Foreigners say that Canadians are “nice” – especially our southern neighbors. Having lived on both sides of this country, I’d say that’s truer for Eastern Canada rather than Western Canada. People are generally polite. At least in Toronto, being anything but polite is considered uncivilized.
Toronto is also a major power centre in Canada, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Being “nice” can be civilized, and often is. It can also be used for less than nice reasons: masking cruelty behind a smile, or avoiding difficult situations that really need addressing.
Kindness, on the other hand, can at times look distinctly un-nice. When a friend tries on an outfit that really doesn’t suit her, for instance, it’s kind to let her know, and ‘”nice” to lie to avoid hurt feelings (who among us hasn’t done this?). Or, giving feedback that is hard to take – and to give – that if heeded, will help that person grow.
Being nice can at times be shallow. Being kind never is.
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Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist. To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .