Niceness versus goodness - spotting the narcissist

(27 Posts)
dittany Sun 07-Nov-10 12:16:30

Good article here about how to spot people who use niceness as a manipulative tool. The author doesn't really gender it although she talks about how girls are trained in niceness and she describes how she avoided what appears to have been a rape attempt because of her understanding that niceness can be camouflage for something else.

www.huffingtonpost.com/judith-acosta-lisw-cht/nice -but-not-good-the-art_b_772965.html

Useful checklist too:

"Good People

They understand the battle against evil but never take pleasure in its defeat, rather sadness in its necessity.
They have consistent integrity.
They say what they mean and mean what they say.
Good men and women are warriors of a sort. They do not tolerate injustice but also do not seek to punish or exact revenge.
They are temperate of mind and heart.
They have substance.
They are responsible in that they respond to others.
They are appropriately (not helplessly or cunningly) selfless.
They are empathic without being passive.
There is no pretense in them, and they are willing to be good without seeking approval or awards of any kind.
They are the last ones to see themselves as good and definitely the last ones to tell anyone they are.

Super Nice People

They are "charming."
They interact with a pseudo-intimacy, behaving as if they'd known you personally for years.
They engage you on their terms only, even if you don't realize it.
They can seem very passive and quiet.
They relate to you on the surface and let you in only so far.
They do not respond to your needs but gloss over them in a way that makes you wonder what you needed that for.
They are very intent on pleasing others or ingratiating themselves into a social network.
They need to maintain a persona or a position in a social circle at all costs because how they are seen is more important than who they are.
They manipulate.
They are like perfume -- very sweet but often used to cover what is deeply offensive.
They have no compunction about lying to get what they want so long as they are nice about it.
And, they will inevitably tell you how good they are."

AdelaofBlois Sun 07-Nov-10 12:43:25

Oddly, the top list is almost exactly that of the good Christian knight from medieval literature!

Not sure what that adds, just found it striking.

AdelaofBlois Sun 07-Nov-10 12:45:43

Except, I guess, what it adds is that all intensely interpersonal societies (medieval courts, modern offices) face problems in creating accepted rules of 'goodness' whilst at the same time demanding they are heartfelt not false, that each generation hits the same problems.

Read the German Parzival for more-a knight's journey to inner understanding destroyed by a stress on external rules.

dittany Sun 07-Nov-10 12:49:50

Maybe that christians can spot goodness just like other people?

I think they had an additional quality that negated all their claims to goodness though - that you had to believe in their god and it was off to hell with you if you didn't.

I suppose the one thing you could say about this is that it reflects the christian idea that there are "good" and "bad/evil" people, when in fact goodness or badness are behaviours.

dittany Sun 07-Nov-10 12:55:49

You can't be a good person in an office or a medieval court. They are hierarchical patriarchal structures, built on unfairness and the use of force. Looking inward would be the mistake there. Focusing on the whole structure, and how to dismantle it, would be the answer.

AdelaofBlois Sun 07-Nov-10 13:00:15

Don't want to make this into a medieval thread, but 'God' was rather tricky in an exclusively Christian society, because in essence any side in any societal debate believed they believed in God. There are potent medieval defences of abortion based on biblical texts. Hence 'good', 'nice' and downright 'evil' people all claimed God, and Church was not some magic authority (however hard it tried to be).

But you're right about hierarchies. Finding your place from inward knowledge was the key, not challenging the systems set up (although you could always found a new religious or secular order alongside the old ones..).

AdelaofBlois Sun 07-Nov-10 13:02:06

Can I use this post as a teaching text please?

dittany Sun 07-Nov-10 13:11:12

The first post isn't really mine, it's a report of that article from Huffington Post, I imagine the author would be happy for the attention.

AdelaofBlois Sun 07-Nov-10 13:30:14

Of course, one of the other problems (which the analogy highlights) is does genuineness really matter? Most of the differences are qualitative, but underneath it all is a degree of faith in the genuine?

Does it really matter if I unburden myself when needing to vent to someone who only lets me 'in so far'? Is this really always worse than venting to someone who'll be responsive by telling me to f off if they disagree?

And isn't counselling very close to paid niceness?

dittany Sun 07-Nov-10 13:32:26

There were non-believers in medieval times, even if they had to keep it somewhat secret. Who do you think they were burning as witches, or at least who do you think they were sending a message to with the burnings? The only reason why there was a threat for non-belief in a christian god (hell) is because non-belief existed.

The whole Marian worship thing too (all those cathedrals called Notre Dame) was a nod to the pagans to help them make the transition from goddess worship to patriarchal religion.

dittany Sun 07-Nov-10 13:33:29

Put your hand on your heart and ask yourself that question.

AdelaofBlois Sun 07-Nov-10 13:47:15

There were indeed non-believers (and other religious groupings) in the Latin West. Magic was a topic of debate into the fourteenth century, with serious discussion not of 'magic' as evil, but of the acceptable Christian boundaries for its use. Many witches would have seen themselves as Christian, there is almost no medieval evidence for them doing otherwise, and sources often record their impassioned defence of themselves as such. Heresy was persecuted, but heretics on the whole believed themselves to be Christian (as did others, which was why the Church was threatened). Seeing them as 'non believers' is falling for the Church's propaganda, albeit with a different value judgement attached.

