What’s Wrong With Nice?

In grade school we had a teacher who put a piece of paper on each of our desks.  One student’s name was on each paper.  We all stood up away from the desks and waited for directions.   We were to walk around and put one word on each page about that student.   We were not allowed to use the word “nice”.   No one wants to be told they are ‘nice’.  That is the first thing I remember about the actual exercise.  Second,  that someone did write the word ‘nice’ on my paper.   I left that classroom wandering what was wrong with “nice”.  Third, I left feeling let down, I didn’t warrant more than nice.  Some kid broke a spoken law and used the word nice.   Come on, that’s pretty brazen.

Nice made my descriptive existence bland.

But….

Personally I always like(d) nice.

And I like “kind”.

And I like “decent”.

And I like “funny”.

I remember feeling  bad because if someone thought I was nice and that was the only thing they knew about me what else were they going to  say?

Now I can look back and presume the teacher wanted us to use more or better vocabulary.   Maybe she thought ‘nice’ was not creative.  Perhaps she wanted us to stretch our creativity and use our thinkers.

But ever since then I have had a secret affinity for the word ‘nice’.  It’s almost like I’m rooting for the underdog of adjectives.

I’ve spent many years since then, almost feeling let down when someone uses the word ‘nice’.  Like I should expect more.   I will fight the good fight, and not feel sad when someone refers to me or something I did as nice.

But there’s always that little wiggly feeling in the back of my awareness….. that I’m going to get a big red check mark on my existence for being only nice.

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44 thoughts on “What’s Wrong With Nice?

  1. bikebrown says:

    It’s better than “OK”.

  2. Change the punctuation on that word and it takes on a whole new meaning. Nice! 😉

  3. Anonymous says:

    NIce.

  4. Anonymous says:

    NIce?

  5. April says:

    A reminder to be aware of their words…one never knows how another will interpret it—especially to a developing brain. Nice is good for me. 🙂

    • Or maybe to better explain it. It is good for me too. I do believe this was all my interpretation, and it has stuck with me. I’ve been carrying this self imposed bland label for awhile. 😉

  6. Nice post! 😉 I don’t think there’s anything wrong with nice. I remember teachers doing the same and also with the word like, as in I like… Also, I remember them challenging us to write compositions without the words I, Me – I hated that!
    Diana xo

  7. niaaeryn says:

    Woot! Those underdog adjectives need a champion!
    I like nice…better to go somewhere nice than avant garde sometimes. There is nothing wrong I concur. I get what she tried to do but some words take time to get to know, like benevolent. A good word, but the responsibility, the dresses required alone may bankrupt one. It is a bit grandiose whereas nice is approachable, comforting, straightforward. 🙂

  8. mewhoami says:

    Although I believe also that it was said for the reason of trying to expand the children’s vocabulary, it would put a damper on the word. Like you, I think I would feel a bit insulted afterward if anyone called me nice, wondering why they couldn’t come up with something better. That’s all I am – nice? But, you are nice…. and kind and sweet. 🙂

  9. Hev says:

    I think nice is a great word. If all people remember of me is that I was nice I will be pretty happy with that 🙂 I get why the exercise has left you with that feeling though, it may have backfired a little from the teachers original intention.

    • I’m pretty sure her intention was very good. It’s like that poor little old word ‘nice’ was inadvertently given a bad rap. Poor word. 😉 It’s okay. Like you, if the world remembers me as ‘nice’ I’m good with that. Though, I won’t mind if there are reasons for why I’m remembered as ‘nice’ as part of the remembering.

  10. Thomas says:

    In response to the post’s title, I think nothing is wrong with nice. Though, I do feel that we should always back up our adjectives with description or solid examples, even the more specific adjectives. So not just saying that someone is “compassionate” or “bright” or “nice,” but providing detail to expand those sentiments.

    Still, nice is nice. (:

    • I like that Thomas, giving examples to back up the adjective. That is a very solid way of thinking. And also makes us be more creative with our thoughts. Which, I have long believed to have been the purpose of the original exercise. Thank you!

  11. For me it’s always been the word “interesting.” Come on, can’t people comes up with a more specific descriptor? 🙂 And what ever were our teachers trying to do with such exercises anyway? 🙂 Truth be known though, I still use and like “nice.” It’s so it.

