I feel uncomfortable when someone calls me nice. It’s not as if I have something against being likeable. It’s just that the connotations associated with this tag have altered drastically over the last few years. This sobriquet is mostly reserved for someone who agrees with our perception we have of our own fabulousness. So, someone who rarely disagrees with us and has only good things to say is considered nice.
Truth be told, niceness these days has rarely anything to do with the individual and his/her character or the lack of it. It has more to do with how he/she makes us feel about ourselves.
The same holds true for us. In our desire to be liked, we often refrain from saying what we feel. So, when a friend shares her latest literary masterpiece that reads more like the scribbling of a six year old, or invites us to her brand new home that’s decorated like the house of horrors, we’d rather gush politely than blurt out that we’ve yet to see anything worse. Of course not. That’s harsh and we don’t want to come across as judgmental, do we?
I understand that the idea is to not hurt someone else’s feelings even if we didn’t agree with them. So we’ll continue praising Sneha Aunt’s snazzy new hairdo even if it makes her look like Paresh Rawal and insist that our tone-deaf cousin sings just like Lata Mangeshkar.
We want to be nice so that others are nice to us in return.
Precisely why we are overtly sweet with people we barely know, especially our friends on Facebook. We become more generous with our compliments and ‘heartfelt’ emotions. After all, the more we like, the more others will like us, in turn making us feel good about ourselves.
Even if we feel slighted by someone, rather than approaching him/her directly, we are happy posting generic updates, cribbing about insensitivity and meanness of the world at large.
Sadly, we reserve our true selves, read our worst side, only for those closest to us, snapping at them or throwing tantrums without the slightest provocation. I feel the ideal way of gauging someone’s true character is to observe how they behave with people they don’t need to impress. A lady who treats her household help as her slave just because she’s paying her a salary deserves contempt. The chap in his gleaming BMW, who’d rather resort to fist cuffs than admit he was in the wrong, is far from educated despite his made in USA qualifications.
On the other hand we have people who do not shy of telling Aunty that her new hairdo makes her look like a Poodle or that your masterpiece is a piece of trash. But rather than calling them nice, we are quick to dismiss them as rude, opinionated or even jealous of our success.
It’s as if speaking the truth has become the greatest sin of all.
Sadly, many of us would rather revel in false praises than pay heed to well-meaning criticism. It’s easier to be stung by censure and deceive ourselves into believing that it’s just evil machinations of a jealous mind.
I think the way we react to praise and criticism defines us. Believe in your greatness and rest assured you’ll be swimming in the sea of mediocrity for the rest of your life. Only if we learn to sift out well-meaning concern, accept it gracefully and work on it to become better, are we truly deserving of praise.
We can only learn from our mistakes only if we accept that they are mistakes, right?
Precisely why we need to surround ourselves with those who are ready to tell you the truth no matter how much it hurts. Your worst critic is perhaps your best friend.
So, if you are someone who really cares for me, please don’t be nice, be yourself with me. I may like you less but I’ll certainly respect you more.