No, You Can’t Be “Too Nice”

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Contrary to what you might have heard, there is no such thing as being “too nice.”

In the past three years, I have heard the following sentence from very well-meaning people more times than I can remember:

“People always tell me that I’m too nice.”

My response to that statement is consistently the same:

It is impossible to be “too nice.”

And even if it was somehow possible, would it be a bad thing?

According to Merriam-Webster, nice is defined as being “kind, polite and friendly.” Seriously, I dare you to turn on the TV right now to any station that’s covering the upcoming presidential election and tell me that we can’t use an extra serving of “kind, polite and friendly” in our world right now.

But I digress–the problem is the misguided idea that we can be too nice, and the equally-misguided idea that being too nice (if it were even possible) is a bad thing.

Hopefully this blog post will put both of those pesky issues to bed once and for all.

Being Nice, Clarified

Picture this scenario:

You are out on a date at a fancy restaurant with a person who seems to be extremely kind, polite and friendly. In fact, you couldn’t possibly be more impressed with how nice your date is…but, that all changes once the waiter finally arrives at your table to take your order.

For some reason, once the waiter arrives, your date morphs into an entitled asshat and starts berating the waiter and treating him in a subhuman manner for no apparent reason. As much as you want to minimize your date’s behavior toward the waiter as an isolated incident, your date doesn’t let up with the hideous behavior toward the waiter for the entire dinner.

Here’s my question for you: would you consider your date to be a nice person?

I’m hoping that your answer to that question is “no.” Even if your date was kind, polite and friendly to you, I’m guessing that the behavior toward the waiter would set off some red flags.

We’ll revisit this hypothetical scenario in a moment, but for now, let’s shift gears for a minute and talk about you.

If you fail to set boundaries with people, if you avoid challenging conversations because you don’t want to hurt others’ feelings, if you refuse to say “no” when you know that you should, or if you accept all sorts of unacceptable behavior because you don’t want to make waves, just know that you’re not doing these things because you’re “too nice.”

You’re doing these things because you’re uncomfortable honoring yourself.

There is nothing nice about failing to honor yourself, just like there isn’t anything nice about your date treating you well, while being rude to the waiter. Selectively choosing to be nice, doesn’t cut it.

Being truly nice is about being kind, polite and friendly consistently. And yes, that includes being nice to yourself too.

This includes (but is not limited to) respectfully standing up for yourself, respecting your boundaries by saying “no”, compassionately having difficult conversations, and walking away from toxic relationships before they destroy your happiness, sanity and your health.

Most importantly, don’t confuse dishonoring yourself with being too nice–those two things couldn’t be any further apart.

The truth is that there is no way that you can be too kind, too polite or too friendly to yourself or to anyone else.

The Bigger Issue: Discouraging Niceness

To me, the bigger issue are the ones who actually have an issue with people who they believe are “too nice.”

We’ve already addressed how people often mistakenly confuse dishonoring themselves (or worse, being a doormat) with being too nice, but what about the people who are told that they are too nice because they:

  • Smile a lot
  • Hug people often
  • Talk to strangers
  • Are consistently friendly and kind to service professionals
  • Willingly (and happily) give up their time to help others
  • Have the ability to connect with people quickly
  • Feel a deep sense of empathy for others who are in pain
  • Frequently share how much they care about others
  • Are genuinely happy

If any of those bullet-points describe you, and you’re being told that you’re “too nice,” you have my fullest encouragement to ignore them completely. The world needs more of those things, not less.

The thought that there are people out there actively discouraging niceness is very sad to me, but it would be much sadder if you allowed them to influence your ability to positively change the world in any way.

The world needs your light, and please know that if you are consistently kind, polite and friendly to yourself and others, then you are unquestionably a world-changer.

And because of that, I honor you immensely.

Your Turn

Have you ever been told that you are too nice? Have you ever confused “being too nice” with an inability/unwillingness to honor yourself? Jump into the comment section below and make your voice heard!

Shola

Shola

Founder of The Positivity Solution
Author, keynote speaker, and kindness extremist who is committed to changing the world by helping as many people as possible to live and work with more positivity.
Shola
Shola
Shola

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Comments

  1. As usual, brilliant! I’ve been having this internal wrangle with myself for sometime and found it a little difficult to resolve. I like being nice, kind and respectful, but often being told that, made me feel uneasy. The new ‘spin’ on this, is the idea is of me treating myself with the same respect, kindness and love; a journey I’m slowly discovering.

    Many thanks

    Danny

    • Right on, Danny! That part of the journey (i.e., treating ourselves with kindness and love) is unquestionably the most important, because we can’t give what we don’t have. Keep staying on the path, my friend!

