How Does One Become A Nice Person?

First of all, WELCOME back to my blog! I know it’s been awhile. So what’s new with me, you ask? Well, recently the lovely and talented vlogger Ashley Collins ( interviewed me for her YouTube channel The Breakup Diaries. You can watch the interview here. We discussed my stint as a stand up comedian, my blog on cancelling terrible bosses, and my love of books. Then, Ashley asked the most thought provoking question of the interview: how does one become a nice person?

At first, my mind went in about 18 different directions at the unexpected question. Then again, I do bill myself as the Nicest Person on Twitter™, so perhaps I should have expected it? At any rate, I realized I’d been prepping for this question for about seven years. You can watch the interview for the short answer. However, I’d like to get a little more in-depth. Let’s take a quick jaunt down memory lane to find out how one does become a nice person. Or, at least how I became a nice person.

Let me just start by saying I wasn’t always a nice person. I know you’ll all find that hard to believe, but it’s the truth. So we’re not here all day, I’ll just paraphrase Tupac in “Picture Me Rollin'”. In that, I hope God will forgive all the dirt I did back in the day. Again I say, I wasn’t a very nice person. I said in the interview that I always considered myself kind of a nice person, but…

…that’s not the entire truth. The fact of the matter is that I was only nice on the surface. I didn’t care about others deep down. In fact, I was kind of an asshole. Well, if I’m going to tell the entire truth, there was no “kinda” about it. I can honestly tell you I was a self absorbed asshole with no conscience. Again, I was nice on the surface but in the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t count for much.

Eventually, it all caught up to me.

And see, the thing about being an asshole is that it eventually catches it up with you. It caught up to me in the form of a terrible series of personal crises. Basically, my life went south. Anyhow, all of these crises culminated in a massive nervous breakdown and nearly successful suicide attempt. That suicide attempt landed me in the hospital for a week.

Before I go any further, let me say one thing given that September is suicide prevention month, I want you to know that suicide is NEVER the answer. NEVER. I don’t care what anyone tells you. Please don’t ever think you don’t have a place on this planet. You do. You matter. You’re important and it does get better. I didn’t know that seven years ago. But, I learned that it does get better and I do matter. I am worthy to breathe the same air as everyone else.

Now, am I saying I deserved what I got? In that, did I get karmically spanked for being a complete jerk with no conscience? Maybe. Sometimes bad stuff happens to good people, but I wasn’t a good person at the time. I also believe you reap what you sow, so there you are. Meanwhile, after I got home from the hospital, I realized I was here for a reason, but what was that reason? Was I going to be rich? Famous? Well, I always did want to be famous, but I’ve never been particularly talented at anything. So what was I, some average schmuck from Bakersfield, going to be famous for?

The answer came to me one afternoon after watching the Ellen show. It was the first time I’d ever seen her show. Her parting words, be kind to one another” hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew then in my heart of hearts what I wanted to be famous for. I decided I wanted to be famous for being nice. However, there was one small detail I’d need to address…

I didn’t know how to be nice.

So, how does one become a nice person?

As it stands, I am the type of person who learns by doing. But how does one learn how to be nice by doing? How does one become a nice person? As I said in the interview, “I became a nice person by learning what being a nice person meant.” But what does being a nice person mean?

Being a nice person means you commit to caring about something else other than yourself and being kind to others. That is, being kind to others for the sake of kindness, not just to get them to like you. A lot of people I think use kindness as a means to an end; to appear likeable. To that end I say, listen: a turd rolled in sugar is still a turd, you feel me?

As for me, I became a nice person by really doing a lot of work on myself. I used what I term the mirror theory. What that means is I would think of the nicest people I ever met. I’d remember their actions towards me, and how they made me feel. Then, I’d reflect the kindness they showed me off of my internal mirror onto other people. This wasn’t easy at first. But it became easy when people responded to me with kindness, and it felt AMAZING. If that was what being nice was about, I was THERE for it.

Being nice became my drug of choice.

Instead of tearing people down, I made sure to build them up. I’d ask how they were, then I’d really listen to what they said in response. I’d learn the names of their spouses and kids and ask after them. I made sure to say please and thank you to service staff. I started truly caring about people’s feelings. I’d perform random acts of kindness and not tell anyone. Giving authentic compliments freely became my jam. I’d tell strangers in real life and online how much I liked their outfit, their music, or their makeup or what have you. Essentially, being nice became my brand. Seven years later, it’s automatic. I did what I set out to do-become a nice person and now I’m known for it.

By the way? Wanting to be famous for being nice may have been what I started out with, but what I really wanted was to be a better person, fame or not. These days, I can’t imagine not being nice. Certainly I can’t imagine being fake-nice: nice for the sake of people to like me. I’m too honest for that.

This isn’t to say that being nice doesn’t mean I don’t get pissed off or act like an asshole sometimes. I’m still human after all. But part of being nice is taking real responsibility for your actions. Being a nice person means apologizing when you are wrong and meaning it. In other words, I’m sorry you feel that way doesn’t cut it. But “I’m sorry I was an asshole to you” does. See the difference?

Also, I want to drive one last point home. Being a nice person doesn’t mean that you’re a doormat or have no boundaries. Here’s a secret: being a nice person means you’re nice to everyone (within reason) as well as yourself. That’s why it’s so important to have boundaries and not let people treat you like crap. Repeat after me: being a nice person also means being nice to yourself. Be as nice to yourself as you are to others. It will feel strange at first, but eventually that will become second nature too.

Remember, love starts with you.

Being nice or kind isn’t a “position to be in”. It’s a conscious state of being. I think I can sum it up with the following quote from Maya Angelou:

When you know better, you do better.”

When I learned better, I did better. Matter of fact, I became the best version of myself by mirroring the actions of the nicest people I knew until it became second nature. THAT’S how one becomes a nice person, at least in my experience. Becoming a nice person transformed my life; I reaped what I’d sown. However, being nice isn’t necessarily a cure-all against life’s hurdles. I want to make that clear. Does crappy stuff still happen? Sure it does. That’s life. But I do notice the more nice I put out to the universe, the more it comes back to me.

That’s why I’m far less bitter these days when crummy stuff happens, like undeserved abuse on the last job I had. I find that I LOVE being a nice person. It tickles me to no end being known as the Nicest Person on Twitter/the Nicest Person You’ll Ever Meet. Some people might regret being known for kindness, but not me. I think people who regret being nice are missing the big picture, but that’s on them.

As for me, becoming a nice, kind person (that I actually like) has been one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. They say nice folks finish last, but you know what? That’s okay with me. After I finish last, I’ll go home knowing that I was nice to everyone in the race and that makes me happy.

And isn’t that nice? Also? Sleeping at night is awesome. Being nice to folks helps me do that. Believe me when I tell you that being nice to people is AMAZING. It sounds crazy, but a simple act of kindness can drastically change your life. Become a nice (or nicer) person with the methods I’ve described above. Then come back to me with how much your life has improved. I’ll wait.

At this juncture I want to share another bit of wisdom from Maya Angelou that I always keep at the forefront of my mind when dealing with people online and off:

“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”

So if I can help someone feel good by just being nice to them, I absolutely will. This is one of the bonuses of becoming a nice person; you can change someone’s day and your own for the better with a smile, a simple hello or some other small act of kindness. They get to feel good, and YOU get to feel good. It’s a total win-win! What’s that old saying? Being kind costs nothing; you just have to pay attention. All that said, I’d like to leave you all with some words to live by and one of the tenets of my personal brand: it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.

Thanks for reading,
Meredith Silverman

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