A Rhetorical Analysis of “Nice” in Society

After reading the article: ‘When Did Being “Too Nice” Become a Character Flaw’ written by Jeff Barton on medium, I was successfully persuaded that being “too nice” is indeed not a character flaw at all but rather a character strength. The author, Barton, writes this article to an audience of people who are generally genuinely kind to others. He, himself relates to this idea because he shares that he has been called “too nice” before. Part of his rhetoric and persuasion is sharing his personal experiences regarding nice-ness in relationships. This is an effective rhetorical strategy because it helps the reader and the audience connect with the author. This is likely due to the fact that the audience is comprised of people that fall into the same category. If not, the audience could consist of the people that assign others to this category. The tone and view the author takes on the subject is very relatable. While he does not insult any other points of view, he shares his belief that it isn’t possible to be “too nice” and that in situations where problems arise, it is not solely because someone is “too nice”-there are other character traits and factors involved. These character traits could include being soft spoken, being a people pleaser, having low self-esteem, or other characteristics that would prevent someone from speaking their mind.

Likewise, the author really shows humility by recognizing that there are both positives and negatives to being nice and that it really depends on the situation. He lists and describes scenarios in which being “too nice” truly could be a flaw. An example of this is the “nice guy” in relationships. Generally that description has a negative connotation to go along with it and guys like to avoid being “Mr. Nice Guy” because it makes them seem like they are unable to wear the pants in a relationship and are easily taken advantage of. According to the author, this is because nice has an affiliation with weakness. It is assumed that if someone is nice they are too weak to stand their ground on whatever subject is being argued over, and weakness is definitely not a desired character trait. What Barton is trying to tell me is that nice is the wrong word. There is a harsher connotation with the word ‘nice’ than there is with a word like ‘kind’.

Kindness is a positive character trait with essentially the same characteristics. Someone who is kind is friendly, generous,good-natured, and it is generally regarded as a positive thing to be described as a kind person. Girls also like kind guys. They are polite and respectful and give genuine compliments. The author recognizes that this word has a more positive connotation and dives into the reasons and analysis as to why ‘nice’ has a negative connotation when it practically has the same meaning. It is intriguing how society defines and attaches social stigma to some words over others and impacts the way that we view one another.

Another way that the author is able to persuade the audience is through his relaxed tone. I didn’t start reading the article with the belief that he is trying to change my mind on the subject, but nevertheless he did. His tone makes me feel as though I am in the room having a conversation with him instead of reading an article, which I find kind of comforting. He also persuades me to find the validity in what he is saying because he sounds as though he is addressing the person next to him and not an audience of people online. This ability is impressive.

One of the tags on the article is ‘life lessons’ and this is a very true application. Pretty early in my life I had to decide who I wanted to be and how I wanted to interact with other people. Based on this article, society is telling me that it is bad to be perceived as “too nice” because it supposedly exhibits weakness. Barton, the author, argues that this is false. He states that being nice and showing kindness to those around us is something we should all be striving to do, regardless of how we may be perceived. This is a very deep and meaningful statement. It emphasizes that I should do good and be kind regardless of what other people will think of me and that it is more important for me to be polite, respectful, and charitable than it is to have a “tough” or strong reputation.

Additionally, Barton writes from a first person perspective. This being a medium article, it is easier to view the author as a real person who is just like me rather than a esteemed author. This is likely because I am a member of medium myself and have the ability to post similar things, whereas if I was not a member of medium the author would seem distant and superior to me as a reader.

As a society and a culture we exaggerate the supposed negativity of the word ‘nice’. While there may be some legitimate negative connotations to the word ‘nice’, it is blown way out of proportion. This use of exaggeration is an example of ethos. There are circumstances in which is it applicable, but in most it is not. Barton argues and persuades that overall, being nice is not a character flaw but a character strength. When I am nice to others, I radiate positivity and others naturally gravitate towards me. Nice people are generally happy and have a desire for those around them to be happy too. The people who see this as a character flaw are negative and could benefit from a change of thought themselves.

I often choose to write about the same things over and over again, or at least the same types of things. Not very often do I choose to question social norms or cliches. In his article, Barton chooses to uncover and unpack the meaning of “too nice” in our culture and question it’s validity. I should question our social norms and dig deeper into their meaning and origin. When I do, I am successfully able to choose the way I live instead of letting it be chosen for me.