In this article I’d like to look into what being nice actually means in a relationship. All the above applies and there is more. You can be passively nice and actively nice.
Passive niceness is when you react to your partner “nicely.” If you are made wrong about something you don’t need to immediately become defensive and counter-attack. You can be nice about it and take the criticism, understand where your partner is coming from and offer, but not insist on, your explanation. If you are asked to do something you don’t want to do, you can be “nice” about it and refuse politely and make a counter offer, if appropriate, being mindful of your partner’s feelings. Being nice in this category also includes not speaking your mind as a reaction to your partner’s behavior (such as: you’re fat) lest you hurt their feelings. I am sure you can come up with more examples of nice reactive or passive behavior.
Now, what does it mean to be actively nice? Active niceness requires a conscious alertness to other people’s feelings and state of mind so that you can jump in and offer your help, assistance, or contribution without being asked to. Yes, in different cultures and circumstances this may come across as intrusive on their privacy, and sometimes it may well be, but that is what is often required in true relationships and true friendships. Personal “privacy” boundaries shrink the closer we are to each other.
We are often better equipped to better see what’s “wrong” in certain situations that our partner or friend may be in than they can because we are usually more emotionally disengaged and can see a situation more “realistically.” We may see a situation from a different perspective that is unavailable to the other, or have something to offer (knowledge, insight or a material object or skill) that the other person does not know we have, doesn’t want to ask for, or didn’t think of at the time.
There is a fine line between being nice or helpful and being pushy. Offering your help or assistance without the other person’s consent may be very annoying or even rude — in fact, quite the opposite of “nice.” Grievances with which your friend may come to you may not require your help at all. In fact, the only help and the nicest thing you can do is just listen. (Men are particularly good at offering unwanted help and solutions, which can be very annoying to women.)
The saying that you should “treat others the way you want to be treated” may apply to some very limited situations among the people of the same culture, age, gender, etc., who more or less share the same outlook on life and the world view. But, in the world of diversity in which we live, to “treat others the way THEY want to be treated,” is much more appropriate. For this you need to be much more sensitive and alert to other’s needs and wants if you want to be “nice.”
Now, is being “nice” such a good thing to be that you should always be nice to everyone? NO, vehemently it is NOT. All people, including strangers, deserve to be given the benefit of the doubt and be treated nicely (passively) and with respect of their personal boundaries to start off with. The closer you get, the more active niceness you will be allowed to demonstrate.
On the other hand, if you are threatened or bullied niceness will just get you into more trouble. Also, you need to beware of certain types of people, such as psychopaths, sociopaths (corporate or criminal), and others with severe personality disorders, who do not appreciate niceness and will only use it to their advantage and ultimately to your demise.
I am sure you’ve heard about the concept of “tough love.” On the surface, tough love certainly looks anything but nice. Tough love may not look nice, but it certainly demonstrates your commitment to the wellbeing of another. And I think that that is nice.
In conclusion, being nice is not the same as merely being polite. Your parents can teach you to be polite, but being nice is your personal trait and cannot be taught, but it may be developed. Closeness and intimacy in a relationship is created and allowed by “niceness”.