Growing up in Minnesota, the idea of “Minnesota Nice” is often talked about. At first glance it sounds really great; shiny, happy people right? Not so much.
Kindness is extremely important to me, it is something I talk about with my son every day. Be kind. Which brings up the extremely important conversation of the difference between being “nice” and being “kind”.
My experience of “Minnesota Nice” is being passive aggressive, not saying what needs to be said, or feeding someone a crap sandwich. Beneath all the sugar coating there is usually something that the other person actually needs to hear!
I had an experience of “Minnesota Nice” the other day while out to lunch with my son and his friend. We were in a bit of a rush, so we had grabbed food at the grocery store and were sitting outside at tables to eat. The boys had just finished a round of mini golf and were talking about the competition. Now, they were not quiet, however they were not loud. They were 9 year old boys talking to each other excitedly outside. Then some of Henry’s napkins started to blow away so he jumped on his chair to get out to get them, when the woman at the table next to us said (just loud enough to hear) “I guess they have NO manners at all”. Aside from the mama bear moment I had, I thought about what I consider manners. Manners are saying something directly to someone when you have something to say, and saying it to elevate everyone in the situation. This was a case of pure “Minnesota Nice” and guess what? I did it back! They boys asked to go sit somewhere else, so as we packed up I passive aggressively said, “We are so sorry for ruining your lunch, we will go eat elsewhere.” THAT IS NOT WHAT I WANTED TO SAY AT ALL. So why did I say it? It wasn’t kind. It was said with every kind of anger I had in me.
Being kind means that you see other humans for the humans they are, and you interact with them in a way that elevates them and cares for their humanity. Being kind means that you see situations with empathy, you know what is helpful and what is not. Being kind means that when you see something that is not ok, you say so. And you say it with nothing but generosity and love.
I have replayed what I “should have said” a million times in my mind, or if I should have said anything at all.
My request in all of this is that we don’t throw kindness out with the idea of being “nice”. I will continue to remind my son to be kind, and I urge you to do the same.