Do you know the difference between being nice and being loving?
Our society has long trained children to be "nice." Being nice might mean:
• Telling white lies so as not to hurt other's feelings, such as agreeing with them when you really disagree.
• Listening politely when someone is going on and on, even when you are so bored you can hardly stand it.
• Pretending to not be effected by rudeness or sarcasm.
• Giving compliments that you don't really mean.
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Being nice often means being inauthentic. It can be a form of control — attempting to control how the other person feels about you or how they respond to you.
Being loving, on the other hand, means being honest and authentic. It means being kind, but truthful. Being loving is about caring about yourself and the other person, rather than trying to control the other person with niceness.
Hailey and Emma have been good friends for a couple of years. They speak regularly on the phone and meet for lunch fairly often. In one of my phone sessions with Hailey, she explored a situation concerning Emma that is a problem for her.
"I really like Emma, but I frequently get bored with our conversations. She tends to go on and on telling stories that don't seem to have a point to them. Most of the time the stories are really complaints about the people in her life. I'd be interested in the stories if they led to some interesting learning or exploration, but without that, I just end up feeling dumped on. It's getting so that I don't look forward to talking with her anymore."
"Hailey, how do you respond when Emma does that?"
"Well, sometimes I say, 'It would be more interesting to me if we could explore and learn something from this situation. Other times, I just listen."
"What happens when you do say that?"
"She just keeps going on and on."
"Hailey, it sounds like you are trying to be nice to Emma rather than being loving to yourself and to her. You are letting her use you, which is not good for you or her. What are you afraid of in being authentic and speaking your truth?"
"I guess I don't know how to say it without being harsh and judgmental. I don't want to hurt her."
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"So, what would you say to her if you were to tell your truth?"
"All I can think to say is that I'm bored, and I think that would be hurtful to her."