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If you have nothing nice to say…

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Throughout my life, I’ve heard the adage “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it all.” I’ve heard it so often and it always felt so obvious, that I never really questioned it. Of course, we should be nice. Why would we want to be anything other than nice?

What bullshit! To me, niceness is simply the outward appearance of warmth, agreeableness, affability. It is a veneer, a performance. It’s not entirely meaningless, empty, or disingenuous. I like meeting people who are easy to talk to, approachable, and have a general inclination toward making me comfortable and welcome.

But it’s not everything. There are times when we must say something that is difficult, fierce, or contentiousness. And sometimes authentically expressing ourselves requires that we say things that are ugly, prickly, or problematic.

Can you think of times when the most kind act was not nice?


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Peter Schulte

Peter Schulte is the founder and editor of Kindling. Peter is also Senior Digital Engagement Associate for the Pacific Institute and the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate, connecting businesses to sustainable water practices. Peter holds a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies and a B.A. in Comparative Literature from University of California, Berkeley, and an M.B.A. in Sustainable Systems from Pinchot University. He lives in Bellingham, WA, USA with his wife, son, and cat.

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