Are you a nice person? Are you sure? Really sure?
What if I hook you up to a lie detector, shine a bright light in your face and let Samuel Motherfucking Jackson ask the question, is your answer still the same?
“Are you a nice person?” is a trick question. I know from experience that a lot of people who say ‘yes’ are actually real assholes. And a lot of people who say ‘No’ are actually some of the nicest people you will ever meet.
From the Dunning-Kruger effect to Impostor-syndrome and a whole lot of cognitive biases in between, the reality is humans on average are pretty bad at assessing their own traits and character. And for a lot of us, our minds contorts itself in all kinds of strange shapes to hold an opinion about ourselves regardless of how we really act towards other people.
Which explains those moments when you hear someone complain that <gender of choice> are only interested in jerks/bitches and totally ignore the nice <gender of the person complaining> and you sit there slightly amazed thinking “Yeah, you are anything but ‘nice’…”
If you know your opinion about yourself is probably wrong, and “Am I nice” probably won’t yield a correct answer, but you would still rather be a nice person than an asshole, what can you do?
I changed the question to myself. What I ask is “If everything I wished upon other people in the last year happened to me in this year, would I be alive by the time the year ends?”
This matters because I believe that your internal conversation about people influences how you treat those people a lot. If you feel like a person isn’t worth being alive, why bother treating them with kindness and respect? Why would they deserve that when you already decided they don’t deserve the breath they take. It’s very easy to think all humans deserve kindness and respect, it’s just a lot harder when you get to individuals. And that’s just personality, I’m not even talking about those who hold different values.
When I first formulated this question to myself and started thinking about an honest answer, I shocked myself. Not only would I not have seen the year end, it would have been pretty gruesome. I’m talking scene out of Hell Raiser or Final Destination. That’s not very nice. (For anyone reading this and thinking “Ha, I have a few exes that inspire thoughts like that.” No, these weren’t people I was romantically involved with.)
By making a conscious effort not to wish people who frustrate me and anger me ill, I feel like I really did start to treat people with more kindness and respect. An interesting side effect is that people started to frustrate and anger me less.
Over the last decade or so, I have been called ‘nice’ by different people on different occasions. I’m not sure if I fully agree with them. There are still plenty of times I have to admit to not surviving when I ask myself the question. Although I also admit ‘dropping dead’ sounds a whole lot better to me than getting skinned alive while hung from my genitals.