August 26, 2008

The 7 Types of Nice

[By Merry]

This IS mah nice face!

Here at Cranky Fitness we ipso facto don't advocate people being too damn cheerful. (Notice how I slipped a little Latin in there? That's my way of trying to make the blog look classy and impress people.)

Warning: more Latin phrases (quasi-Latin, anyway) will be appearing shortly.

But there's a difference between "too damn cheerful" and "negative to the point of being hurtful." We advocate a Zen approach to fitness: the middle path between obsequiously nice and vitriolically mean. (Or at least that's what I mean by a Zen approach on Tuesdays. On another day, the definition might be different.)

You'll find a lot of good advice on ways to deal with people who have a negative mindset and believe in sharing misery. When it's overt behavior, that's easy enough to deal with. But what do you do when you're surrounded by people who are "Nice"? Not all types of "Nice" are positive-minded or genuinely helpful -- they can even be harmful, all the more so because they operate under the cover of kindness. You need to be prepared.

There are many sub-categories, but here are the basic 7 Types of Nice:

sincerely nice [Latin: Niceous Sincerei] The really irritating thing about this type is that you can't find any reasonable reason to be irritated with them. They really want to help you if you're having a hard day, and if you're ever in a bad situation, you can count on this one to cover your back. Just avoid them first thing in the morning and everything will be fine. (They're invariably chipper in the morning.)

wannabe nice [Latin: Niceous Aspirei] Though he generally thinks you're an idiot, this person takes the time to answer foolish questions (often found in software companies working with ignorant technical writers). Will help at the gym with adjusting weights or explaining how to use a tricky piece of equipment.

because it's expected nice [Latin: Niceous DeRigeurei] She'll bring a hostess gift to a party, even if it's a potluck, because That's The Way Things are Done. Note: according to experts, it is not advisable to wear white shoes after Labor day if you are going to be in this person's vicinity.

so long as it's not an effort nice [Latin: Niceous StatusQuois] The type who would help a little old lady cross the street, so long as he was going to cross the street anyway. Will hold the door open for you if he's going into the gym right before you. Won't hold the elevator if he's in a hurry.

Watch out, anything below this line is potentially harmful.

passive-aggressive nice [Latin: Niceous Backstabi] This type acquiesces if you ask them a favor, but underneath they hide a seething cauldron of resentment that can spill over into acts of petty irksomeness when you least expect it. Superficially can resemble Niceous Sincerei, but can be distinguished by morose silences, hurt sighs, and the response "No, nothing's the matter." Siiiiiiigh.

whiplash nice [Latin: Niceous D'Escalieri] This type specializes in double talk that doesn't sting until you've left. You'll be driving home after the party, and suddenly think "Oh, that's what he meant."

Often recognized in the wild by the silence created when you walk into the room and the averted glances ("Who me? Talk about you? Never! Nice outfit, by the way. Those lycra bicycle pants really cover your stretch marks, don't they? You can hardly see them at all.") Typical retort: "All I said was..." accompanied by a hurt look.

Best way to deal with this species: Take their words at face value. They'll either think you're too stupid to appreciate their wit (and do you really care what they think?) and leave you alone, or they'll get frustrated into evolving into an even nastier type of "Nice." Or maybe, just maybe, they'll modify their behaviour and become a nicer person. It's possible that this behavior can be the result of a habit that degenerated from attempts to be witty. (Cf. the upcoming blog post, Types of Witty.)

emotional-sniper nice [Latin: Niceous AK47ei] When this one speaks, be wary. The words seem nice. On paper, the remark would seem harmless, or at least not-ill intentioned. But there's a look in the eyes, the 'accidental' probing of a sore spot while watching you intently, that's more like an emotional sniper looking for a vulnerable area. Never found in the vicinity of Niceous Sincerei, but has been known to associate with Niceous D'Escalieri.

Most experts recommend not engaging this type at all, if possible. If an encounter is inevitable, you are advised to treat questionable comments as humor. Nothing disconcerts this type so much as a trill of laughter and the words "Oh, you and your sense of humor!" or words to like effect. Warning: Do not show weakness, as they become remorseless at the tiniest whisper of a whimper.

It's important to distinguish between these types because they're out there... right now... maybe even lurking on this site, who knows. There have been confirmed sightings of Niceous D'Escalieri at backyard barbecues ("Are you having another piece of chicken? How wonderful to be able to eat anything and not care...") or Niceous Backstabi at the gym ("No, I don't mind if you change the channel to Wrestling ... even though it tends to make me feel ill ... don't mind me... of course, you will explain things to the paramedics when I faint, won't you?").

