Not Nice: Book Overview and Takeaways (Aziz Gazipura)

What’s Not Nice by Aziz Gazipura about? Have you ever found yourself saying yes when you really meant no?

In Not Nice, Aziz Gazipura defines “nice” and why he believes being nice is such a problem. He goes into more detail about what nice looks like in action and outlines how you can stop being nice in your personal and professional life.

Read below for a brief Not Nice book overview.

Not Nice by Aziz Gazipura

Have you felt the weight of unspoken resentment while agreeing to something that you don’t want to do…yet again? In Not Nice, book author Aziz Gazipura critiques our cultural fixation on niceness, suggesting that both individuals and society would benefit from being less nice.

Gazipura is a clinical psychologist who specializes in social anxiety and confidence-building. In 2011, Gazipura started the Social Confidence Center, which is dedicated to helping people navigate social situations with greater ease and authenticity. The organization offers resources, courses, and personalized coaching to support people in increasing their social confidence. Gazipura’s other books include The Solution to Social Anxiety, The Art of Extraordinary Confidence, and On My Own Side

What Does It Mean to Be Nice?

According to Gazipura, we’re raised to believe that it’s important to be nice. Parents, teachers, and other adults consistently remind children to be polite, get along with others, not hurt people’s feelings, and follow the rules. While these lessons are well-intentioned, young people often inadvertently learn that anything that doesn’t meet adult expectations of niceness is bad. They become afraid of doing anything that displeases people in their lives, whether that be openly disagreeing with them or being too loud. We carry these lessons with us into adulthood, holding on to the belief that being nice is the equivalent of being good.

But, according to Gazipura, being nice isn’t about being good at all. He explains that niceness doesn’t stem from our desire to take care of others or be kind but from a fear of rejection. Niceness is simply a set of rules we believe are necessary to earn affection and avoid rejection.

What Does Nice Look Like?

Gazipura explains what nice looks like in action and the rules people believe they have to follow to be nice. 

According to Gazipura, the rules of niceness are simple:

  1. Don’t do anything that will make people dislike you.
  2. Don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.
  3. Don’t get angry or make anyone else angry. 

Gazipura says that in an effort to follow the rules, nice people often exhibit the following qualities: the need to be liked, amplified guilt, and a fear of conflict

The Problem With Nice

If niceness is wrapped up in the need to be liked, amplified guilt, and a fear of conflict, then, Gazipura argues, we should all aspire to be less nice. While being nice may help you avoid discomfort in the moment, it has a long-term cost. Gazipura outlines the mental, emotional, and physical consequences of being nice.

According to Gazipura, prioritizing others’ needs over your own can lead to chronic stress, anxiety, anger, and resentment. Uncomfortable emotions may manifest as physical symptoms, including headaches, muscle tension, disrupted sleep, or other stress-related issues.

Moreover, Gazipura argues that being overly nice, while intended to foster connection, prevents the development of genuine, mutually satisfying relationships. By constantly seeking to please everyone and avoid disagreements, you engage in inauthentic behavior that disconnects you from your core values and beliefs, and results in only superficial connections.

Finally, Gazipura says that choosing to be overly nice often means avoiding challenges, conversations, and situations that might push you out of your comfort zone. This avoidance can hinder your growth, which requires embracing discomfort, taking risks, and asserting yourself. Staying within the bounds of niceness therefore keeps you stagnant and prevents you from reaching your full potential.

What Happens When You Stop Being Nice?

According to Gazipura, when you stop being nice, your life transforms. You gain the freedom to be your true self without shame, guilt, or fear. You become the authority of your own life instead of relying on others to dictate what’s right for you, and you begin to trust your intuition, understanding that you know the best path forward. When you stop being nice, you’re no longer motivated by the need to be liked; you allow yourself to be known by sharing your experiences transparently and vulnerably. This shift empowers you to navigate life authentically and make choices that align with your genuine self, ultimately leading to a happier and more fulfilling life.

How Can You Stop Being Nice?

Now that you know what it really means to be nice and understand how being nice hurts your quality of life, it’s time to stop being nice. Gazipura outlines a step-by-step process to help you recover from being a nice person: write your own rules, commit to the process, establish boundaries, prioritize yourself, embrace your full self, and speak your mind.

Step 1: Write Your Own Rules

To escape the trap of niceness, you first need to write your own rules for how you want to live, what Gazipura calls your personal bill of rights. Being nice often means conforming to others’ expectations, but crafting your own rules allows you to live authentically and prioritize your well-being. Your list of rules serves as a reminder of your right to assert your boundaries, express your needs, and navigate relationships with authenticity. This self-defined code of conduct can liberate you from the constraints of people-pleasing and foster a deeper sense of self-respect and confidence. 

