You know how they say “nice guys finish last”? It might actually be true.
We’re encouraged from childhood to be nice to others, but when it comes to how we treat other people, there’s being kind and then there’s going overboard in the nice department. It’s important to know the difference.
Are you overly accommodating to others? Do you let people walk all over you? Do you consistently put others’ needs before your own?
Once you tip the scales too far, you’re no longer just a “nice person,” you’re actually acting in ways that can be detrimental to your overall well-being. Here are six ways that being too nice can seriously hold you back in life, work and love.
1. You won’t be able to have an authentic relationship.
As far as romantic relationships go, being able to clearly communicate your needs and preferences is critical to forming a solid bond. “A strong relationship entails give and take,” says Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., psychologist and author of “Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love.” “If you are ‘too nice,’ you may hold back your desires or beliefs for fear that they will upset the other person.”
In this way, relationship expert and counselor Nancy Pina explains that excessive niceness will keep a relationship stuck on a superficial level. Ignoring challenges, she says, “can be a diversion tactic you are using to postpone conversations you dread that may lead to the end of what you have with this person.”
When you avoid clear communication, all the niceties in the world isn’t enough to keep a relationship going for years to come.
2. You’ll never be as happy as you could be.
While being authentic in a relationship is important, being true to yourself must take precedence. “A strong part of being happy entails identifying and pursuing your own values and strengths,” Lombardo says. “When you are so focused on making others happy, you can neglect your own interests.”
As mental health counselor Tara Ryan, LCSW, points out, this can manifest by pursing a career path you don’t love just to please others — typically parents, she says. Even consistently making small decisions in order to not disappoint anyone or to meet people’s perceived expectations of you can have the same effect.
In order to lead a fulfilled life, you need to first please yourself by identifying your values and applying them to your life, Lombardo says. Otherwise, you’ll always be marching to the beat of someone else’s proverbial drum.
3. You give the OK for others to advantage of you.
Being able to say “no” can be a major struggle for those who are too nice, which can lead to some serious exploitation. “Being too nice may give friends and family the impression that they can impose on you,” says relationship advice columnist and etiquette expert April Masini.
“They don’t expect you to push back, so they’ll load you with the annual Thanksgiving dinner for 40 or the responsibility of buying all the birthday gifts for Dad and then expect you to take on unpaid baby-sitting gigs because they know you won’t say no or ask for compensation.”
Pina adds that setting this kind of precedent with friends and family can lead to a slippery slope of behavior that will trickle into your romantic relationships too. “If you have a pattern of overgenerosity of your time, money and self, you may tend to attract people who take full advantage of an overgiving tendency,” she says.
If you get too comfortable with people in your life exploiting your niceness, you may even start to become uncomfortable with those who treat you equally and end up shying away from healthier relationships.
4. You subordinate yourself by overapologizing.
People who are too nice tend to say “sorry” often in an effort to try to make others feel better. Doing this puts you in a subservient position.
Particularly in the workplace, Lombardo says, you’ll end up unintentionally belittling yourself by consistently apologizing for events, even those for which you are not responsible. Instead, learn to be empathetic without apologizing.
“If you are asking your team to stay after hours, instead of saying ‘Sorry, you have to stay late,’ try something like, ‘I appreciate you all staying late. I know you have commitments outside of work, and I am grateful that you are focusing on this project. Now, let’s get this done so you can get to your families,’” she advises.
5. You won’t be taken seriously.
When it comes to leadership, being too nice not only makes it more difficult for others to see you as an authority figure, it may also keep you from asserting yourself as one, says life coach Tom Casano.
“You’ll have a harder time getting that promotion or raise you deserve, as you might feel intimidated or bad asking for one,” he explains. “If you don’t start asserting yourself, you could stay stuck in your current position with your current pay indefinitely.”
Lombardo adds that part of being a good leader means making tough choices that may not be popular with everyone, which is difficult to do when you’re too focused on being nice. “This is true in parenting — giving in to everything your child wants is not good parenting,” she says. “Focus on the greater good. Ask yourself: ‘How will my child or team benefit in the long run?’”
6. You’ll get burnt out and resentful.
Over time, being too nice can backfire. You’ll end up feeling indignant when you think about all the sacrifices you make for others and, as a result, become resentful about all your needs that aren’t being met.
Not knowing how to speak assertively about your own needs can create passive-aggressive communication when you realize how you’re getting shortchanged, explains therapist Kristen Martinez, who specializes in women’s issues and personal growth. “You can — intentionally or unintentionally — harbor resentment against the person you are being ‘too nice’ to.”
By stifling your true feelings over and over, you’ll likely end up snapping at or blowing up at friends, family members or co-workers once you’ve reached your limit. This, of course, can damage these relationships, and even your career, if your outburst is big enough.
To combat this, realize that taking care of yourself is not selfish — it’s essential for you and those around you. “In order to be the best worker, friend, partner, parent and everything else, it is vital that you take time to address your own physical, psychological and spiritual health,” Lombardo says.
“Prioritize ‘you’ time: Take 20 minutes to meditate. Go for a walk. Get a great workout. Go to sleep early. It really does help you be the best you possible.” So if you want to be nice to someone, start with yourself.