Eat Nice: Do You Know When to be Outspoken?

By  |  2 Comments


“You better be careful because she doh eat nice!”

According to this Trinidadian term, if you don’t ‘eat nice’, you’re probably more than unpleasant. You may be downright rude, bad tempered, and sharp tongued. It has nothing to do with eating bland, cheap or distasteful food. Eating, in this instance, means speaking to others, and, if it’s not nice, it’s horrid.

You could cuss me, ridicule me, or hit me with sly sarcasm, and you would get as far as a wall of silence…

Once I knew with certainty that I could never be accused of this. I could real ‘bite lip’. You could cuss me, ridicule me, or hit me with sly sarcasm, and you would get as far as a wall of silence, without the satisfaction of even a raised eyebrow. I had my exceptions, but for the most part I would say nothing.

The writer in me would be calculating furious, witty responses at death-defying speeds, but when opposed by those who didn’t ‘eat nice’, I would be perceived as an A-class ‘bobolee’.

It may have been the onset of age thirty, or maybe the frustration of my health situation, but, whatever the precursor, I now have less talent in the area of meek silence. I still have it, but with many more exceptions.

When people say what they are thinking, more often than not they have deep convictions about what they profess. Some of us are known for our frank and outspoken nature. But do we know when to talk, and when to walk? Do we understand the delicate balance between knowing what discussions, debates, and outright arguments are worth engaging in, as opposed to even the most subtle of ego-boosting regression?

Be it on talkshows, in Parliament, on Facebook, in a rumshop, or waiting in line in the bank – one thing seems certain – people always have something to say, with more than a ‘two cents’ to spare.

Do we know when to talk, and when to walk?

I am still trying to navigate the new part of me that gets verbally involved. I loathe unnecessary, stressful situations, so keeping my opinions to myself is usually more a vie for peace, than a fear of that opinion. And if I know you are intentionally provoking me, the last thing I want to do is give you pleasure, even if it’s a good cuss with pepper.

Admittedly, this approach has had its drawbacks.

If enlightenment means that insults miraculously evaporate into thin air, then I understand it mostly in theory. I would safely confess that the superhuman talent of emotional disassociation sometimes eludes me.

Frankly, if you tackle me with a negative agenda, it registers in my psyche. Even if I remain calm with panache and decorum, your idiocy does not plunder through my right ear, and slide out the left. It hits a nerve and evolves into a thought at moment’s notice. A thought that ponders, “To speak or not to speak?” And that is the question.

I have cheated myself in situations where a simple “don’t speak to me like that” could have ended a simple, but brewing, drama. In those instances, I suffered a drawn out, distressful experience, and was left quietly enraged, leaving the unaware culprit to further insult me or insult others – again and again.

I have come to realise that energy between people is always like a mathematical equation or chemicals in a lab. One set of factors or mixtures are either needed, or must be eliminated for balance to be reinstated.

It is known that children need boundaries to develop an awareness of socially accepted behaviour. A child without discipline may wreak havoc, if they cannot get their own way. Adults are often no different. Most unacceptable, adult behaviours that are allowed to progress can only do so when given free reign.

Years ago, I worked with a very unpleasant woman. No one could stand the sight of her. After hoarding and swallowing my objections for agonising months, I eventually confronted the ‘she beast’. To my surprise, she and I enjoyed smooth relations from that day. I learnt then that some people actually need you to impose boundaries because they cannot do it for themselves. They may be controlling, but they lack self-control.

I am not suggesting that you lose control yourself, or that you blindly ‘run your mouth’, when dealing with ignorant people. But an intelligent, assertive, no-nonsense, verbal palm to the face is sometimes needed. It allows you to claim your right to peaceful space and personal respect. And when you release the energy into the Universe, it does not store in your liver, or stick in your throat and chest.

So when interacting with someone whose bitching is unwarranted, it may be healthy to ‘doh eat nice’ yourself.

The most recent and innovative platform for people to abandon ‘eating nice’ is Facebook. It seems that people are more comfortable confronting people online than they are face to face. It is common to witness lengthy threads laced with insults and sarcasm on every imaginable topic – politics, religion, movies, music and even Facebook itself.

I have also encountered people whose online personas contrast dramatically to who they are in person. It’s as though pent-up opinions become ambitious, when behind the comfort and safety of the computer screen.

According to an article in Psychology Today, people who suppress or withhold their opinions do so out of fear – be it fear of stress, rejection, being wrong or appearing vulnerable. It states: “not to show vulnerability is typically viewed as a strength, a ‘demonstration’ of character. But in reality the major motives in hiding our emotions are fear-based.”

It may be time to be a little brave then. But some of us should be less brave, or more specifically, less arrogantly outspoken.

There are people who firmly believe that a loud and unrelenting opinion is better than doubt or silence – even if the opinion is absurd. Those are the ones known for not ‘eating nice’. You know these types – they’re all up in your business, and everyone else’s business, and apart from themselves, they know everybody else is doing it wrong. These are the narcissists. They don’t just think they’re better than you, they think their opinions are gold, and that everything they think or say must matter to all of us.

What’s interesting is that this extreme tendency to barrage others is led by fear, the same way that many who hold their tongues at the consequence of emotional suppression are afraid. As stated in the Psychology Today article, “most psychologists believe, however, that the narcissist’s extremely high self-opinion is just a facade covering deeply-held feelings of low self-esteem and low self-worth.”

It seems that unhealthy suppression and destructive tendencies towards oppression are linked by their proximity not only to fear, but by a lack confidence. So it should never then be a permanent question as to whether one should or shouldn’t ‘eat nice’. It might be more a question of when, and to what degree?

Returning to the old adage of thinking before you speak, it seems good practice to constantly evaluate the situation before speaking. Be analytical in confrontational circumstances. Maybe it is something to let slide. Or maybe all the stated opinions in the world won’t positively change anything. But, by all means, when you’ve finished working it out in your head, if the situation warrants a response, forget about ‘eating nice’ and respond.


Image via:

Jaime Lee Loy

Jaime Lee Loy is a local contemporary artist and published writer of fiction. This single mom founded Trinidad Home Studio Ltd in 2011, offering her services in photography and video. With a genuine interest and past experience in working with NGOs, this single mother steers her creativity towards human-focused projects, and aims to be successful or die trying.


  1. Joel

    June 7, 2012 at 8:08 am

    article, Jaime. I think because we tend to be introspective, writers
    have a problem with the quick verbal comeback to insults. We end up
    storing it and getting vex after the fact. I think the key is responding
    but maintaining composure when you come back at them. 

    • Jaime Lee Loy

      Jaime Lee Loy

      June 11, 2012 at 8:58 am

      Thanks Joel! I am working on that very thing! You’re quite right.

Leave a Reply

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