Everyone wants to be well-liked and respected, but when you trip over yourself to be nice, you might be doing yourself a disservice. People might perceive you as indecisive and perhaps even disingenuous. Instead, try being honest, polite, and assertive.
This post originally appeared on the Crew blog
I was labelled as the nice girl my entire life. Mostly, because I was shy and quiet and no one knew how to handle that so the kids at school just said I was nice, and it stuck.
Looking back at this I’ve realised how detrimental it can be to hold yourself to this standard.
When you focus on being nice, you can end up ignoring how you really feel and what you want, and you might even let people mistreat you because you’re too nice to tell them to f*** off — at least, these have been some of my experiences.
I think many nice people like myself get caught up because we think we’re being good people. We believe we’re doing some kind of service to those around us by holding back our criticisms and saying something purely nice instead.
You can have strong opinions and still be a kind person. You can stand up for yourself and still care about what someone has to say. Human beings are dynamic like that.
It’s not in anyone’s best interest if you go out of your way to be nice. In fact, being nice can be detrimental to you and those around you in a number of ways.
Nice People Can Be Seen as Indecisive Or Non-Opinionated
A lot of nice people won’t tell you when they don’t want to do something. Instead, they will deflect their opinion by saying things like “It really doesn’t matter to me”, “I don’t care” or “I’m open to anything.” The thing is that after consistently deferring the decision-making to the people around you, you can start to lose sight of how you actually feel.
Think about the psychological phenomenon of groupthink; many of us — nice people and not-so-nice people alike — conform to certain behaviours and opinions in our daily lives because it givesus increased social acceptance.
Recently, someone very close to me pointed out that I almost never voiced my own opinions and that they took this as a sign of distrust. They felt I was still so insecure around them that I couldn’t even answer a simple question, even after years of friendship. What was even more scary was that when I dug deep and tried to give a more direct, opinionated answer, I found I had none.
I felt addicted to being nice. I never wanted to be the odd (wo)man out in the group, so I always gave more weight to other people’s opinions than my own. But to be a good friend, coworker, or leader, you have to be willing to share your own opinions as well as listen to others.
One way I’ve found helps re-evaluate how I feel about a friendship, job, or even group activity, is to list the things you dislike or don’t want to do. While most people probably aren’t as desensitised to their own opinions as I once was, you might find it to be a helpful starting point in reclaiming some of your opinions.
Being Overly Nice Can Also Cause You To Be Less Honest
Being the “nice” person can go beyond just being opinionated and cause you to straight up lie (because you think it’s better than offending others). Rather than honestly saying, “I’m just not in the mood for a night out,” you either:
- Leave it up to someone else (“I don’t care; what do you think?”) or
- Lie completely (“Oh man, I wish I could but my cat has tap dancing lessons tonight”).
Besides putting a strain on your relationships, a study from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana showed that people who lie are likely to suffer adverse health effects. The study found that when participants told fewer lies, they experienced fewer physical and mental health complaints, like headaches and feelings of tenseness.
While it might be a bit of a stretch to say that being nice will cause you to have health issues, the stress born from lying in the name of niceness can certainly put mental and physical pressure on you.
Nice People Can Come Across as Passive
If you’re constantly trying to only say and do nice things, rather than have opinions of your own, people may start to think of you as being passive and boring. If your friends and coworkers wanted the opinion of someone who agreed with them all the time they could simply ask a mirror.
It’s important to realise that people ask for you opinions because they care about what you have to say.
Whether it’s your home or professional life, you don’t want those around you to view you as boring, right? Share your true opinions with others, and they’re more likely to view you as a dynamic and unique person.
People Concerned With Being Nice Are Also More Obedient
A recent study in the Journal of Personality found that nice people are more likely to follow orders given to them by an authority figure, even if those orders will directly hurt someone else. In a Milgram-like experiment, researchers found that people who cared more about being agreeable and nice were more likely to follow orders to administer an electric shock that would harm an innocent person (the innocent person being an actor, unknown to the participants).
People who were less agreeable and more controversial by nature, however, were more likely to question the ethics of such orders and refuse to shock the innocent person.
While we may think that following the whims of others is doing them a favour, you can still be a good person and stand up for what you think is right.
Nice People Give Praise When It’s Not Deserved
It’s great to offer compliments and praise on a job well done but if you don’t actually think someone has done a good job it can be damaging to them and your relationship. Not only are you holding back the corrective feedback this person needs but you could also harm their self-esteem once they realise you’re saying what you are just to be nice.
It’s especially important for people in any kind of leadership position to not focus so much on being nice and to instead focus on being a strong leader. This doesn’t mean that you have to be an arsehole; you just don’t have to treat everyone’s emotions like they’re eggshells.
I’ve found that a good way for me to provide corrective feedback without sounding like a jerk is to use the “sandwiching” approach, offering an honest compliment about the topic at hand followed by my critique followed by another statement of approval or honest praise. Though there is some debate about whether this method is effective or not. Personally, I haven’t had any problems with it but there are certainly other methods out there that you can try. The important thing is that you are providing realistic feedback, not simply being nice. And if you really dislike something but want to be graceful about expressing your dislike, phrases that draw attention to the fact that your statement is an opinion can often be a good buffer (i.e. “This might just be me but…” or “In my opinion…”).
Being Insincerely Nice Can Lead To Resentment
Strangely enough, being nice to people all the time can actually cause you to dislike and resent the people who benefit from your niceness.
Constantly defaulting to what others want to do can cause you to become stressed out, overworked, and bitter towards the people you’re helping — defeating the entire purpose of doing a kind act.
As the Chicago Tribune‘s Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz points out, we tend to get caught up on saying “yes” to others and being polite because we think it makes us better people in some way. In reality, we’re being dishonest with the people we’re helping and cheating ourselves out of much-needed relaxation and self-fulfillment.
In fact, one study cited by Elejalde-Ruiz shows that most people dislike both extremes of the spectrum — the overly selfish and the overly generous. Specifically, participants disliked the overly generous participants because they made the rest of the participants “look bad.”
While my goal is not to convince you that nice people are weak and that being a total grump is better for you and everyone around you, I hope it will make you consider how genuinely you express “nice” acts and words.
If you really mean the nice things you say and do, that’s great. But if you don’t, just say how you really feel. Everyone will be better off for it.
Why you should stop caring about being ‘nice’ [Crew Blog]
Kayla Matthews is a contributor to the Crew blog. Crew is a creative marketplace connecting mobile & web projects with vetted, handpicked developers and designers.
Image by Monkik (Shutterstock)
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