Monday, March 20, 2017

You MUST always be nice... or else, you're a bitch.

This topic is on my mind this morning, mainly due to a rant I just wrote about on my music blog.  The incident that prompts today's rant has already been fully described there, so if you want to read about it, you can read about it on the music blog.  Here, I will simply write about this topic in general.

Have you noticed that many Americans place a HUGE value on being "nice"?  As a culture, we smile a lot.  We're mostly friendly.  This is especially true among women, who are expected to be nice over all other things.

I don't actually have a problem with being nice, as long as the behavior is genuine.  I genuinely like being around most people and I value kindness.  I try to be kind when I can.  However, there are times when someone does something that doesn't make me want to be kind or nice.  Sometimes, people say or do things that are annoying.  I would prefer to be honest and tell them they are annoying, but because of my programming as an American, I feel like it's safer to be nice.

Well... here's the problem with always being nice.  Sometimes, people need to be called out on bad behavior.  You can be nice when you call someone out, but there are times when nice doesn't cut it.  If you don't send a strong message, the message gets lost and you have to repeat it.  When the real message eventually comes out, it's liable to be more hurtful than it could have been.  And you've also wasted a lot of time and energy trying to be nice and not getting your message across.

One thing I like about Germany is that people here tend to be more blunt about things.  I will admit that when I first came here, it was a shock to be yelled at by a stranger (and it's happened more than once).  It was a rude awakening to have some random German snarl at me about something I did, mainly out of ignorance.  I couldn't understand what they were saying, either, which made things worse.

But then, after awhile, I came to realize that being honest and blunt is often a time saver.  Because if you address something from the get go, there are usually fewer misunderstandings.  You are less likely to find yourself in a situation where you let things slide so much that you end up exploding.  I would rather deal with someone being firm and/or stern one time than hanging around with someone who is faking being nice and is actually pissed off.  Then, when they reach the end of their proverbial rope, they go off and you're left wondering WTF!

Some people find it easier to be "nice" than others.  Bill's ex wife, for instance, has the ability to sound sugar sweet when she's dealing with people.  However, Bill's ex wife is, underneath that layer of sweet bullshit, actually a very nasty and dangerous person.  She can sell ice to Eskimos (or so Bill has told me), but she has an agenda and is dishonest the vast majority of the time.  So you may think she's fabulous when you first meet her, but then after awhile, you start to see what's under the layer of sweetness.  It ain't pretty, folks.

I am definitely not as sweet as ex is.  I tend to "go ugly early", as Bill would put it.  However, I am also not nearly as fake as she is.  What you see is mostly what you get.  You might not always appreciate what I have to say, but most of the time, you can bet that what I've said is how I feel.  And you will know where you stand.  The exception to this rule is on SingSnap, where if you don't tell everyone who joins you how great they are, people think you're horrible.

I think being kind while being honest is a big challenge, although that is what people should probably strive hardest to do.  Have some regard for the person's feelings, but tell them the truth plainly and assertively.  Unfortunately, our culture doesn't do enough to teach people how to be assertive.  In our culture, most people are too "nice"... which doesn't always translate to "kind".  In fact, it's usually easier and lazier to always be nice.  You don't risk upsetting the person, but you also don't communicate effectively and sometimes you even end up lying.  I don't like liars.

In our culture, especially in some sub-cultures such as the military, we also have a problem with people being too aggressive.  There are some people who don't have a problem with simply steamrolling or bullying people to get what they want.  Those are the people who are loud, threatening, and "in your face".  They don't communicate with respect.  The person who bitched me out on SingSnap last month and accused me of being "full of myself" and "lacking character" was being aggressive, rather than assertive.  She did not respond to me with reason or respect.  So my reaction to her was simply to banish her from my world.  Who's got the time for people like that?  Other people might have taken her comments to heart, which would be a tragedy.  Because if you have to be so aggressive with strangers, it's likely that you yourself are a wounded child who could use kindness and assertiveness.  And no one deserves to feel like crap because of someone else's psychic wounds.

It's a challenge to be kind without being too "nice".  More of us, particularly in the United States, could probably stand to learn more about being assertive-- honest, but basically kind and respectful.  Unfortunately, even if you're assertive, people will still think you're a bitch.  Especially if you're female.  That's my Monday morning rant.  Hopefully, things will get better as the day wears on.


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