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 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 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 may explain why a study in 2011 by researchers at Notre Dame found that men who were seen as “agreeable” (nice, easy-going, cooperative) make 18% less 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 rather than negotiate for higher pay.
Being a kind person isn’t the problem, but it has to come from a place of strength and understanding.
Here are some way to 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 people expect it from you. 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. 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.
- Speak up for yourself. 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.
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.
Sometimes we are a better example of morality simply by living well, standing up for ourselves, and enjoying our own lives, without always conforming to what people want from us.
Stay updated on new articles and resources in psychology and self improvement from The Emotion Machine: