Is there anything wrong with being a nice person? Absolutely not. But is there such a thing as being too nice? YES – there absolutely is!
What is ‘too nice’ anyway? Well I’m starting to see the glaring difference between being nice and being a perceived soft touch. In essence, I suppose it’s a form of people pleasing, which sadly so often backfires (usually on you). So, do you tend to put others before yourself? Do you back down on your wants and needs so as to not inconvenience someone else? Is your free time spent giving, giving, giving and not getting much in return? Have people come to expect certain treatment from you and, dare I say it, actually take you for granted a bit? Being ‘selfless’ is a serious art, I think, but by completely ignoring the balance of meeting your own needs too…well you’ll end up drained, resentful and being seen across the board as ‘too nice’. If any of this sounds familiar, read on with my 4 signs!
1. Saying sorry all the time (OR, don’t worry it’s fine)
Apologising for absolutely everything is, in my book, a sign that you’re definitely being too nice. Someone walks into you. You say sorry. You ALWAYS end up being the one saying sorry, if someone bails out on meeting you, someone’s late to meet you, someone runs over your foot in Tesco’s with their trolley…somehow you end up apologising, or saying ‘don’t worry its fine’, even though you’ve been waiting for them for over an hour, and really you’re very concerned about bleeding to death via the trolley wound on your foot.
Recently I realised that saying ‘sorry’ had become as natural to me as ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’, which made me sit down and analyse why on earth some of us spend our lives apologising for things that aren’t our fault. In a way, it’s a way of placing the blame on yourself (rather than have any kind of confrontation with someone else) – hate confrontation? Welcome to the sorry club! And when other people see you taking a submissive role too often, well, that’s bad…because it opens the door wide open to being taken advantage of, or people just not taking you seriously.
2. Getting yourself into stupid situations because you can’t ‘say no’
Is your calendar packed full of obligations, events and ‘things’ that you really just don’t want to do? Do you endlessly get roped into stuff you really CBA with, or find yourself in some gold-star level muddles? *Raises hand* For me, all the latter tend to stem from agreeing to things that I either don’t want to do, or that I feel obliged to do, and all because I don’t want to upset or offend anyone in the process.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve ended up agreeing to some awful work networking event because I couldn’t say no, or staying late at the office to clear up someone else’s mess or getting involved in problems that aren’t my own. So why is this? Is this the biggest form of people pleasing there is? Does it come from not wanting to disappoint people or upset people? But then, you spend hours coming up with some crap excuse as to why you can’t do it and probably end up upsetting them any way or causing more havoc. If you’d just said no initially, you’d have saved hours of stress and anguish.
So, learning to gently say no, without offering up a thousand excuses, is an art to be worked on and if you’re finding it impossible to ever say no, well it might be that you’re just being too nice.
3. Agreeing with people or never saying what you think
This one resonated with me recently, as I realised I was nodding along sagely to someone who was chatting absolute rubbish. As they merrily jabbered about something I couldn’t disagree with more, I wondered why on earth I was agreeing with them?? Or rather, why I wasn’t challenging them with a different opinion. And then I realised that there have been so many times when I’ve sat with a group of people, or a person, who I have a different opinion to, and just gone along with it, keeping my own opinions to myself.
Now, I’m not saying you should wade right in there with a view or opinion that’s going to ruin the dinner party. There’s a time and place for everything, and subtlety (I always believe) is key. But it’s more about the reasons why you don’t feel able to say what you think. Perhaps these aren’t your real ‘tribe’ of people, as it were, perhaps you don’t actually like them or feel comfortable enough to be yourself around them? Or if it’s a moral or ethical subject someone is discussing with you – should you dumb down your opinions or beliefs just to make someone else feel ok? Or do you lack confidence and self belief or just don’t think anyone is interested in what you have to say?
