What She Wants

On Being Nice Vs. Being Good, By the Truly Rich Lady

Good is twice as nice or, actually, 10, 50, or even 100 times better than nice.

Though I am somewhat of an expert in navigating the minefield that is the social interactions of the Truly Rich, there are moments when I am clueless about what is really going on.

At the postmortem brunch to discuss yet another party that celebrated the 75th anniversary of something important, I told my Truly Rich Best Friend about Dina, this not-so-close friend of ours, whom I found very nice.

“Nice? Are you sure, Si-si?” my best friend replied with a snort.

My heart always aches when I find out how people are not really what they seem. The Divine Dina, a welcome guest at many socials and a gracious and affable person, apparently has opinions... about me.

Nice is the bare minimum. It’s like tying your hair in a ponytail and calling it a day. Good is going all the way.

My best friend continued, “And these are her exact words, Si-si: ‘That Si-si person is totally devoid of style. I don’t know why she is here.’ Ha! Can you believe it?”

I stabbed the greasy sausage on my breakfast plate. My memory of Dina was different. At the table where we were seated together, she expressed how nice it was to see me again and even remarked how my cute my bracelet was. She was not overly warm, which is how I liked it, but she was pleasant enough.

“Cute is like nice, Si-si,” my friend pointed it. “They’re the words that you use when you have nothing good to say.”

Later, while having my scalp massaged at the salon (I was getting my highlights redone), I thought more about Dina and being nice and being cute. It’s true: When it comes to people, being nice is different from being good.


Nice is the bare minimum. It’s like tying your hair in a ponytail and calling it a day. Good is going all the way. Getting a hair treatment, a professional blow dry, and maybe, if you’re up to it, little barrettes, which are all the rage now (cute is not for me, of course).

“You’re soooo nice—really!”

Nice is when you want to keep the peace, so you accomplish all the necessary courtesies, but later on, when you are in the company of confidants, you unleash your thoughts. (Woe to the person who is at the center of your secret wrath.) Nice is about maintaining relationships and, maybe for the more cunning, making people think that you are harmless or a friend. Nice is phooneey.

“You are good, and that’s the truth!”

Good is twice as nice or, actually, 10, 50, or even 100 times better than nice.

It is when you listen attentively, and not just nod mindlessly, wishing for a boring conversation to please end. It is also when you reply after much thought, and not just say another tepid platitude about the decorations, weather, or food.

It is expressing your unvarnished opinions about the bracelet of your not-so-close friend. Maybe you are puzzled by its unusual design, so you ask the wearer about the origins of the piece. And she says that it was made by the Ndebele tribe and the strange pattern is a ward against danger. It may not be something that you would choose (you wouldn’t be able to pull it off anyway!), but at least you now know what it is all about.

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“You’re nice, and that’s okay!”

I’m not saying it is not okay to be just nice, because sometimes, there is really no other choice. When you are stuck in an elevator or heading in the same direction or just plain tired from a very long day of hair appointments, the easiest thing to do is to put on your very nice smile as a shield against everyone you meet in that elevator or that long walk.

Maybe, that niceness can transform into actual goodness. For those who are truly angelic, this is automatic. Like an Audi R8, they go straight into goodness without passing nice. For those who need revving up, they can transition into genuine care, but only if they are up to it. Or they can just say your bracelet is “so nice!”

“You’re not really nice!”

Here’s the cold hard truth: After a while, people will figure it out that the always genial person is not so nice after all. It just takes one slip of the tongue, a whisper to the wrong ear for a false world to fall apart.

How to deal with these nice, but not good creatures? My only advice is to be careful. I know it’s a bleak way of looking at life, but that’s the reality. A beautiful smile dazzles, and it’s hard to tell if those pearly white chompers will bite.

Or, you can rise above everything—the manners, the rules, the politeness—and just carry out each action with genuine kindness from your heart.


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C.C. Coo
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