Let's Be Nice!

The reluctance to be nice

Practicing encounter means paying full attention to another person and then, no matter what they say or do, responding with kindness and compassion. If we do this on a regular basis, we will certainly be seen as a ‘nice’ person.

So, why don’t we do it? Or, more interestingly, in a school context, why can many adults do this with children but not with each other?

The early Christians introduced the practice of encounter and the idea that being nice is good for everyone. This approach shaped the modern world in a profound way. However, after a while there began to creep in the idea that to be nice was to be weak and that successful people weren’t nice. Niceness was for losers.


Both Romanticism and Capitalism, over the last two hundred years, have further shaped our view of being nice. Romanticism encouraged the view that nice people were boring and undesirable, and Capitalism encouraged the view that success comes through competition and that nice people aren’t competitive enough. To succeed, we must ditch niceness.

So, in the popular mind, being nice is associated with being weak, uninspiring and unsuccessful.

This is the opposite of the early Christians’ view. Encounter opens up the possibility of perfectibility – that we can get better over time, less anxious, less proud, less jealous.

Practicing encounter causes our red zones to fade away and gives us much greater mastery over ourselves – the very basis for strength, inspiring others and achieving success in our chosen field.

We have some way to go, and changing perceptions is a key first step.

I should like to make an offer to any school that might be interested. I am very keen to run seminars or presentations to share and test these latest ideas with schools. These could be 30-45 minutes at lunch time,discussions with a faculty (e.g. RE), a leadership team or any other combination. I am trying to do at least one per week for the remainder of the year. If you are interested, please get in touch – jcorrigan@gr8education.com or 0418 432 316.

John Corrigan