“They’re a really nice person, but….”

When you hear yourself (or someone else) say this phrase, it’s actually all over.

The supplier. The company you hired. The employee. The strategic partner. The accountant. The client. The advisor. The minister. The author. The influencer. The lecturer. The date. The….whoever.

I have heard this phrase used by so many people for so long, that when I hear it now, it’s like a red warning flag, waving wildly.

Because what comes after this statement is the real problem, the truth, the thing being covered over.

“He’s a really nice guy, but….the accounts are always late.”

“She’s a really lovely person, but….she doesn’t actually have the experience I thought she did when we hired her.”

“They’re a really nice company, but…I don’t really understand what we’re paying for.”

“There are really nice people there, but…that church has messed up a lot of people.”

“He’s a really nice person, but…he questions every bill we send, and doesn’t follow our advice.”

When you say “they’re a really nice person”, what you mean is: 

  • I feel badly for this person
  • I think it’s my fault because I chose to hire/work with them/build a relationship
  • They haven’t yelled or swore at me or raised their voice
  • Whenever I bring up the problem (which I have, many times), they promise to fix it and they really do try
  • Sometimes they are okay (they’re not consistent) and then i have hope again
  • I know there are Things going on in their life and I’d feel terrible if I cancelled/let them go/stopped going there
  • We have history and they were there for me in a tough time in the past
  • They smile or text me or send cards or do other nice things
  • I’m not sure they know better
  • It would be hard for me to tell them how i actually feel and what’s really bothering me
  • The relationship would change if I told them how frustrated I am. They might not even be my friend or talk to me ever again

None of these – not one single one of these – is a valid reason for allowing a relationship to continue.



These aren’t actual reasons to keep working with someone (or employing them or staying in relationship with them).

These are your fears.

These are your lack of boundaries. 

These are you trying to take someone else’s responsibility on your own shoulders.

These are you trying to take on the responsibility of the entire world, and make everything okay.

These are avoidance techniques.

These are also a reflection of YOU being a really lovely person, too.

It is good you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to see someone lose their job. Lose their home. You don’t want to see someone hurt, or sad, or angry.

But you cannot make or keep everyone happy all the time.

You can’t even do it some of the time.

You can’t even do it for your own self.

Things which make us sad, or angry, or horrified, or hurt, are part of our process in growing. Learning. Listening. Taking responsibility. Being willing to change.

“There is a big difference between hurt and harm. We all hurt sometimes in facing hard truths, but it makes us grow. It can be the source of huge growth. That is not harmful. Harm is when you damage someone. Facing reality is usually not a damaging experience, although it can hurt.” – Dr Henry Cloud, Boundaries

The fact this person or company or organisation is “nice” or “lovely” is neither here nor there. A lot of people are nice. Actually, most of us are nice by cultural conditioning and expectation. 

Someone bumps into you at the post office queue. You mutter a little, maybe say “hey, careful!”, but (unless you have significant anger issues which require some deep therapy) you don’t push them or start wrestling them to the ground right there in the post office. You stay nice. You play nice. And then you go home and complain to anyone who will listen about the very not-nice person you had to deal with that day.

You smile weakly at the person who makes what they think is a really funny statement or asks what they see to be as a funny question….but you actually find it quite hurtful or wearying. You stay nice, because it’s not worth it to get into an entire conversation about what they don’t understand.

You ignore the selfish facebook post, the side-comment.

You stay nice.

You play nice.

In these kind of examples, with strangers, being nice is a good thing. It means you’ve weighed it up and you’ve decided the relationship isn’t there. The effort isn’t worth it. They won’t listen and it will only cause more pain, and it is the better part of valour to walk away or close the phone or close your mouth.

But when there IS an actual relationship, and what is happening affects your life or your business or your family or your spirit….

…being nice is not kind. 

It is kind to tell a poorly performing employee that they are not achieving the goals set or living up to the company values.

It is kind to share your frustrations with a supplier and talk through what’s not working for you.

It is kind to tell the applicant that this is not the company for them.

It is kind to explain to your client how things work at your firm, and what will happen if they don’t honour that.

It’s kind because you actually, genuinely care. You want this person, this company, this organisation to change. If they are willing. And that’s as far as you can take it: because their response is not your responsibility.

Their response

is not

your responsibility.

Being ‘nice’ doesn’t tell you anything about who someone truly is. I know personally some people I considered to be very, very nice….who are also very twisted and messed up and have caused a lot of hurt and damage. In a case like that, “niceness” (on their part) is hiding something.

And if that person affects us or we have a relationship with them of any kind, “being nice” on our part usually means we too are hiding something. We’re avoiding something.

If you know this person will get really angry, or upset, or throw a tantrum, or pull back from relationship, because you had a real honest conversation with them….

…that means it’s even more urgent to do it now. 

Because it will not get better. They will not become more open and more willing and more emotionally healthy. It will only get worse. They will only continue further on the road they’re on.

“When we begin to set boundaries with people we love, a really hard thing happens: they hurt. They may feel a hole where you used to plug up their aloneness, their disorganisation, or their financial irresponsibility. Whatever it is, they will feel a loss. If you love them, this will be difficult for you to watch. But, when you are dealing with someone who is hurting, remember that your boundaries are both necessary for you and helpful for them. If you have been enabling them to be irresponsible, your limit setting may nudge them toward responsibility.”  – Dr Henry Cloud, Boundaries

It may be this person is (in addition to being nice), also really kind and a beautiful soul and with good skills.

They’re just not the person for YOUR company or the best person for that particular role.

