When I was a teenager a lot of girls liked guys with swagger; guys who always had just the right thing to say at just the right time. I didn’t. I liked the boys who were nice.
One spring weekend before my freshman year of college I was at party with Scott. We were not dating. This party was at a typical, worked over apartment complex designed for poor college kids. We were outside at this party, and there were some little kids running around. These kids must have lived in an apartment somewhere else in this complex. They looked a little down on their luck.
It was evident that this party was not an appropriate place for these kids to play; whoever was in charge of supervising them was doing a poor job. Some of the college kids at the party were annoyed, and started being a little mean to those little kids.
Scott was not annoyed. Scott was so nice to those little kids. I remember watching him as he engaged them in conversation. He asked them about school and what they liked to do. Then the kids asked him to play, which, of course, he did. He ran around with them outside, playing tag and probably giving them the best fun they’d had in a while. Yeah. That is the weekend I decided I might be in love.
One of the biggest reasons I fell for Scott was because he was so nice. I’d like to think he felt the same way about me. We really like nice. But, do you know what can happen when you put nice with nice? You get too nice. Too nice might be better than too mean, but, still, you CAN be too nice.
From experience, I can tell you that there are signs to watch for whether you are being too nice. You can read about these signs below, unless you don’t want to, then, of course, you don’t have to. I wasn’t trying to sound bossy. I’m sorry If I did. You can read whatever you want. I’m not in charge of you. You don’t have to listen to me:
You lie. This is actually more my deal than Scott’s. If he has bad news for you, he’ll avoid saying anything. Not me. I’ll lie. If you just missed every single note in the solo you sang, and you ask me how you did, I will tell you that you sang beautifully. If you have a horrible perm and half your hair fell out, and you ask me how it looks, I will tell you that it looks great. I was thinking about doing the same thing with my hair. If you served me a dinner that tastes like poop casserole, and you ask if I liked it, I will tell you it was delicious. You must give me the recipe. If what you need is the ugly truth, you’d better ask someone else.
You believe lies. Some people don’t just lie to be nice. Some people make up big, strange lies about things that never happened. Or, they do bad things when no one is looking, and then they lie and say they didn’t. Nice people believe those lies. It can take nice people years and years to figure out that someone is lying.
Do you know what a sociopath is? One thing a sociopath does is they tell lies more than they tell the truth. They make up lies for no reason at all, and they believe their own lies. It is proven that sociopaths seek out people who are too nice. It will take a person who is too nice a really long time to figure out that some people just lie for fun.
Your dog is in charge. When I do my Saturday cleaning, I usually mop the kitchen floor and strip the bedding. Except if our dog is taking a nap. If our little dog is lounging comfortably on our bed, or sprawled on the kitchen rug, that’s too bad for me. I wait until he decides to go somewhere else. it seems kind of mean to make such a cute little dog move when all he wants is a nap, doesn’t it?
You eat cold food, or bad food, or raw food. This one goes in Scott’s corner. If you are a server at a restaurant and you serve Scott a cold hamburger or hot lemonade, he won’t complain; he won’t ask you to take it back; he’ll leave you a big tip.
You buy a time share condo. Almost. We go to Branson, Missouri on spring break most years with my parents. Every year, my parents take one for the team. They subject themselves to a time share sales pitch to earn our family free tickets to this awesome amusement park. Scott and I didn’t think that was fair of us to make them do that every year. Last year we said we would go instead. My parents were adamantly against this idea, especially my Dad. He told us we didn’t know what we were getting into, and that, frankly, we were just too nice to make it out alive.
Well, he was almost right. Scott and I went into this thing looking like baby kittens to a hungry pack of wolves. We started out with this giant group of people. Almost all of them were released eventually, except us.
We own a small home, we have had a lot of doctor bills, and we have absolutely NO business even talking about buying a time share. But these guys really wanted us to buy one. So, it’s worth considering, right? Plus, they could make a nice commission, and that would be good for their families. They told us that if we really valued family time, a time-share was in our children’s best interest. See how they care about us?
