Leo Durocher once remarked: “Nice guys finish last.” Do nice people really finish last? Sometimes. It depends on the type of "nice" one exudes. Some nice people command appreciation and respect, while others are used and abused. If you consider yourself a "nice" person, which type are you?
Here’s a quick self-assessment quiz:
- Do you have a hard time saying “no” to others’ requests, even when they’re unreasonable?
- Do you often find yourself under-appreciated and taken for granted?
- Do you believe you’re being taken advantage of at work or in your personal relationships?
- Do you let people give you thankless tasks they don’t want to do themselves?
- Do you often go along with what others say and want, even if you feel differently deep down?
- Do your kindness and self-giving often go unreciprocated?
- Are you afraid of being rejected if you don’t go along with certain people’s whims and demands?
- Do you take care of others first and yourself last?
If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, you could be too nice, at least in certain areas of your life.
To be sure, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being nice. The world is a better place with more kind hearted and generous people. At the same time, it’s important to be nice in a way that’s healthy for everyone involved (especially you), so that you’re not consistently holding the short end of the stick. Below are seven keys to gaining appreciation and respect.
1. Practice Self-Respect ― Know Your Individual RightsMany researchers (Lefcourt, Ng et al.) state that having a sense of internal locus of control over our own lives is one of the important conditions for mental health. A healthy sense of control comes from exercising your right to set your own priorities, say “no” without feeling guilty, protect yourself from harm, choose healthy relationships, get what you pay for, and create your own happiness in life. At times, it’s simply wiser to take good care of yourself first, so you can in turn be better (and truer) with others. If your life is your own to choose, then with each moment you have the power to make a good decision. No one can take this power away from you unless you allow it. Know your individual rights, and practice self-respect.
2. Change Your Attitude About Having To Be Nice All The Time
“The difference is too nice - Where ends the virtue or begins the vice.”
― Alexander Pope
There’s a big difference between being nice because you want to, versus being nice because you have to. The first comes from your heart, while the second feels like a burden. “Nice” people often associate not doing something for someone with erroneous negative thoughts and emotions. For example:
Negative Thought #1: “I’m selfish if don’t help my friends all the time. “
Negative Emotion #1: Guilt
Negative Thought #2: “She won’t like me if I don’t go along with what she wants. “
Negative Emotions #2: Fear of rejection, fear of negative outcome.
For “nice” people, it’s important to know that no one should be expected to be nice all the time. It’s neither reasonable nor real. If negative thoughts and emotions arise as a result of you being selective about your niceness, simply talk back to them with self-confirming responses:
Self-Confirmation #1: “If I allow myself my own time, I can take better care of myself as well as others.”
Self-Confirmation #2: “If I treat myself with respect, I will attract more respectful relationships in my life.”
Whenever reasonable and appropriate, practice self-confirmation when you feel obligated to be nice. Each time you do so, you remind yourself that YOU ARE IMPORTANT TOO.
3. Distinguish Being Kind To People From Having To Do Things For ThemThere are two ways to be nice: Being friendly and courteous to people, and doing things for them. We can practice the first with just about everyone, as long as they don’t violate our boundaries. As the saying goes, “A smile costs nothing but gives much.” While we’re courteous with people, we can at the same time be selective about what we want or don’t want to do for them. In communication we call this being soft on the person, and firm on the issue. Steve Jobs reminds us: “Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.” Distinguish being kind to people from having to do things for them. Choose your giving wisely.
4. Don’t Try To Please Everyone, And Don’t Try To Please Any One Person All The TimeNo one can please everyone all the time, so please don’t even try. People who receive your thankless and unreciprocated giving on a regular basis are also more likely to take it for granted. There’s power that comes with exercising your right to set boundaries and say “no.” While there are many ways you can say “no” diplomatically (see tip #5 below), you’re saying “no” nonetheless. With my private coaching to clients learning assertiveness, I often remind them that it’s more important to be respected than to be liked. Nice people often don’t get the respect they deserve, while those who are respected have the luxury to be nice. Again, there’s power in saying “no” and setting your own priorities. Gain respect first, so that your generosity, when you do offer it, is truly appreciated.
“At home I am a nice guy: but I don't want the world to know. Humble people,
I've found, don't get very far.”
― Muhammad Ali
5. Know How To Say “No” ― Gently But FirmlyTo be able to say “no” gently but firmly is to practice the art of communication. Effectively articulated, it allows you to stand your ground while keeping the peace. In my book (click on title) “Are You Too Nice? How to Gain Appreciation and Respect,” I review seven different ways you can say “no,” to help lower resistance and keep the peace.
“It's only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”
― Steve Jobs
6. Know That You’re Not Responsible For Other People’s FeelingsSometimes we feel obligated to do things for others because we don’t want them to feel bad, even when it’s unreasonable for us to go out of our way. We may be so concerned about how others might react if they don’t get what they want that we submerge our own feelings to theirs. When done repeatedly, this facilitates a co-dependent relationship where other people’s happiness becomes your responsibility and burden.
In these situations, it’s important to remember that as long as we’re being fair, reasonable and conscientious, we’re not responsible for other people’s feelings. If you deny their unreasonable requests and they don’t like it, so be it. They’ll get over it. In the meantime, you’re teaching them how you’d like to be treated - with more consideration and respect.
7. Know That For Those Who Take You For Granted, Less Is MoreThe economy runs on the law of supply demand: the more something is available in abundance, the less values it has. The same rule applies to the economy of human relations. In the presence of ungrateful people, the more you give to them, the less they appreciate what you offer. Why should they value you when their taking is so easy, and your giving seems so inexhaustible?
When appropriate, you may do yourself a big service by cutting off or limiting your giving to ungrateful people, and setting standards for your generosity (which may include values such as mutual respect, consideration, appreciation, and reciprocation). If they give you a hard time about it, stand your ground and utilize the tips offered in this article. Remember that you alone hold the power in deciding whether you want to be nice or not. Don’t’ give that power away so easily. For those who cannot accept that you’ll no longer cater to their every whim, you lose little by ending your thankless service. For those who begin to show more appreciation, you now have a healthier relationship.
“Some people don’t appreciate what they have until it's gone.”
― Common saying
In conclusion, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with offering your generosity and kindness to those in need, or to the well deserving, or just because you have a big heart. Compassion makes the world a better place. At the same time, it’s healthy and wise to be a good person who also knows how to set appropriate boundaries. Nice people deserve the same love, appreciation, and respect they give to others, which can only be had when one begins to love, appreciate, and respect oneself. It is in affirming these values that you begin to find your own identity, and discover your true voice. YOU DESERVE NOTHING LESS.
---From Greater Good Magazine