I tend to think for counselling I'd rather not ask. I need to believe the person I'm talking to is genuine. smile

dittany Sun 07-Nov-10 13:50:20

I must have a brain freeze on today. Of course open non-believers existed in medieval times - the whole of the Muslim world for starters. That's why all these "good" christians were hopping on their horses, off to slaughter the infidel in the crusades. They also thought it was the muslims who would be burning in hell after they'd murdered them.

Also, Adela, I think you need to read that article again. The author actually ends up talking about how niceness is used by male predators in order to put women in vulnerable situations so they can attack them. She gives the example of a man trying to prey on her on a New York street. With that in mind maybe you could answer your own question about whether this is an important judgement to be able to make.

AdelaofBlois Sun 07-Nov-10 13:54:26

Yes, sorry.

Official doctrine was that Jews and Muslims were heretics, not non-believers, they believed in God but had misunderstood. Hence a change of strategy from warfare to argument and conversion. Still equally wrong.

AdelaofBlois Sun 07-Nov-10 13:55:02

Aristotle had a lot to answer for...

AdelaofBlois Sun 07-Nov-10 14:11:19

But you're right, I'm missing the point of the post. No more, back to essays on medieval heresy....

Unprune Tue 09-Nov-10 12:56:41

That checklist made me cry. A good friend has a husband who fits the second column perfectly, but what got to me was the she has described him in some of those terms.

Unprune Tue 09-Nov-10 13:11:02

Also interesting (to me anyway) how she brings 'nice' back round full circle and gives it a negative meaning again.

vezzie Tue 09-Nov-10 14:39:42

"you can't be a good person in an office or a mediaeval court."
Dittany, I think that is very unfair. Lots of good people work in offices and try to be as good at work as they are anywhere. Maybe it's harder but it's possible.
As this is the feminist section I will mention here that one of the things I see as most important about my job (in an office) is managing young women in a way that I wish I had been managed. I was treated appallingly in my 20s and now I somehow always seem to end managing young women who are putting up backs of senior management by being pretty, clever, outspoken and female, all at the same time (how dare they). I defend them and I manage them and I mentor them and I look after them and every day I am proud that they have someone who will treat them better than I was treated. I think this is good (although I become immediately ungood by claiming this, oh well) and I know lots of other people who do their best too. Millions of people work in offices and we don't all have the option to go off and start our own massage oil selling cooperatives instead.

dittany Tue 09-Nov-10 19:00:25

I work in an office too vezzie. I'm just talking about how the structure works against goodness, because of the hierarchical nature of it. These sort of observations aren't meant as personal criticisms of people, they are about examining power structures and the effects they have.

But that's good that you're looking out for young women, that is very unsual behaviour and deserves to be appreciated and acknowledged (I don't think it makes you ungood pointing out your good behaviour either!)

Grumpla Thu 11-Nov-10 19:52:43

Just wanted to say Vezzie, you sound like an amazing manager. I have a good (female) line manager at work and she has been great to me, I am sure your colleagues appreciate you in the same way.

I find 'niceness' a constant irritant at work, I now have a reputation in certain corners for being aggressive and difficult because I don't respond well to the fake cosy nicey nicey stuff... I suspect if I was male this would not be a problem.

I think I am disqualified from the good list though, I spend a lot of time seeking vengeance and revenge... oh well, can't all be perfect can we grin

HerBeatitude Thu 11-Nov-10 22:05:58

PMSL at "I spend a lot of time seeking vengeance and revenge"

You sound like the perfect dinner guest Grump! grin

earwicga Thu 11-Nov-10 22:25:49

Interesting article. Completely off base with the Chamberlain comment though. I think there is a difference between kindness and niceness though and that was glossed over.

I get what you mean AdelaofBlois - the first list does look like an ideal of perfection, which is not necessarily acheivable and very much depends on life circumstances. It seems like m/c indulgence to me. How does mental illness fit into that list?

I am now thinking about past partners good and bad and seeing if 'charming' is something which only applies to the latter and not the former.

One thing from the second list struck me as debatable:

'They relate to you on the surface and let you in only so far.'

Many survivors of trauma can seem like this for a long time while trust in a relationship (as friends or whatever) is being built.

Message withdrawn

HappyHarry78 Fri 12-Nov-10 17:52:10

"They need to maintain a persona or a position in a social circle at all costs because how they are seen is more important than who they are."

That also struck me from personal experience. I know someone who likes to project an aura of niceness, yet when occasionally he lets his guard down you get to see that he is anything but. Now I re-read it, every single item on the second list would seem to apply to this person.
What I found to be slightly worrying though, is that also every single item on this list seems to apply to them as well.

1. Glibness/superficial charm
2. Grandiose sense of self-worth
3. Pathological lying
4. Cunning/manipulative
5. Lack of remorse or guilt
6. Emotionally shallow
7. Callous/lack of empathy
8. Failure to accept responsibility for own actions

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychopathy#PCL-R_items

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