The whole thing was ugly. Scott and I would take turns playing good cop, bad cop. But, in reality, what you had was good cop, good cop, and those guys knew it. We wasted most of the day there. We told them that we really appreciated all their time and hard work, but we never make quick decisions. When they finally realized they weren’t getting our money, they told us to leave. I’m so glad we didn’t buy a condominium just to be nice.
You want everyone in the world to be happy. If they are not, you are sure that is on you. If someone seems quiet, or grouchy, you rack your brain trying to think about what you may have done to offend this person. True, you don’t know them. True, you’ve never spoken with them. But there most be something, or they wouldn’t be acting that way.
You feel sorry for the bad guy. Sure. You always feel sorry for the main character. You want to the main character to be saved, and the bad guy to get caught and be punished. Until he is. Then, you start feeling a little sorry for the bad guy. Because he’s being punished. Just like he deserves. It’s hard to live like this.
You put your life in danger to avoid the risk of being rude. In my career, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with people from other countries. I love it. One time I was working with this joyful, generous and intelligent little man from very far away. I drove him around one day and we took care of various tasks related to his citizenship here. The next time we met he said, “This time, I drive. I practice. You see, I very good.”
He was good. He was very good at driving in to oncoming traffic, ignoring stop signs, and driving dangerously beyond the speed limit. I tried instructing him, but the language barrier was a problem. Especially, since in my intense state of terror I was just blurting out nonsense, in a language he didn’t understand. I guess it wasn’t my time to go.
It was so scary that once we ran our errand, I got back in the passenger’s seat and let him drive me home. I thought if he didn’t think I felt safe, that might hurt his feelings.
You won’t end a conversation. This one goes to Scott. I am perfectly capable of saying, “Well, I’d better go, I have to get dinner started, the kids need my help with homework, or the house is on fire.”
Scott can’t do that. If he is outside and our elderly neighbors are bending his ear, he will let that house burn. While he is talking he will break in to a cold sweat thinking about all the things that he should be doing, and he will let the children play with knives. What Scott won’t do, is tell that nice neighbor that he’d better be on his way. That wouldn’t be very nice.
You have the smartest come backs. In bed at night. When it’s too late. Remember those sociopaths we were talking about? When I worked for a different company one of my biggest clients was a sociopath. That’s fun. He was an awful human being, and I don’t mind saying it. Can you just let me get out some of the frustration now that I couldn’t release then? Thanks. Here it goes: He was cruel to the people who worked for him. He lied more than he told the truth. He was unfaithful to his family. He was completely and totally inappropriate to women. He was disgusting.
I would lie in bed at night thinking of the most clever, witty and even scathing ways to put him in his place. Then I’d see him, and not say anything at all.
This therapy session feels good. Let me tell you more. I will tell you that this guy grossly abused drugs, alcohol and food. I might have felt sorry for him, except he was just so mean. I will also tell you about the times I had to sit with him while he drew out our meetings much longer than necessary. Instead of getting to the point and taking care of the business I had with him, he’d sit on his cell phone, screaming at people on the other end while I watched. He liked an audience.
All the while he was screaming he would be jamming huge handfuls of Lucky Charms in to his mouth, so many Lucky Charms that crumbs would be all over his face, and many of them would land on his big, huge belly. It was a horror show.
Can’t you think of just a hundred clever things to say to this guy right now? Like, I should have said, “Treating people poorly will not help you in life. It will hurt you. You’re focusing on all the wrong things, and your letting your family down. Plus, you’re making very irresponsible nutritional choices, and it sure wouldn’t hurt to consider starting some kind of fitness program!”
He would have felt THAT right between the jelly rolls. Check…and mate, fine sir. You just got served.
Wow. That just got a little real. I’m sorry if that made you uncomfortable.
See how bad I am?
Being nice is awesome. I love it when people are nice. But, you really can be too nice. I see little flashes of too much niceness in my kids sometimes. I want them to recognize it early, so maybe they can know when a backbone is required. Once they do, I hope they teach their parents.