You might have noticed that there aren't any expert opinions on how to approach passive-aggressively nice types. That's because the experts were evenly divided between a gag (applied to the 'nice' person) or earplugs (applied to the victim). Neither sounded particularly useful to me, so I thought I'd ask the expert readers ... um, I'm looking at you ... how they deal with this type of person.

Yes, I did mean you over there. Who else would I ask?


  1. I don't think I qualify for any type of niceness. In fact, can we invent a new type of niceness that has to be hastily covered up with grudgingness in order to maintain one's reputation as a Big Meany?

    VICTIM: "Thanks for the birthday card, what a nice thought!"

    TA: "Yeahhh don't get used to it or anything."

    TA x

  2. The passive aggressive nice person is better called by the true name of martyr. No one likes a martyr, not even the martyr.

    So call the person on it. Tell them to quit being a martyr and either tell you outright what they want, or quit whining and pouting. They will deny it, but if you call them on it often enough, they usually quit, at least with you. If it doesn't stop, spend as little time with that person as you can, and ignore their manipulations as much as possible.


  3. Whiplash nice... *shudders*

    Just like messymimi, I find that calling people on their concealed nastiness works very well. Same smile on, same overly unctuous tone.

    Personally, I also often the use the "I can't hear you" method.

  4. I find that a chipper "oh, good! Let's get on with it." works as a wonderful response to "oh, nothing *sigh*"

  5. After several encounters, I tend to assume that the other person is following the golden rule (treat others the way you like to be treated)and give them similar backhanded compliments, etc.

    Since the fake-nice people are way more likely to cry meanie, when they do, I'll usually reply that I assumed that's how they wanted to be treated, since that's how they treated others. Usually there's a stunned silence, after which they avoid me, or start trying to be honestly nice.

  6. What about nice to the point of pain? I'm so "nice" (read: huge conflict avoider) that I let people walk all over me, which irritates my friends and family. Which makes me try and be nicer to them. Which ends up being more irritating... you see where this is going.

    Good thing I have therapy tomorrow.

  7. Hm. Of course I immediately tried to categorize my own self--I guess I'm a cross between a Wannabe and a So Long type.

    Lot's of people give me credit for being a niceous sincerei but that's a carefully fostered illusion. I remember once a good friend of mine who speculated about another friend's love life, to which I responded, I know people think I'm a nice person, but I'm really not, and I just really don't care that much.

    By the way, don't you just love that Phoebe/Friends quote, "I'd like to help but I really don't want to."

    And I love TA's new type! It perfectly describes the niceness of New Yorkers. Maybe we could call it niceous nieuamsterdamus.

    As for the passive-aggressive types--well, any of the types at all--I cope using "the absolute taking at face value" trick. It works for everybody!!! Even my husband. And people stop pulling it on you, too. And it's so easy, you don't have to get into any stupid analyzing of somebody's hidden meanings or code. I don't do code. As my therapist always used to say, "Just be clear."

  8. I'm passive aggressive nice... But I'm working on that. ^_^ Which wigs people out, because I have a mean streak... that used to be camouflaged by the "niceness".

    But if you dig deep enough, I'm the sincere type.

    ...I'm onion/layers nice.

  9. The Bag Lady is not nice. Period. She is cranky. And mean.
    (and a really bad liar)

  10. I think I'm a sincerely nice person but like Charlotte, I had to learn to stop letting people walk all over me. I'm pretty good now about saying no and I don't even care if it upsets the person. Ok, I do, I really hate to upset them but I still hold firm to my no.

    As for the passive aggressive types, I agree with the others about confronting it head on. That's the only way to deal with those types.

  11. I cannot stand any sort of passive aggressive behavior..grr..I just tell people to climb off their cross. Is that mean? Guess I am getting too old to beat around the bush!

  12. I am (I believe) a sincerely nice person (well most of the time). And yes, I wake up chipper.

    Raised by a emotional sniper, I do have those skills and have had to work hard to cut them out. It changed dramatically who I am.

    As for the passive-aggressive.. calling them on their behavior sometimes helps (though they often deny it). and sometimes simply not playing their game is the best move.

  13. Depending on my mood and context, I'm usually a sincerely/expected/so long as it's not an effort nice. I try to be positive when I can, though sometimes it's just a front (because who can really honestly be that chipper all the time. I am usually chipper in the morning (maybe not on the way to work, but if I'm at the gym, people are usually looking at me like they'd like to cut out my tongue).

    I was raised by a passive-aggressive emotional sniper, and I think that's the reason I try so hard to be nice and/or positive. It's the whiplash effect, that I don't want to end up the same negative way. All in all, I feel like even if the niceness isn't completely sincere, it's generally a better idea than being negative, since at least it has more of a chance of making people happier...

  14. Hmmmnnn... looks like a missed a few types. I like the idea of calling Tokaiangel's type niceous nieuamsterdamus.

    And doormat nice... good point...

