Imagine, if you will, this horrifying situation. You’re talking to someone you thought you could trust, and you mention that someone else is annoying. “OMG no, they’re sooo nice,” they respond. The trust is shattered. You falsely thought you were in a safe space and must now recover the conversation with a quick “OMG no, totally, totally.” Did it work? Probably not, and now your so-called friend thinks you’re a bitch for thinking their super nice other friend is annoying.
As a society we have been fed the lie that a person cannot be both nice and annoying. We must free ourselves from this kind of binary thinking. The two concepts are entirely unrelated, and we will not live in a just world so long as people believe that being nice makes you a good person and being annoying makes you a bad person. If you ascend to a higher plane of thinking, you’ll realize that neither descriptor is a value judgement and that two things can be true at once.
Think of your nicest friend for a moment. I am having a hard time coming up with someone, because I would never demean someone close to me by making their primary trait niceness. But maybe someone comes to mind for you. Now think to yourself, “Is there nothing about this person that I find to be even the tiniest bit grating?” Maybe they have an impossibly sunny disposition (annoying), or maybe they refuse to take sides in an argument (annoying, and spineless) or maybe they’re one of those people who think gossiping is rude and mean (one of the most annoying things a person can believe).
Consider what you are actually saying when you’re saying that someone is nice. Are you saying that they are bursting with empathy, or are you saying that you’ve met them a couple times at parties and they haven’t gone out of their way to throw a drink in your face or call you a cunt?
Nice is often a term we use when we have nothing else to say about a person. We don’t know them well enough to know if they are smart or funny or curious. Even worse, it’s a word we use when someone has no discernable qualities other than a lack of opinions and penchant for laughing at anything that resembles a joke. Does that kind of behavior not annoy you? Even a little bit?
It is possible that the person you are calling nice is just an acquaintance you have no strong feelings about, which is the polite thing to do. Good for you. But when you really know a person, and nice is the best way you can describe them, think about what’s going on there. Maybe they have presented you with a calculated version of themselves so as to be perceived as nice, or perhaps you are not paying enough attention to know anything else about them. The former implies that, while that person might be nice, they are also probably evil or at least hiding a dark side, both of which are more interesting than being nice. The latter implies that you do not actually know that person that well, and as such you should not be offended when someone who knows them more than you calls them annoying.
There is actually a third option, which is that they are boring. It’s fine to call boring people nice. I think they need that.
Nice usually means nothing, which is why nice people can also be annoying. The next time you feel the need to say “Wait, no, she’s so nice” when someone is called annoying, consider the idea that two things can be true at once. Some people, nice as they are, are just annoying, oftentimes it’s just a fact of their personhood, like having brown eyes or divorced parents.
It’s possible that this whole screed is not only annoying, but rude. But I promise, I’m actually a very nice person.