Instead of being nice, start being honest.

Phil Rosen
3 min readOct 21, 2021


Character matters, and “nice” isn’t part of it.

Photo by Mohammad Metri on Unsplash

You never want to be the person other people call “nice.”

It isn’t a compliment.

It’s cheap and ordinary. Calling someone nice says nothing of someone’s character. It’s an empty thing you say about someone when you have nothing to say about them.

“Nice” is how you describe someone you don’t particularly like.

Character is the stuff that keeps your spine upright under pressure and your head cool under duress. That’s the good stuff.

When someone commends your resolve, or commitment to something, or how you make others feel when you are around — that’s what you want.

Think about how you’d like to be described by others when you aren’t in the room. “Nice” is not a word you want to hear.

Kind, certainly. Respectful and hard-working. Conscientious. A family-first individual.

But never nice.

That’s worse than being called boring. You can be boring but still work hard, command respect, and genuinely care for others. Nice, in an implicit way, precludes many of those traits.

Using the word “nice” to describe someone seems to happen when there is an absence of good things to say about them.

A primary implication behind niceness, as a trait, is that they have to work diligently to get others to like them. Often, that diligence can come at the expense of liking themselves.

Think of the people you look up to most. What are they like? Perhaps they have integrity, honesty, and the ability to commit to something.

Good people are generous but won’t tolerate being taken advantage of.

Good people are gentle and thoughtful but, when necessary, can show their strength and hold their ground.

Being nice has nothing to do with having the courage to be compassionate, or the willingness to set boundaries and speak candidly.

High-character people are also more than likely to be comfortable in their own skin, devoid of the desire to people-please.

Being nice all the time to everyone, on the other hand, is exhausting and dishonest. People-pleasing isn’t a trait you’d aspire to have on purpose. Part of niceness is an inability to say no. A non-understanding of boundaries. Suspect self-esteem that pushes you to try and be universally liked.

Once something challenging arises for the nice person, things break down and their guise wavers.

Being nice is a selfish attribute because it is built upon the perception of others. It is outwardly motivated.

That’s what makes it so backhanded of a compliment and so vanilla of a personality trait.

Everyone knows you don’t want to be known as the nice one in the group because it can be code for so much worse.

Supporting your friends and family, for example, isn’t nice.

Sometimes it can be pretty ugly and blunt.

But approaching the challenge of something honestly, even though it can hurt, is what a rigorous character is made of.

That’s something to aspire to — be the person who is strong enough to say what needs to be said, bluntly if necessary, to convey the necessary information. Easier said than done, of course. But something worth aiming for.

It isn’t about being nice; it never has been.

It’s about everything else.

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@philrosenn).

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Phil Rosen

Senior reporter, Business Insider. 2x Bestselling author. USC Trojan.