"It is always in your favor to be nice; it is rarely advantageous to be passive," Quora user Courtney Bryant wrote recently on the question-and-answer site, adding: "A blend of kindness and assertiveness is a magnificent cocktail."
But what happens when you get that recipe wrong, mixing in too much deference for others and not enough hard-headed pursuit of your own goals? That's the topic addressed recently on the site in response to the question "What are the disadvantages of being too nice to people?" from a confused Quora user who admits to being baffled about where to draw the line between admirable niceness and problematic passivity.
In response, Bryant and a handful of other thoughtful respondents offered wisdom on how to know if you're attempts to be nice have crossed the line and qualified you as a pushover, as well as warnings about the dangers of taking your (entirely admirable) urge to please others too far. Though there was broad agreement that kindness is always a virtue, a consensus emerged that there also is such a thing as too nice. Here's what the community felt could go wrong if you take being a sweetheart too far.
1. People will see you as weak...
... and take advantage. This first point is no shock. This is generally the rap against being too quick to put your needs aside in favor of the needs of others, and many, many respondents pointed out this danger. "You can never be too nice to people, but you must nonetheless, be vigilant, as some will see it as a sign of weakness and try to take advantage of you," warns Quora user Christopher Kosel in one representative answer.
2. You forget to be nice to yourself
"Being nice to others is good," says student Shilpi Singh in her answer, but don't "forget to be nice to yourself!" This is also the problem with being "too nice" that is often cited by experts on entrepreneurship. Being responsive is great for your business, but take your focus on meeting others' needs to far and you'll end up with no time left over to work on your own priorities or the longer-term issues that are essential to your company's health.
Struggling with balancing being there for your customers and employees and having time for long-term strategy (or your own physical and mental health)? You're not alone. Thankfully, there's a boatload of good advice out there on how to set be more strategic about your time use and say no firmly and fairly (including exact language you can use for different situations).
3. You attract the wrong kind of people
Kindness may be a prerequisite for healthy and meaningful relationships, but an utter inability to set boundaries can come across as an invitation to those with draining emotional needs, cautions poster Borang Touch. Be excessively nice and "you will start to attract needy, whiny, overly emotional, demanding/controlling, 'guilt tripping you if you don't do something for them' types of people," she writes.
4. Some people will distrust you
Let's face it, genuinely nice people aren't rare, but especially in some corners of the business and professional world, they're hardly in the majority either. This sad fact means that if you are truly nice, you're liable to be occasionally misunderstood and even viewed with suspicion, claims author Anila Syed. People will "believe that you have an ulterior motive in mind, otherwise, why would you be doing all these special things?" she warns. "Just as there is no such thing as a free lunch, there can not, surely, be such a thing as 'too nice' for no reason," according to these doubters.
5. You'll warp your expectations
Being endlessly selfless can skew your perspective, according to computer science grad student Vignesh Natarajan, leading you to expect others to put their interests aside for you just as you would for them. "If someone is too nice to people, they start expecting unreasonable amount of niceness from others as well. This always leads to the nice ones thinking others are being mean to them or taking them for granted," he writes. "A lot of people cannot handle this and when they talk about how they're nice to everyone while others take them for granted, they tend to sound very entitled."
How do you strike a balance between compassion and kindness, and being "too nice"?