According to recent research in psychology, being too nice can sometimes backfire on us.
People who compulsively say “yes” to everyone’s wants and needs often experience greater levels of stress and emotional burnout; they spend all their energy trying to make others happy, and they forget to take care of their own wants and needs.
Kindness is often seen as a sign of moral virtue in society, and in many ways it is, but those who are “too nice” often have their kindness rooted in an unhealthy desire to be accepted and liked by others, and not necessarily out of the goodness of their heart.
They do nice things for others not because they genuinely want to, but because they feel that is what is expected of them or they are desperate for positive attention.
In addition, “too nice” syndrome can often make us resentful toward others.
If we find ourselves giving and giving and giving, but we never get anything back, we begin to grow bitter toward the people we are nice toward. It’s because we often do these kind things with the expectation of something in return, and when we don’t get anything we feel like we’ve been wronged.
Being excessively generous can even be seen as a form of selfishness. In a new study by psychologists from Washington State University found that individuals were judged equally poorly from their peers when they acted excessively selfishly or excessively generously during a game. Participants perceived the “too nice” people as trying to stand out from the crowd and seem better than others.
Another drawback to being “too nice” is that people often perceive that as a sign of weakness and an opportunity to take advantage of you.
This explains why in another study by researchers at Notre Dame University found that men who were seen as “agreeable” (nice, easy-going, cooperative) made 18% less money overall than men who were less agreeable. And women who were seen as “agreeable” made 5% less than women were less agreeable.
This is because people who are “too nice” often don’t know how to properly stand up for themselves, and thus are more likely to settle for less than they deserve.
People who are “too nice” also tend to avoid starting conflict, because they prefer social harmony rather than disrupting the status quo.
Unfortunately, this excessive avoidance of conflict can sometimes backfire on nice people. And it can actually cause more pain and suffering for yourself and others in the future.
For example, a third fascinating study discovered that individuals who were more nice were also more obedient toward authority. When they did a replication of the famous Milgram Experiment, they discovered people who scored higher on personality traits like “agreeableness” and “conscientious” ended up administering higher shocks of pain.
If you are too nice, you’re also more likely to conform and be obedient toward behaviors that actually end up hurting others, simply because you don’t have enough of a backbone to stand up and say, “No, I won’t do it.”
Being a kind person isn’t necessarily a problem, but it has to come from a place of strength, balance, and understanding.
Avoid falling into the “too nice” trap:
- Know when your kindness is being taken advantage of. Become more comfortable telling people “no” when you honestly can’t help them, and practice being more assertive when your own values and needs are being ignored or marginalized.
- Be kind when you want to be kind, not just because it’s expected. Kindness should be rooted in the desire to make others happy, not because we want to look good in front of others.
- Do things for yourself every now and then. You shouldn’t be giving all your time and energy to others, sometimes you need to do activities that make you happy. Engage in your own hobbies and passions that give you enjoyment out of life.
- Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. If you see things another way than someone else, don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. Sometimes initiating conflict can be healthy if it is honest, constructive, and respectful.
- Have self-esteem. You are just as deserving of happiness and success as anyone else. Don’t think that you are less than anyone else. No one is inferior to anyone, and no one should be anyone’s slave.
These are useful tips to help you manage your kindness in a more practical and realistic way, and not let it go to an unhealthy extreme.
Don’t let your kindness become a weakness by being “too nice.” You shouldn’t feel that you need to give up everything in your life to make everyone happy.
Often, we help others more by being a better example of how to live well, stand up for ourselves, and be good toward others without being self-sacrificial.
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