  2. Good morning, Shola and happy Monday!

    I am often accused of being too nice. There was a time I was also allowing for people to walk all over me and take advantage. I don’t think I do that any more. Healthy boundaries allow me to be very nice and still feel quite confident that I am honoring myself.

    While being nice is definitely in my nature, it is also something I have had to practice. When I was young, it was really easy to be nice to those I loved. And I would be nice (without boundaries) to everyone else… until I couldn’t take it any more. Then it would start to eat at me and I’d get mad at myself for being a pushover.

    Now I am nice because it’s my active choice. I would even go a step further… I am not just nice to people, I go out of my way to be kind too. The difference? To me, being nice means using my manners and making sure that our interactions are positive. Kindness takes more… kindness involves an awareness that nice does not. Let me try to explain….

    I can be nice to a waiter and smile when he comes to the table. I can speak clearly when I give my order. I can thank him when my food comes and I can leave a good tip.

    If I am kind to the waiter, I am more invested. I seek to learn his name. I ask for things when it is a good time for him instead of catching him when he is doing three other things. It means engaging him about more than just my wants. It means seeking to ease his burden if he is overwhelmed, even if it means I wait a little longer for my food. It means I leave that dinner feeling better about myself.

    See the difference? Anyway, as always I have gone off on a tangent. Thank you for your message today. I hope your book is still selling out. I am so honored to be a part of your positivity movement!

    Hugs,

    Kathy

    • Well said, Kathy! I like how you differentiated between being kind and being nice, and I agree with you. Admittedly, I combined both of those terms together (mainly because no one ever says, “you are WAY too kind.”) Unfortunately though, a lot of us can relate to being told that we are “WAY too nice.” Most importantly, I love the fact that your boundaries are healthy and strong, and that you are consistently honoring yourself. That is what it’s all about :). Also, thanks for the support of my book!

    • Ann Quevillon says:

      What a superb letter, especially the time you took to clearly identify the differences between kindness and nice. Thank you for that.

  3. Kristen Quinn says:

    LOVE this blog entry! I agree with Kathy! Forgive me if I am wrong here.. but is it not a FACT that those of us that are genuinely nice people ARE the ones that are bullied, berated and put down by others for being just that? I, for the life of me.. can not wrap my brain around the bully brain.. nor do I want to! Being bullied and told I was ‘too nice’ is what led me to your blog in the first place! ROCK ON, my fellow nice-ies! I say be nice, be kind and love one another.. the rest will fall into place! Even though, I STILL get my feelings hurt by the boo-hags of the world (all because I don’t understand the boo-hag brain) I just keep on, keeping on.. the meanies can stay mean.., not my problem or worry.. I just take others into consideration almost 100% of the time.. if not 100% of the time and stand up for others as much as I am able too, going behind the meanies to spread niceness! :0) Happy Monday all!!

    • I hear you, Kristen–I’m not interested in wading into the dark cesspool of the bully brain either! One thing that I do know is that bullies often target people who they believe they can control, and sadly, often times it’s the nicest and kindest people who they focus on. And you’re completely right–the key is always to remember that nothing will ever change if we keep fighting rudeness and emotional violence with more rudeness and emotional violence. Keep spreading that kindness my friend, the boo-hags (I’m stealing that term, by the way) of the world need it!

  4. Kathleen Carey says:

    Shola,

    I have never been told directly that I’m too nice. I have been told I have “thin skin” when I’ve bristled at situations where someone was being unkind or downright demeaning to another. I believe they are related. It has been implied that I’m weak – being nice or considerate apparently is a fault. I have either been denied or ridiculed in “leadership” type positions because my style is much more subtle and focused on empowerment rather than criticism. There is no reason for me to demean someone because they made a mistake – talking about it and finding a system to reduce mistakes worked better. Instead of recognizing the benefit, I wasn’t yelling or threatening, therefore I was incapable of handling the job. I guess I am”too nice.”

    I don’t know, I can’t be anything else. I don’t want to be anything else.

    Good week to all!
    Kat

    • I don’t want you to be anything else either, Kat! Whoever was giving you that embarrassingly outdated “leadership advice” needs to join the 21st Century ASAP. Kindness and being nice are not weaknesses–it’s the strongest, quickest and best way to positively change the world. Keep being you, and don’t ever change that beautiful part of your personality!

