn’t have the same level of turmoil. Hurt—yes, confusion—not so much.

I have thought back to that conversation numerous times over the last weeks, reminding me of the truth of what she said. She taught me much. She wasn’t “nice” in the way I might have expected her to be…taking my side, and “tsk, tsk-ing” the other…she challenged me pretty good. She may not have been “nice”, but gosh, was she “good” for me.

I’ve been realizing the toll that being “nice” has on relationships. Spouses who take the easy way out and are “nice”, swallowing the little resentments and pretending it doesn’t matter when he criticizes her family again, or he chooses to stay late and miss something he promised to attend again. Not saying anything is “nice”, but not “good”…it costs the relationship to have some things not working well.

So, I was getting the grey covered in my hair the other day, and I was chatting about this thought with R, my hairdresser. As we were talking, he says, “I always try to be nice.” And I say, “Nice or good?” And he says: “Aren’t those the same thing?”

And so we talk about this…it came up because he had recently let an employee go, because although she was very “nice”, she hadn’t been working out well. And R. says: “As we’re talking, I’m realizing how I was very ‘nice’ by saying things like, ‘I was thinking that if you’re interested, you could start….’ Or ‘You might want to think about trying….’ . I did this so that I didn’t appear pushy…I wanted her to like me. But when I said those things, I had timelines and targets for performance for her…I had clear expectations of what I expected from her…but now I’m not sure she would have known that.” Now, we’ve no way of knowing if this employee would have been able to reach these targets…she may have been fired for inadequate performance. But if he hadn’t been so “nice”, she would have clearly known the expectations, and had a much clearer picture of what she needed to do. She would have known where the bar was set, and she would have had a clear opportunity to determine if she wanted to reach it. She still may not have had a job, but she would have had a better chance.

It was interesting to watch R. ponder this out loud…and prompted me to further look at how I can choose to be nice to someone, rather than good for someone.

  • It’s easy to be nice, it takes courage to be good.
  • It’s obvious how to be nice, it takes careful judgement and thoughtful discernment to be good.
  • It’s safe for oneself to be nice, it can be risky to be good.
  • Nice looks after the speaker, good looks after the other, and invests in the relationship.
  • Nice keeps everybody smiling with each other, but the task can get lost in the conversations…while good may challenge the connection between people.
  • Nice feels warm and fuzzy and a little hollow, good feels real and authentic and vulnerable, and sometimes a little raw.
  • Nice is what we were taught: “be nice”, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”.
  • Nice leaves you “up a creek” with few options when the other person is unfair, mean, and rude.

I talked about these ideas with a group of people last week, and had some interesting discussions after…as people suddenly had a way to articulate an inner tension they had…the desire to have a “nice” conversation with someone but also have a pull to speak truth into a situation in a way that could be hard for the other person to hear.

How do you decide between being “nice” and “good”?

**I apologize for my lack of blogging…my webmaster has been making some changes which means the blog part of the site has a few kinks in it. Hope to have it up and running smoothly very shortly. ☺

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