Sometimes the nicest thing you can do is to scream at someone to wake the bloody hell up.

But if you are going to call someone to their senses, do so politely. There is no need to cause unnecessary offence. Even if there is every need to cause necessary offence.


Telling someone who is acting like a jerk that their behaviour is okay, out of niceness and politeness … in the end that is neither nice nor polite. To put it very simply, would you rather they continued their behaviour or stopped?


In Britain, we have honed the art of being ‘nice’ and ‘polite’ to a tee. We are masters at making sure that we don’t upset or offend anyone.

Because, well, we want them to like us and to appreciate us. And to say nice things about us.

Which would be fine except, the moment they’ve gone, we start having a good old bitch about them.

Not in nasty way, you understand, but in a more subtle kind of manner, as in:

“Harry’s not looking at his best … I guess the job must be getting too much for him … and he’s not a spring chicken anymore … And Maureen, she didn’t seem to really pick up the conversation … Maybe she needs to see the doctor …”

“Yes, but that’s only because we are worried about them …”

No, what you are actually doing is undermining them. You are making them out to be so weak and feeble and helpless that they can’t possibly take care of themselves. That without your “care” and “attention” they would completely fall apart.

All of which makes you feel so much better seeing how “helpful” and “caring” you are, and seeing as how you have got it all together.

Which is not what they would be saying, if someone asked after you.

No, they would find a whole stream of things that seemed to be not quite right about you.

All of which is a polite way of saying what you really feel deep, deep down, which is:

“Jesus, how utterly tedious and mediocre are these people? How mind-crushingly boring are they? What the hell are they doing with their lives? I’m glad we left that place, I couldn’t have tolerated another second of that soul-destroying, vile nonsense …”

“No, that’s not what it’s like … We’re nice people … We don’t think bad things about people …”

Actually, you do. You just don’t admit to yourself that you have these thoughts and feelings, because it isn’t nice thinking these thoughts. And it isn’t nice having these feelings.

And we know just how nice you are …

And there is a deeper fear. Namely, that they will be thinking and feeling those very same thoughts and feelings about you.

And, even more than that – and this is what is really at the very core of this – you are concerned that you will be thinking and feeling …

That you are tedious, mediocre and mind-crushingly boring.

Because you didn’t exactly light up the party, did you now?

All of which masks the fact that, underneath all the “niceness”, is resentment and hostility.

Because you know that the relationship is built on a lie. More so, that no one has the courage to say what everyone is thinking and feeling.

And, very simply, you resent the fact that you have to be “nice” and “polite”. Given what jerks they really are.

No, you are the jerk for being so desperate for them to like you.


I get how harsh this sounds.

I get how important it is for you to build up relationships.

I get that you don’t want to lose any of your friendships, by being “rude” and “unpleasant”.

And notice what the context is here: loss.

You don’t want to “lose” your friendships. You don’t want to end up being all alone, with no one to call on in your hour of need …

In which case, fear and lack is what is at the very heart of your friendships.

Well, maybe something else is available.

You know those people who light up a room the moment they enter it? Who have something about them? The way they walk, or that glint in their eye?

They are bringing who they are to the table. They are sharing themselves. All of themselves.

And have you noticed? People flock to be around them.

Do you think they are concerned with whether people will like them or not? Do you think they are trying to be nice?

No. The reason why people are attracted to them is because they are free of care and worry. They are not constrained or restricted in any way.

Isn’t that what you really want? Or do you really want to settle for that, “nicey, nicey, I’ll be your friend, and I’ll say nice things about you, if you be my friend, and you say nice things about me”, nonsense?

Is that what we have come to as a society in terms of how we relate to our friends? To those people we want to be around?

Remember when you were a small child and you happily played in the sand-pit, and you dived into the sand, and you splashed sand everywhere?

Were you concerned what anyone thought? No. You were so engrossed in your play that, if any of your friends came along, you wanted them to join in.

Were there any awkward silences, any need to fill in the gaps?

No, because you were too busy playing to worry about any of that.

Where has that spirit gone, my friend? Where has it gone?

© Phillip A. Klein March 2008

Published in: on March 17, 2008 at 1:25 am  Leave a Comment