Niceness is a pretty concept but it has its critics. On the one hand it seems straightforward. What could be wrong with 'niceness' and what it represents? - congeniality, manners, consideration, cleanliness. All admirable qualities.
Yet, niceness has its dark undertones. Over the last few decades the word has suffered a considerable PR problem, to the point where in some quarters, to be referred to as nice is a downright insult. In a cynical world, niceness is often regarded with suspicion.
It's also often perceived as dull. Hedonism and niceness aren't compatible and nor is risk-taking and niceness. "Nice" people don't get drunk, stay up late, go home with strangers or do crazy, spontaneous things. Whether this is actually true or not, there's a perception out there that it is. Nice is unfashionable.
The Politics of Niceness
The problem perhaps, is one of degrees - too much niceness can be stifling, insular, oppressive even and used as a means of control. Take 1950s Australia for example. Entertainer Barry Humphries has often reported on and mocked what it was like living in the middle-class suburbs of Melbourne in the mid 20th century, where everyone was terribly nice and according to Humphries, " like going to a party and dancing all night with your mother".
Niceness does not equal goodness. Niceness is a decision, a strategy of social interaction... ~ G De Becker
In a world of politeness and cakes and afternoon teas, anything which could cause cracks in the social veneer was deemed threatening to the all-consuming conformity of niceness. Thus the foreign, artistic, passionate, intellectual and/or unusual tended to be excluded from the popular swell of suburban social approbation.
Nice Case Study
I appreciate nice and in many ways I think it's underrated...but...it doesn't really get to the nitty-gritty of life. To offer an example; a friend of mine has very nice parents - they are always pleasant, never argue and they politely avoid discussing anything that might cause conflict or discomfort. They're nice but not the sort of people you can be yourself around and let it all hang out.
My friend doesn't discuss much about what's going on in his life with his parents because, a) he doesn't want to risk their disapproval and b) he doesn't want to upset them. As a result they miss out on hearing his real thoughts and opinions and /or any serious problems and difficulties he might be experiencing. They don't know their son on any deep level because they don't want to know, in case it's not nice. By using niceness as a kind of shield, I believe they're missing out.
Conclusion? Be nice eh but just not too nice.