Do people say you’re mean? And are they right? (Part 2)

Teen girl talking to a guy with a laptop
Photo: © Antonio Diaz / 123RF Stock Photo

Why are we nice? Or not?

A signboard outside a children’s welfare home said:
Be nice,
Or leave.
Thank You.

I’m imagining that if such behaviour were a prerequisite everywhere on planet earth, how would we all be? How would we behave with each other? Would we actually be considerate? Isn’t being nice an innate trait? Or are we trying to be something we instinctively are not?

The dictionary defines nice in different ways. The first is something that gives pleasure, the second means of good quality, and the third is what we typically understand as being kind or bighearted or polite. Research asserts that our capacity for goodness may lie in our DNA. Some of us are born with genes that make us more sensitive to hormones that are associated with generosity and love. But this is not only about our genes, it’s largely also dependent on how we choose to become. So we are either wired for niceness or we learn it as we go along the path of life.

What being nice does

  • Have you ever felt good when you helped someone in need?
  • Did you smile when a little child seemed grateful for your help?
  • Did you feel peace when you once gave your pocket money to charity?
  • Was it nice when you stood up for someone while others were mocking her?

When you help someone, you don’t need to go to them, but also to your own self. We are happier people when we are nice. It may sound selfish but it is true; when we do good it boosts our own mood, raises dopamine or the positivity chemical in our own brain, and also improves our performance. It is also true that those who understand the emotions of others do better in their studies as well as at work. Now this may appear odd, but when we are nice, we are less stressed, happier and in such a state that our attention, memory and concentration are a lot better.

But yet we go wrong

It happens really often that we know what is right but we don’t do it. Just like with exercise — we know it’s good, we know we should do it every day, we know it’s going to keep us fit; and yet most of us get lazy and avoid it. Why? Simply because it’s so much easier to do the wrong thing and always more difficult to do what’s right. Of course, to err is human and we will make mistakes. And we do rub people off the wrong way and are crowned with the title of ‘mean’. If we practise mindfulness and become more aware of what we’re doing wrong, we can change it and set it right.

Dr Shefali Batra is a Psychiatrist and Mindfulness Coach. Connect with her on Instagram @drshefalibatra and read more about her work at

Dr Shefali Batra

Dr Shefali Batra is a Psychiatrist and Mindfulness Coach. Connect with her on Instagram @drshefalibatra and read more about her work at