To create your own list, imagine what you would do if you weren’t worried about what anyone else thought. How would you act if guilt, fear, and doubt had no impact on you? Write down as many ideas as you can. Examples might include speaking up during work meetings, declining social events you don’t want to attend, or going away for a long weekend by yourself…without your family. While your list might be short at first, Gazipura suggests continuing to add to your list as your sense of what’s possible (and acceptable) expands. 

Step 2: Commit to the Process

Gazipura writes that you must be committed to the process to make it work. Zero commitment means you don’t see the problem with being nice and have no desire to change your behavior, while the highest level means changing your behavior at all costs—you fully understand how damaging niceness has been to your personal and professional well-being and are willing to do whatever it takes to change your behavior, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable. Depending on how old you are, your patterns of niceness may have been ingrained in you for decades, so it will take deep commitment to unlearn most of the associated behaviors.

Step 3: Establish Boundaries

To stop being nice, establish clear boundaries, says Gazipura. This means being able to identify your own wants, opinions, and responsibilities and distinguish them from others’. 

According to Gazipura, your internal feelings (your likes, dislikes, opinions, and intuition) inform your boundaries. Therefore, establishing boundaries begins with knowing yourself better, starting with what you want.

Step 4: Prioritize Yourself

The next step in unlearning niceness is prioritizing yourself. You’re responsible for your needs. No one else will meet them. Practice asking yourself what you want and need and how to get it. If you have a long history of being nice, you might think this sounds selfish, but selfishness is a matter of perspective. According to Gazipura, it exists on a spectrum, from self-sacrificing (too nice) to thoughtlessly selfish (only caring about oneself). He advocates the middle ground: healthy self-interest.

Gazipura says that the problem is that after being nice for so long, you may no longer be a good judge of what selfish looks like. If you’re not sure, think through the cost-benefit analysis of your decision—how much you want something versus how much it will impact the people around you. If you don’t want something that much, or if the impact on someone else is too high, reconsider or brainstorm how to meet your needs another way. But if you really want something and other people are minimally impacted, go for it. 

Step 5: Embrace Your Full Self

The next step in unlearning your patterns of niceness is to embrace your full self by acknowledging your “shadow” parts. Referencing the work of psychologist Carl Jung, Gazipura explains that each of us has multiple parts, some we present to the world and some we hide. According to Jung, the “shadow” represents parts you might unconsciously deny, suppress, or disown because they don’t align with the image you want to present to the world or because they trigger feelings of shame or discomfort. While everyone’s shadow is unique, Gazipura points to common qualities of shadows—violence, sexuality, selfishness, or hostility. Embracing your full self requires you to accept that these qualities are a natural part of who you are.

Gazipura argues that embracing your full self is critical to your overall well-being and happiness. He explains that your shadow is home to your primal desires and therefore a source of untapped energy, creativity, and growth. Acknowledging and accepting your shadow unlocks authenticity and vitality that might otherwise remain buried. Furthermore, repressing your shadow leads to self-rejection, potentially resulting in issues like anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, or heightened negative emotions.

Step 6: Speak Your Mind

Once you know what you want and understand that you’re more than “just nice,” it’s time to become a more authentic version of yourself, one who speaks their mind. According to Gazipura, people avoid speaking their mind for several reasons: They fear hurting someone’s feelings, causing offense, or inciting anger; they aim to avoid being perceived as rude, mean, or aggressive; or they hesitate to show emotions, appear needy, or make public mistakes.

While these fears are powerful deterrents, Gazipura argues they’re based on false beliefs about relationships. In the world of nice, if you disagree with someone or express strong volition, that person will like you less. In reality, honesty strengthens relationships. When you say what you think, you treat the other person as a capable and resilient adult, allowing both of you to be your authentic selves, regardless of whether you agree.

According to Gazipura, to speak up effectively, you must communicate assertively—express yourself clearly while also considering others’ feelings. This helps everyone talk openly, respect each other, and set clear boundaries for healthy interactions. In contrast, passive communication involves holding back your thoughts and needs, often leading to frustration and misunderstandings, and aggressive communication is forceful and disrespectful, causing conflicts and damaging relationships. Being assertive strikes a balance, fostering effective and respectful conversations.

Not Nice: Book Overview and Takeaways (Aziz Gazipura)

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Here's what you'll find in our full Not Nice summary:

  • Why there's a cultural fixation on niceness
  • How individuals and society would benefit from being less nice
  • How to break free from the people-pleasing trap and empower yourself

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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