Perhaps I’ve always found it easier just to nod along with people instead of a.) joining in properly (effort), b.) challenging them. But that’s no way to live. You’re an interesting creature with opinions and stories and things to say…why on earth wouldn’t you join in? There’s a well-known saying,“You can say what you think, or you can have people like you.” But I think this just makes for misery in the end. You can and should be able to say what you really think and people won’t hate you for it. And really, anyone who dismisses you for being honest, or expressing an opinion, well then they aren’t worth a minute of your time.
4. People don’t return the favour
I think this one sits right at the heart of being ‘too nice’ because, sad as it is, there are always going to be people who trample right over anyone who appears to be a soft touch. Now, I am eternally grateful to a number of people I have in my life who I would go to the ends of the earth to help, because I know they would do the same for me. It goes both ways with these people and that’s hugely important, and sometimes you have to just step up for people who are having a difficult time, and trust your bond.
But the problem comes in when you realise that there are also others who, actually, don’t do one single thing to ever help you in return. These are the people who only pop up when they want something (and of course you do it for them), the people who expect help or favours, but don’t ever return the them, or the people who call to ask you to chat or meet when they have have a problem (which of course you listen to) or they have nothing else better to do on the weekend. But when you need something? They aren’t interested. They can’t be found anywhere. In essence, when you don’t serve some kind of purpose to them…well, you realise that in their eyes, you resemble a doormat.
And a doormat is not a place you ever deserve to be. Anyone who puts you there isn’t worth a minute of your time. But it’s also your responsibility not to let them treat you like one! So I think it’s about really taking stock of who your time goes to, and does it go fairly? The minute you start taking a good hard look at this, you’ll realise the difference between the two types of people, and stop exhausting yourself on people who never give back.
SO HOW CAN YOU CHANGE IT?
The good news is that you can change it. I’ve started to change it all around over the last few months. You don’t have to turn into a Level 10 Grinch, but you can start to remember that there’s someone else in this equation who is very important. You. Your needs and wants are important, and it’s about remembering to honour them, as well as keeping up your ‘nice’ commitments. So what have I been doing?
1. I’m really thinking hard about the use of ‘sorry’. If it’s my fault (AKA if I annihilate someone with my shopping trolley) then of course I’ll say sorry. But as situations have popped up over the last month or so, I’ve stopped to actually think about them and consider my responses better. If it’s not my fault, I’m working on biting my tongue and not apologising. I’m learning to let people take responsibility for their actions instead of diving in trying to make them feel better by saying it’s all fine when it’s not.
2. I’m starting to say no more. And saying no is really hard if you’re not used to saying it, and sticking to it is even harder because people can be persuasive! But if someone is pressuring you into something you don’t want to do, it’s important to stand up for yourself (they certainly aren’t going to in the midst of trying to bully you into it to suit them!) Obv, we all have to do things we don’t want to do, this isn’t an excuse to stay in bed for the rest of your life, but it’s about choosing carefully what you do with your time, and who you spend it with, because YOU want to.
3. If someone is spouting some idiocy at me that I don’t necessarily agree with, I’m starting to stop indulging it and I’m definitely stopping the whole nodding-along thing. If I can’t be bothered to argue, I’ll shut the conversation down and take it in a new direction. And I’m starting to offer my opinions and thoughts a bit more (no ones hated me for it, yet!) I think speaking up isn’t something you can change overnight, but you can’t certainly start small and with people you feel comfortable with.
4. I’m focusing way more on the people who do give me something back in my life. I’m not asking for them to move mountains, but a bit of reciprocal thought and friendship is all you can ever really ask for. I’d rather nurture three or four really important friendships than fourteen crap acquaintances where all the other side ever does is the ‘me, me, me’ act.
I think it’s so, so important to strike a balance between being nice and being a doormat. And since I’ve started changing the way I behave, I feel way more in control of my time and my energy, and I’m finally trying to make it a reality that I’m a nice person, but that I’m NOT ‘too nice’.
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