A few decades ago, whenever I found myself feeling frustrated about something someone did or said, I tended to declare that “I hate people!” Mainly, I declared this to friends: friends who continued being friends despite my many declarations of hate. (I was a ball of frustration at that time.)
I’d forgotten about that hate-spoutin’ phase until recently when I saw a few social media friends write that they hated people. Seeing those comments served as a time machine into my psyche.
What a strange contradiction: to hate people even as I loved, or at least tolerated, them.
I didn’t believe I literally hated people. And I don’t believe my friends hate people now; Most of the folks I know are generous and loving. So, what was this ‘hate’ thing really about and how did I come to stop slinging it around?
It all comes down to my use of the word, ‘nice’. Bear with me on this…
I recognized a disconnect between describing a former boss as a ‘nice’ guy, and his shady business practices. This helped me see what the word ‘nice’ was for me: a meaningless, lazy, go-to descriptor that I bandied about without thinking.
Seeing that, I vowed to eradicate ‘nice’ from my vocabulary. This forced me to thoughtfully consider the people, places, and things I wanted to more accurately describe. My boss, for example, became charming, polite, soft-spoken, gentle-mannered, and crooked as the day is long.
The new practice made previously anemic compliments impactful. I would no longer quickly say, “He’s a nice guy.” Instead, I’d take a moment to think about the person. If I liked them, what was it about them that I liked? “He’s a nice guy” became something more to the tune of “He’s thoughtful, caring, intelligent, and funny. He’s the kind of guy who’s worth letting your guard down for.”
Likewise, insults became more accurate and complete. “What a jerk” doesn’t say nearly as much as “He wouldn’t know manners if they pissed on him.”
When I got away from lazy thinking and language, I more carefully considered the world I experienced. My perception of the world changed as a result. It became a richer, more vibrant, and more nuanced world. It was no longer the two-dimensional, black and white, lifeless place that ‘nice’ and words like it made it out to be. My new world popped and hummed. It danced in technicolor. My perceptions and feelings finally grew up.