  15. I'm only nice if I am in the mood and if I am crabby, I will tell the person nicely.

  16. if you are crabby :)

    that made me laugh, POD.

    because this is crabby & merrys blog.

    git it?




  17. Wait a minute... now POD is Crabby? Hey, how's the vacation going? :)

    (Very confusing to have all these different personalities de Crab. I mean,it's all very well being multi-faceted, but oi vey!)

  18. ooof. i can definately be seen luriking around in some of the not-so-nice categories.

  19. Oh, I'm usually the Sincerely Nice, but never Doormat Nice. If someone mistakes me for Doormat Nice, I become Bitch-with-a-Smile Nice, and that takes care of THAT pretty darn fast.

    As for Passive-Agressive Nice and all those other types, like many other commenters, I either take them at face value ("You don't mind wrestling? GREAT!") or ask them directly ("Well, which is it? You don't mind wrestling or it makes you sick?").

    I don't "do" co-dependent (anymore), LOL.

  20. Ooh, passive agressive scares me. And I've found that if you do call someone out on it, even in a "nice" way, they still get really upset. So, no advice there. lol.

    However, is it wrong that I'm actually trying to become less nice and doormat-like? As in, I'm loving the word, "no." Can you watch my dog this weekend? NO. Do you want to go with me and a bunch of co-workers to a baseball game? NO. Can you bring a dish to share for the group? No. No. NO!

    God, it's liberating.

  21. Ooooh, that's an important point, Jenn.

    Can you say "no" and still be a nice person? I think you can, but the point is that you don't feel like a nice person if you say no.

    (You can be a Nice Girl if you say "No," but that's rather a different subject... ;)

  22. I just don't call most of those people "nice"

    And I find the best way to deal with passive-aggressive people is with a slap. No really. Advocating violence, right here.

  23. How about the nice-cuz-you-feel-bad-about-saying-no, type? I suppose that kind of makes me passive-aggressive, but I usually don't hold it against the person, so just perhaps Passive Nice? Doormat to a certain point, I suppose. Working on that.

    When I find Passive-Aggressive nicies, I generally either ignore them completely, or figure that if they said "Yes" (to a favor, or something), they can deal with the consequences!

  24. Brilliantly insightful and hysterical post, Merry!

    I am dealing with the P/A BS from my mom who is mostly Niceous DeRigeurei except for when she is a mean shit, and I really appreciate the coping mechanisms everyone offered for dealing with it in a way that lets my blood pressure stay normal and my inner kid not take it personally. I finally get that she's just really unhappy with her life and needs any excuse to dump on me, as I'm the only one who is "safe". I'm sick of being the "safe" target for alcoholics and bitter BPDs and Narcissists though; and I always forget to use the "Oh just climb off your fucking cross, someone else needs the wood" line on them, or to just go literal with them. So I'm working on changing my responses.

    I am also liking Marste's "Bitch-with-a-Smile Nice", and although I hate being a bitch, it's better than Doormat Nice, I was mostly that for 50 years too many. I'd rather call it "Drawing Healthy Boundaries".

    So I have been learning to do less and less for others (Doormat Nice) and take care of myself first. That should let me get back to being closer to Sincerely Nice.

    I also lived with an emotional sniper-P/A Martyr for way too many years, it is so abusive, and I tried reasoning but there's no reasoning with an irrational person. I think I was dealing with a Borderline with Narcissistic AND Bipolar tendencies, and it was a complete nightmare. I grew up dealing with the same crap from my stepmother.
    People like that, I say just run the other way. Or load up on silver bullets.

  25. snicker I like that line, TK. I always wanted to tell mean people to 'get a ladder and get over themselves', but I know if I said something like that I'd feel guilty.

    Niceness without guilt, that's the goal.

    Steph, to me that sounds like a sub-category of wannabe nice, but that's just my opinion.

    Niceness without guilt, and knowing where to set boundaries. That's an even better goal. I like the idea of how liberating Jenn found it to say "no."

  26. reb has a great approach

    Way up there in the (sigh) PacNW, you're likely immune to a variety we specialize in around here: Southern Girl Nice That's Not So Nice At All.

    These are best responded to along the lines of a favorite old joke (condensed version follows): Two girls are sitting on the veranda. One begins to brag about all the things her Daddy had done for her. The other responds to each escalating brag with "How Nice!"

    After a while the first one says, "Listen to me, going on about all the things Daddy's done for me. How selfish to monopolize the conversation. What has your daddy done for you?"

    "Well, he did send me to a fancy Swiss finishing school."

    "Whatever did you learn over there?"

    "Well, they taught me always to say 'How Nice!' instead of 'F*@%K You'."

  27. bluelikethesky, I just have to say I roared over that joke. Being a recovering Southern Belle myself.


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