  12. NotAPunkRocker says:

    Niiiiiice!

    I think I apply it differently to different people. Generic vs. genuine, in most cases.

    (you are the latter, not the former!)

  13. russtowne says:

    I love your post, Colleen. I agree that the word “Nice” should be a compliment rather than a back-handed insult. Books such as “No More Mr. Nice Guy” haven’t helped the cause. To me, being nice isn’t about being a wimp and then being passive-aggressive. It is being thoughtful, helpful, and kind. Thank you for being nice, thoughtful, helpful, kind, and so much more.

    • Thank you Russ, that’s how I see it as well. Nice is not bland. I do like what Thomas said about giving examples. I’m not sure why “nice” has ever been misinterpreted as “walk all over me”. I think that is a misuse of the word, or misperception. Nice can also be strong and charismatic and charming.

      And thank you for your very nice words. 🙂

  14. I see where you’re coming from. I think probably the teacher spent the first 10 years of her career doing that exercise and after seeing a million second graders who could not come up with a word more original than nice, she put the kibosh on it….just a guess.

    • Or maybe just thought of some examples to start filling the chalk board with? Nice is a good place to start. Now lets see what other words we can think of to add to our data base of ‘nice’ like words!!! 🙂

  15. tric says:

    I wouldn’t be overly impressed with ‘nice’. As a child I’d not have thought of it as a word to describe me, so I might have thought they were lying.
    This reminds me of being referred to thoughout my teenage and early twenty years as ‘strong’. It made me cross because others fell apart and got great help and comfort, where as I was left alone, and labelled ‘strong’.
    Equally my husband was labelled ‘quiet’, as was one of my daughters, Each found it impossible to break free of that title., and life has shown them to be ‘definitely not quiet’, or maybe ‘quiet but deadly’. 🙂

    • Ah, the “quiet” one. I have a brother who was always labeled ‘quiet’. To which my mother would always reply “it’s those quiet ones you need to keep an eye on!!!!

      My mom has lately been telling me she despises the ‘strong’ label. And ferociously so!

      Ah but don’t we have aversions to words and such. I’ve never liked the word “silly” in reference to me. And a few other words I don’t care for. This could turn in to another post entirely Tric!

  16. dogear6 says:

    I think what’s wrong with “nice” is that too many people see it as the same as “push-over”. It’s funny for me, because I’ll be told oh, you’re so nice! And I feel like putting my best bitch face and saying yeah, well don’t take abuse it either. Because unfortunately the world is full of people who don’t mind taking advantage of others.

    I prefer nice. I think it makes it easier for everyone to live together and be kind. But I’m not going to be stomped for it either.

    Nancy

  17. Kentucky Angel says:

    A lot of my friends tell me I’m a nice person. I love hearing that, because the alternative is that you are not a nice person. Or it could be even worse. So when they tell me I’m nice I love it because it makes me smile.
    As a school kid I was called “smart”, and I hated that. It set me apart from the normal people, and I wanted to be normal, just like all the rest, but no, I had to be called smart. That was only because my brother was a year older, so I studied with him when he started school. That meant when I started I already knew the material, so I studied with him again, and it went that way until he left for boarding school in 9th grade.

    • Isn’t it funny (odd?) how we can take the innocence of a word and apply an entirely new meaning or feeling to it? Like being called nice, why should we feel bad about that? Or ‘smart’ ? We are funny creatures us humans. 🙂 I think being nice and smart is lovely. 🙂

  18. Nice post 😀 yes extended vocab I’m thinking. 😊

  19. I’m always the one they used to refer to as “nice” and I felt sort of okay about it, until I wondered if they could possibly say I was kind, compassionate, selfless and funny. Which I am. I just figured nice encompasses all those qualities, so now I just go along with it. I want to be nice, as opposed to not nice and mean spirited – although my kids says it sometimes, when something has been taken away – aha! but I enjoy not being nice then.

    • I like that, ‘nice’ does encompass those things. And being ‘the mom’ we can’t always be the nice one. But, in your definition that does not make us mean spirited when we are not being nice, we are being parental. 😉

  20. reocochran says:

    Nothing is wrong with nice! smiles!

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