There are plenty of reasons to be nice--even science says so.
A study from the University of Kent at Canterbury shows that being altruistic can actually increase your status in a group. Research from Harvard Business School's Amy Cuddy shows that leaders who project warmth earn employee trust and are more effective than tough leaders.
But is it possible to be too nice?
Here's a guest post from Julia Kristina MA, RCC, a licensed therapist and life coach who focuses on treating successful professionals who find themselves feeling overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, or depressed. (Wait; at least one of those words describes almost everyone I know.)
By nice, I mean trying so hard to always be pleasant, pleasing, lovely, happy, positive, only doing what other people want you to do, never speaking up for fear of ruffling any feathers, keeping yourself hidden and small behind what you think other people want or expect of you ... nice.
Don't get me wrong. I am a big advocate for treating others with kindness, care, and respect. Be considerate and thoughtful, yes--but only doing or speaking or acting in ways we think other people want us to because we need them to think we are super nice is a cop-out. Plus, that behavior generally also leads to problems if that is how we choose to conduct ourselves all the time.
Here are three reasons why:
1. Being too nice can actually keep you from having close relationships.
When we are too nice all the time and never speak up or show who we really are, or what our preferences or needs might be, it keeps us disconnected and lonely.
No one can connect--honestly, deeply, and meaningfully--with you if you are not being yourself. If all you do is show how pleasant you are in order to keep everything and everyone happy at all times, people won't stick around very long.
Too nice is boring.
We want real. We need real. And although real sometimes gets messy or means negotiating and working things out, at least we can slug through the relationship-building muck together. We can both be complete and complex individuals who are choosing to show up and take turns doing the giving and taking in the relationship.
And that is much more interesting.
2. Being too nice can lead to a victim mentality.
"I do everything for everyone all the time. I give and give and give. I never ask for anything. I try so hard to make everyone else happy. How come no one tries to do anything for me? I so rarely ask for anything, so when I do, how could anyone say no to me? I ask for so little; don't I deserve it? I guess no one really loves me..." and so on and so forth.
Any of this sound familiar?
Those sentiments don't come from a mature, responsible, emotionally healthy individual. It's not about being so nice and giving, giving, giving all the time so we can feel cheated or mistreated when, heaven forbid, other people don't lay down their lives for us when we feel like we've done enough to deserve it.
Of course, it does take courage to stand up and say, "This is who I am, this is what I need, and this is how and what I can and want to give." Yet that's a far better and healthier approach than keeping score about how many times you're nice to others, and then feeling ripped off and like the victim if other people don't treat you the same.
I am responsible for me, and you are responsible for you. If I want, need, or prefer something, it's up to me to voice that. It's not up to you to drag it out of me, and it's definitely not up to you to read my mind to see how much I secretly think you owe me because of how nice I am to you.
3. Being too nice can make you a stranger to yourself.
When we go through the world trying to make everyone else happy and satisfied and never consider our own wants, needs, and desires, in a way we reject and avoid who we really are.
No, it's not always about me, and no, it's not never about me. There are times and places for both.
But if we never allow ourselves to play an active and equal role in our relationships or even in our lives, we never give ourselves the chance to see, recognize, value, and appreciate who we really are.
You might even find that when you look in the mirror, you are not really sure what or whom you see.
So try this instead. Practice being less nice. Practice being more real and authentic with others, and true to yourself. Practice sharing your thoughts, opinions, and ideas even if some people may not agree with you.
Be kind, respectful, and considerate, yes. But people pleasing and hiding behind excessive niceness, no.