Is It Better to be Clever or Nice?

Filed in Living by on October 15, 2015 2 Comments

A group of friends eating at a restaurant

I believe both my wife and I are good and likable people. We don’t have a huge circle of friends, but we have a few really good friends who seem to enjoy spending time with us.

When we are with friends, I have noticed that Elaine and I seem to take a different approach to the situation. I like being funny and clever. Since I am a Type A, I am easily bored, and interjecting humor makes social situations more entertaining for me. I will often bring up an interesting story or anecdote from recent experience in an effort to liven things up.

Elaine is also funny and interesting, but that isn’t her emphasis. She projects more as nice and interested. She is a much better listener than I am. She is also very compassionate. You can just see it in her eyes as you are talking to her—she genuinely cares about you and what you have to say.

So is it better to be clever or nice? What should you strive for in your social interactions?

First and foremost, it’s always best to be yourself. Any attempt to copy or duplicate someone else will probably fail. As they say, you should be yourself, because everyone else is taken.

On the other hand, there are some risks associated with trying to always be funny and clever that I want to point out. As anyone who uses a lot of humor knows, some jokes are just going to fall flat. You can’t throw that many things at the wall and expect that all of them are going to stick. So there is the slight awkwardness of a joke or anecdote that just fails miserably. More of a concern, though, is that some attempts at humor can be considered offensive. It is just the nature of humor that some things cut a little too close to the bone, or are considered only “half kidding.” The big problem here is that after you leave, the only thing the offended person will likely remember about what you said that night is the one “hurtful” comment they heard.

It could also be that people are too sensitive these days, and that everything has to be so PC. Hopefully, most people can keep what they see and hear in some context. People like me who are known to not be at all mean-spirited would certainly appreciate just a little slack for a loose comment here or there. It’s not easy being really funny and not at least occasionally offensive—try it sometime!

In sum, I’m going to be very honest here and predict that if our close friends were asked who they would like to spend an afternoon with, Elaine or me, most or all of them would probably choose Elaine. Heck, I think I would choose someone like Elaine over someone like me! The explanation they would likely give is that they are simply more comfortable with her. So I think there is a lesson here about social behavior and cultivating friendships.

Lastly, maybe Elaine and I are the perfect couple: I am entertaining (hopefully), and she is a great listener and very kind (most certainly). We’re like carrots and peas, we just fit together!

About the Author ()

TIM MCINTYRE retired in 2004 from his position as president of Applied Systems after facilitating a successful sale of the company. At only forty-six years old, he made the unusual decision to fully retire to pursue other interests and simply enjoy free time. As a hard-driving Type A personality, this turned out to be a significant challenge for the Notre Dame and University of Chicago-educated MBA, CPA, and Certified Cash Manager.

Comments (2)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Mike Clausen says:

    Tim, You are right on both counts. Elaine is compassionate , and you are nothing if not entertaining !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *