Is “Be Nice” Harmful Advice?

Some of the most well intended, but ultimately harmful advice is “Be nice”.  Have we created a generation of doormats?  Being nice at all costs invites a host of problems at the individual level. The original intent, I suspect is to help us be more pro-social.  Acceptance into groups offers social status and security, and at our core we are social animals.  We thrive on acceptance, inclusiveness, and teamwork.  While these are all great things, there’s an underlying issue that needs to be brought to light: the tribe seeks strong members. Being nice at all costs effectively grooms the individual to be a submissive, people pleaser.  They will never stand up for themselves, and will agree just to get along.  This is dangerous and harmful in a couple of different ways:
  • Lack of Validation
  • Used as an emotional dumping ground
  • Prime target for bullying
Lack of validation can be detrimental over the long term.  We only need to ask ourselves how useful we feel if we contributed nothing to the bigger project.  Putting others ahead of the self, means that our ideas don’t get shared.  This may be due to creative conflict, not wanting to steal the spotlight from someone else, or simply just trying to be courteous.  In the end, being nice and letting everyone else go first all the time never gives us the chance for our voice to be heard. People who are nice are great to vent all of our problems to.  They will listen, and listen, and take it all on themselves.  We have our own problems to deal with, and now we are being emotionally dragged into someone else’s mud pit.  Prioritizing our own problems and keeping mental bandwidth open is hard enough without taking on someone else’s. Predators are everywhere in disguise.  Being overly nice, will give that scent of submissiveness to the local bully.  Testing boundaries can start off subtle, little pokes or jabs here and there.  The more experienced bullies in their craft read body language and engage in a more aggressive, direct manner.  Being assertive and direct up front is the easiest way to cut this off in the beginning, and helps prevent further incidents.  This may not be completely successful on the first encounter, because some of these people try to find other angles as well. The tribe respects strength. Instead of teaching each other, our kids, and those we care about to be nice, we need to teach them the concept of respect.  Learn our own self-worth first, because if we don’t have that, then nothing else will come together.  Our work is a valuable contribution, our perspective may promote better efficiency, our ideas may help with innovation.  We are not anyone else’s punching bag either emotionally or physically. Respect is a two way street.  If the above mentioned points are neglected, then those people are not worthy of anything we have to offer.  It’s a truly freeing mentality knowing the difference between walking away, because we know the transaction has no value versus walking away feeling rejected.  This also applies to those lurking bullies.  We need to understand that we will not get along with everyone due to personality differences, and that’s OK.  Not seeking acceptance from insecure, egotistical assholes will save both the neverending effort of a losing battle, and will keep them at arm’s length more often. Never be a doormat.  Every day, we need to bring value to our own lives.  Physical fitness, knowledge, and the curiosity to ask questions about things and to find the answers.  Be humble, firm, fair and continue to improve.  Approaching things in this way, people will respect us for valuing ourselves, and it may inspire them to the same.  As a bonus, we can be nice to others that deserve it.  

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