When asked what makes Canadians different from Americans, many Canadians will respond that Canadians are nicer. I think that this characterization is (as generalizations go) entirely accurate. I’m just not so sure whether it’s a good thing.
Niceness, in my books, is not necessarily a virtue like kindness or gentleness, though it’s also not necessarily a flaw like timidity. Like extraversion, it is a personality trait with its benefits and flaws; the latter tend to receive less attention. I’m not just referring to the view that “nice guys finish last”; one might argue that that’s part of the point of niceness, to be self-sacrificing or altruistic so that others may do better. But even if one would argue that that’s a good thing, there are ways that niceness can hurt others as well as the nice themselves.
Consider the distinction between niceness and gentleness – or more concretely, between the nice guy and the gentleman. Continue reading