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If you have to ask yourself, “Am I too nice?”, chances are, you probably are. Now, do not get me wrong. There is nothing inherently wrong with being kind and caring and loving. The problem starts when people interpret your kindness as a sign of weakness and start treating you like a doormat. Unfortunately, the truth is that most people nowadays will see it this way. I wish it were different. I wish people valued things like being nice as much as they deserve.
Have you ever felt people are asking too much of you and yet give back too little? Have you noticed others come to you only when they need something? Has there been a point in your life when you, yourself, felt weak? Do you often commit to things that you do not really enjoy doing? Do you always try to follow the rules others have placed on you?
Does this sound familiar? You can be honest with yourself. In this article we will explore the thin line differentiating being nice and being “too nice”. Thin as it may be, there is a world of difference between these two states.
Being Nice Is Not Unconditional
The chief problem of being too nice is that your kindness and giving are unconditional. This is clearly a mistake. We have been blessed with critical judgment to differentiate between the specifics of each case. While being mistrustful, suspicious and weary a priori is certainly a recipe for a disastrously lonely life, being unconditionally giving and nice can be equally perilous. You are left vulnerable to be exploited and the various vultures circling you will miss no chance to capitalise on it.
The key is to use your best judgment. If you regularly find yourself doing things for others without really knowing why, gaining no pleasure nor benefit from your invested time and energy you would do well to consider this carefully: Am I using my judgment to the best of my ability? Do I assess the situation adequately? Is this worth my time and effort?
Nice People Have A Memory Too
The problem with “too nice” people is that they seemingly have no memory. Nice people do. It has been proven to be better that you enter initial interactions positively inclined, true, but only if you can accurately calibrate your future actions to the other party’s own. In other words, only if you remember the way they responded and treated you and react accordingly.
In Game Theory, this is called tit-for-tat. The essence of this strategy is that you start nice and kind and then mirror the other party’s behavior. If they are nice, you stay nice. If they try to exploit or mistreat you, you do likewise. It is important to understand that tit-for-that has no inherent cruelty or vengeful traits. As soon as the other party starts being nice again, you are swift to forgive them and cooperate. And with equal ease, you won’t hesitate to oppose them once again, as soon as they start being nasty. An iron hand in a velvet glove.
You Have Your Needs As Well
So often, in our desire to give and please others, we forget our own needs. This can only come back to haunt us. Eventually, going down that road, we become bitter and disappointed. “I’ve given you so much, that I forgot myself”, a too nice a person may shout – or worse, secretly think. You can be nice without diminishing your needs. The key is knowing how to set boundaries.
You may love your friends, your spouse, your coworkers or even your family, but there are spaces in you that only have the priviledge to access. You should honor and protect them with your life. It is okay to be helpful, it is okay to be nice but it is outright wrong to do so at the expense of your own self and personality. What your individual boundaries are only you, yourself know. Set your boundaries and do not let them fall down for anyone, for anything.
You Are Imperfect – Like Everyone Else
I firmly believe the majority of people who are being too nice suffer from a need to be perfect for others. You do not want to let anyone down ever, and you want to give out as much as you can, always. You refrain from voicing your opinion in order to be a team player and not complicate things in your circle. Well, let me tell you a little secret.
You are not perfect. No one is. No matter how hard you try at playing nice, some people will not like you. It is an exercise in futility. So you might as well accept that you, like every other living person on this planet, have your own faults, flaws and imperfections. By hiding these little cracks and chips of your personality, under the guise of ALWAYS being nice, you are simply being dishonest and untrue to yourself.
Just like everyone else, you can, you should and you must claim your wants and needs. Stop selling yourself and your desires short.
As mentioned at the very start of this article, well, if you are wondering whether you are too nice or not, then you almost certainly are. There are worse things you could have been. That being said, in the current, modern social context, being too nice is generally considered a weakness. It would be wise to try and paint yourself in another color.
The key takeaways are that you should NOT be nice unconditionally. Instead, use your best judgment. In your social interactions, you should follow Game theory’s tit-for-tat principles: Mirror the other party’s behavior, by reaching our an iron hand on a velvet glove. It is especially important that you remember and take care of your own needs, instead of letting them fall behind in order to please another. Finally, perhaps the most important takeaway: You have to accept your imperfection. You are not capable of pleasing others all the time, constantly. Trying to do so is an exercise in futility.