  5. I enjoyed reading your posts Shola. Thank you!

    I’ve been told that I’m too nice a “Mother Theresa” type. In both instances, the other person made comment that was against me being a nice and good person, made fun or did the eye roll. With moving forward in life, I recognize when someone is uncomfortable with me being nice or good. At that moment I find my mind trying to understand why someone would put down someone being nice or good. However, a person would never understand why people think the way they do. If you like who you are, and know and honor your self, you pray that someday they’ll be ok with nice and good too. Could it be that something in their life hasn’t happened to understand what too nice is? Does it have to do with their life experiences, lack of growth, development, capabilities or insight or that it’s not their time yet to understand what it’s like to offer nice and kindness.

    You honor them by sending them positive energy/thoughts that hopefully they’ll understand what it means to be kind and respectful to others someday.

    Today we see many different types of behaviors, noise, media in our culture and in the political arena. It can be absolutely frightening to see how values, kindness and respect has change in some.

    I say the serenity prayer every night as it helps me end the day and keep focused with what I can’t change and what I can. I can only change myself and mindset and to be confident and strong in this.

    • Hi Gigi! Interestingly enough, I have never met someone who complains about others being “too nice” who weren’t also deeply unhappy themselves. And conversely, I’ve never met someone who is deeply happy who complains about other people being “too nice.” I’m with you–my goal is to keep being me, while also sending out as much positive energy as possible in hopes that it may be helpful to them down the road. And like you, the serenity prayer has been helpful for me too!

  6. I love this post! I have been called that name for ages and I used to hate it, because telling me I was being “too nice” was a silly way to tell me “You are an idiot” “A doormat” “weak”. I have been bullied around for being nice and kind to people and I used to get very depressed because I just couldn’t understand why people would look at me disrespectfully whenever I said something like “Good morning everyone!”. It took me years (And therapy) to understand that their behaviour IS NOT MY PROBLEM!! it’s theirs and their misery showing up! I’m not going to stop being nice and kind, its a part of me that comes easy and call it “my gift” but, I learned not to use my gift on people that really don’t deserve it (Like toxic people). I simply walk away and ignore them. It wasn’t easy but for the sake of mental sanity, I had to remove a lot of people from my life and radar. Now I feel in control of my life and happy to be the person that I am.

    Thank you for such an awesome post!! Happy day to you Shola!

    • Sofia, I love everything about your comment! I also felt like people who called me “too nice” were just passive-aggressively trying to call me stupid, and it drove me nuts. You definitely nailed it–their behavior is NOT your problem, it’s theirs. Just like you, I’m done giving my power away to people who don’t deserve it. Keep shining bright, and save your fabulous gift for the people who will appreciate it!

  7. One of the most surprising questions–but also best compliments–I have ever received was as a child when a friend asked, “Why are you so nice?” Years later, I maintain the same answer: Being nice is the best way to be! I think a common misconception is that kindness equals naivety, weakness, even foolishness. But I contend that being a friend to all who cross your path makes you more connected to others, more wise to the ways of the world, and indeed more likely to survive this journey call life with a smile on our face.

    • That’s the truth, Becoo! You’re right–being kind is what connects us to others, and like you, I believe that a smile will not only help us to survive, but it will make the journey much more enjoyable too.

      • Patricia Browne says:

        I believe the only way to make this world a better place to to put love into it I think positive people understand that negative people just don’t get it. You get what you give and if someone is not giving you back the treatment you give them stand up for yourself it may be hard but you are worth being treated with respect . Some people like to drag others down if they think they are too happy just tell them you should try being nice and friendly you might enjoy it!

  8. Shola, I love it, when I first rest the headline I thought it meant being a doormat but now I understand it is about being good and genuine, and loving yourself, something I forget to do quite often. xoxo

  9. Florence McGuire says:

    Yeah- Have finally found my tribe! Love you all. Your article Shola so resonated with me, wanting to break out in tears that some one finally understands – gets it! I have my ‘mediation meeting’ this Tue. I feel solid, stronger that I can truly stand up for the strong ethics I believe in the workplace/life living love; actions so much louder than words. Boundaries- thank you!
    Florence

  10. Dear Shola, your articles are wonderful and this is no exception to that rule.
    I am enjoying reading and being encouraged by them.
    I have been labelled too nice sometimes and felt really bad about it . But I now realize that I do not need to be. Kindness is something that makes the world a better place and knowing that I am contributing to that is an honour.

  11. I’ve always felt that when someone tells me i’m “Too nice” it’s a masked insult….and nearly every time it’s hidden behind a sarcastic smirk when I look at the person who said it. It’s never something you can come back from….especially when romance is involved. I’ve gotten the “you’re too nice” a few times from romantic interests in my time, and you might as well consider that a rejection…to me most people who discourage people by saying that will never respect you…and there’s really nothing you can do to change their mind. I love the approach you took to this…i never really considered it was a failure to honor myself. Thanks for your insight.

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