It may be that company is (in addition to being nice) really good at what they do. But they’re not YOUR people, your tribe. You don’t talk the same language, you’re not their ideal client, you and they would both be better off and quite happy if you went elsewhere.

Sometimes people are nice, and they’re evil. Sometimes people are nice, and they’re in the wrong space. Sometimes people are nice, and with work and good conversation and therapy they will change.

But none of this will be fixed by you repeating to yourself, “but they’re such a lovely person”.

So when you hear yourself saying “They’re a really lovely person, but…”

Listen to the “but” at the end. 

It will tell you what’s really going on, and what really needs to be addressed.

Now, address it.

You can do so gently. In person or on a video call. With a long conversation. Acknowledging your own failures and areas of responsibility, but not ignoring theirs. Listening. Asking good questions. Caring. Being kind. Being loving.

You may even hear yourself saying, “You’re a really lovely person, but this isn’t working out.”

Or, “you’re a really lovely person, but this is not okay.”

Or “you have a really lovely company, but I’m frustrated.”

And at last you’ve gotten to the real root of the issue, and can work to solve it.

With kindness. Not niceness.  

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Well. So. Small update.

Was out hiking on mull and slipped on a rock crossing a burn, and broke my ankle. (I remember hearing an audible “crack” as I went down.)

No signal on phone. Managed to climb down a ravine to get to a more open place and hopefully signal. At that point still convinced it “wasn’t that bad”. Tried to walk along the path and realised yes, it was that bad.

Phoned coast guard, who were utter legends. Sent a boat AND a helicopter. Sun was setting and they didn’t want me sitting in the dark. Oh my word it was cold. Helicoptered out to fort William hospital (nicest people ever), then down to airdrie where I got a cast.

Ankle broken in one place. Doctors pleased (as much as you can be!) it’s a clean break & lining up well. I’ll be down for 4-6 weeks.

I’ve repeated myself a lot over the last few days so here’s the short version to all the questions, with appreciation for the care.

Yes, I’m okay. I’m also utterly exhausted & have hit the “damn, this is going to be a long road” phase. Taking it one day, one hour at a time. 

I’m being looked after. Very kind friends and things being delivered. My amazing sister @secondsunrise2 flying in tomorrow from america to be with me for a few weeks. SO grateful.

What do I need? I’m good on the basics. There have been unexpected costs and more coming so if you want to PayPal monies for deliveries or getting my car & belongings back or all the taxis or whatever, feel free. I’m hardly destitute so only do that if you want to send something useful and aren’t sure what. PayPal username karenlreyburn. Amazon wishlist in bio. Random care packages also happily received!

My car & belongings are up on mull. I have people to help and we are working on timing. But if you’re on mull and want to return a car near Glasgow, let me know :)

Shout out to the Coast Guard for being so swift, & that beautiful combination of sympathy and practicality.

Download the @what3words app. Literal lifesaver.

That’s all for now. All the love. Oh - and no, I don’t hold this against mull at all. It’s still my happy place. Things happen & the mull community has been beautiful. Shout out to @treshnish who couldn’t have been kinder. ❤️
Morning walk. I stood and watched the ferry come in and the sun lighten this little edge of the world.
Been going through old photos and letters - the last of the boxes i had stored at my sister’s house in america. 

When I first moved to Scotland, I only planned to live here for a few years and then go back. Then after a few years I wasn’t ready yet…then I got my residency…still not quite ready….then started a business…then Scottish citizenship…bought a house …finally accepted this is my home and I wasn’t moving back. 

And with every visit back to the states I would go through more boxes, more photos and letters and memories. I’d keep some and throw others away; take photos out of frames and give away the frames; and as time went on I was able to distinguish between the ones I definitely wanted and needed to keep, and those which were lovely at the time but didn’t need to be saved anymore.

Over twenty years on and this past trip I went through the very last of the boxes. I joked to my sister that I’ve now officially settled into Scotland 😆 

This photo of me and my Gramps is a fave and definitely a keeper. Most of the photos and letters I’ve kept are those of family - parents, grandparents, sisters, nieces and nephews. And as much as I love taking landscape photos, I noticed that 20 years later it’s the people photos I am more likely to keep. Thankful for the traditions and patterns of seeing family every year or so since moving to Scotland. They’re small things - baking Christmas cookies and going for walks and going for road trips - but it’s the time together and the continuing family jokes and the memories which remain. And a few photos.

My grandfather (and all my grandparents) have now passed on, but I remember with fondness sitting around at their kitchen table, eating fresh vegetables from the garden, playing scrabble, laughing and talking and drinking coffee.

It’s the small things, and the rhythms of family, which last. ❤️ 
#family #memories #grandparents #oldphotos
Made fresh mince pies for the first time ever. Over twenty years in Scotland and I’d never tried to make them from scratch, so I figured…now is the time! I’m doing lots of thanksgiving baking (yes, we stretch it out here so I’m still prepping!) and decided to buy the ingredients. 

Dried fruit…mixed peel…lots of spices…and Venezuelan rum :) I made up the mincemeat last night, and then today put it in the little pastries and even cut out the wee stars to go on top!

I think I can safely say they’re the best mince pies I’ve ever had. Fresh out of the oven sprinkled with icing sugar and with a glass of said rum alongside :) 

Now we are curled up with a Harry Potter marathon, with plenty of mince pies AND a thanksgiving feast still to come. Happiness! 

#mincepies #homebaking #maryberry #maryberryrecipe #happythanksgiving #happychristmas #harrypotter #hpmarathon