Reclaiming the word ‘NICE’

As a writer, teacher and editor, I am consciously wary of using the word ‘nice’. It’s become a bit woolly and meaningless. “Use a stronger and more emotive word,” I hear myself saying. So, whilst a writer should extend his or her vocabulary and be precise in their selection of words, I still feel it my duty as a human-being to reclaim this particular word by briefly examining the important principle behind the intention, purpose and action of being ‘nice’.

I like smiling at strangers and saying “Good morning/afternoon.” Hopefully, it won’t get me arrested. When I drive I have to work hard to not be a competitive racer at a junction. If someone pushes in front of me– does it really matter? It’s not a reflection on my driving or skills or my status. The world would be so much better if we wave them through and smile in the knowledge that we’ve been kind to someone.
The niceties in life are to be treasured too. Some experiences are gentle, pleasant and relaxing. Those moments when we’re not rushing about and have no care in the world are important for our physical and mental health. Every now and then we need little rewards for working hard. Be nice to yourself … frequently.

So being ‘nice’ is a good thing. It implies kindness, humility and behaving in a way which is agreeable and thoughtful. These are all qualities we should aspire to. In my novel Myopia, Jerry decides to be ‘nice’ to the thug who is bullying him. This idea came from a talk I heard from the wonderful Lord Soper, who suggested that next time we are invaded by foreign troops that perhaps we should welcome them and invite them home for a cup of tea! Has anyone ever tried that? This might be a case of extreme pacifism, but jazz clubwho’s to say it wouldn’t work?

So, I reclaim the word ‘nice’ and embrace the term. Without being a mug or naive, I want to be pleasant, kind, sympathetic and humble (well, it’s an aspirational target!) because that is exactly how I expect others to be when they are dealing with me. NICE!

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