Nice versus Good

Are nice people always good? Are good people always nice?  It’s common to confuse these two concepts.  

Being ‘nice’ is a valuable component of a functional relationship.  Couples who aren't nice to each other can engage in behaviors that alienate and antagonize both people.  This degrades the overall sense of safety, respect and collaboration that a healthy relationship needs.  Critical, insensitive words and actions prevent people from understanding each other and working together.  In many situations the phrase “just be nice” seems to be very sound advice.

Some people, however, grew up in families where avoiding anger was a way to maintain a sense of physical or emotional safety.  As adults they may hold back their true feelings as a way of avoiding conflict.   

There are times when speaking what you know to be true may scrape up against another person’s comfort level, but it’s often the right thing to do.  Learning an effective technique such as nonviolent communication (NVC) is a powerful way to  express honest feelings that goes far beyond simply being "nice". 

Being mean is always a bad thing to do, but this doesn't mean that being nice is always a good thing to do.  Be honest.  Say what you mean and mean what you say.  Remember that this is the essence of intimacy ("intimacy" can be defined as "into-me-see.")


Bill Herring LCSW. CSAT has been an Atlanta psychotherapist for almost three decades.  Along with his general practice helping adults with a wide variety of life problems he is especially well known for helping people who are struggling with the effects of sexual behavior that has damaged the integrity of important relationships because of repeated secrecy and deception.