There’s no doubt that being nice is a good thing. But being ‘too’ nice can actually be detrimental to your relationships. Here’s how to tell if you’ve crossed the line into too-nice-territory – and what to do about it.
Phil Dunphy from Modern Family is no doubt one of the most adorable characters on TV. I mean what a loving, doting, caring man. He adores his wife, Claire, tries so hard to be the ‘cool dad’ for his kids and would do anything for his father-in-law, Jay.
But the thing is (yes, a but), while many of us no doubt appreciate his well-meaning efforts and for the sake of comedy, find them really funny, the characteristic that makes Phil so endearing and hilarious is also his major flaw.
Simply put, he is way too bloody nice.
Being too nice – too much of a good thing?
Being nice is most definitely a positive trait to have. We truly appreciate and value supportive and compassionate friends and family. But when the balance is off, it can actually be detrimental to yourself, and even to those you think you are doing the right thing by.
Elisabeth Shaw, Clinical Psychologist, explains why and what you can do to prevent your inner Phil from taking over.
“Being too much of anything means that other aspects are not in balance,” she says. “For real, flesh and blood relationships, we need to master a range of skills.”
If we don’t it can start to affect you and the relationships you have with others.
“Many might think that being nice is a lovely way to be, that it would make you very well liked and easy to get along with, and that is probably true, Elisabeth says. “However, being too nice can also mean that you become a door mat or a people pleaser. It can mean that you put other’s needs ahead of your own.”
“That can mean others get away with things that they shouldn’t. An excessively nice person might never be really known on a deep level or taken seriously. Their preferences might be over-ridden, and they could be neglected.”
It can even impact your job.
“Being too accommodating can make you a bit invisible, because you never stand for anything. You might be over-looked when it comes to leadership or other opportunities in the workplace,” says Elisabeth.
Signs you’re too nice to people
So, how do you tell if you’ve crossed the line from nice, into too nice territory? There are five key things to look out for:
Being agreeable and affirming, even when you hold different views
Being a yes man or woman by “deliberately holding back dissenting opinions, even when you know they might be important,” can be a definite sign you are too nice, explains Elisabeth.
This agreeableness can also infiltrate other areas.
“You will often fit in with others’ suggestions, needs, plans, without asserting your own,” she says.
Avoiding any conflict in case it upsets others
Avoiding confrontation or conflict is also a red flag.
Often those who do this will allow bad things to be said or happen to them, because this is preferential to the conflict that speaking up would cause.
Ruminating about others
Another a sign of being too nice can be “if you regularly find yourself ruminating on what others said or appeared to get away with after the fact,” says Elisabeth.
This can also leave a person feeling “resentful or depressed about how things turn out. From evenings with friends, to travel plans or work arrangements.”
Prioritising others before yourself
Being too nice can also look like not competing for a job or relationship or something else valuable to you because you are stressed by any potential fallout.
Not fulfilling requirements of your responsibilities
You might aware that you are not fulfilling aspects of your roles and requirements by being afraid to fall out with others. For example, if you find it too difficult to manage your staff or your boss, or your relationship with your neighbours.
How to turn things around
If you recognised some (or all) of the above behaviours and habits in yourself, don’t apologise (I know you were thinking of it…) You can definitely assert some Jay into your Phil, with these three actionable pointers:
Reset your concept of a good relationship and the best way to participate in relationships. To get what you need and want, to be taken seriously, and to not be taken advantage of, requires you being a 3D person.
Consider what you value about being nice, and work out how you can maintain it while you learn to assert yourself and be more vocal about your needs. Nice people can do those things too, without compromising themselves.
Sometimes being disruptive is really important in our relationships. People who we are in relationships will grow if we offer alternative ways to think and experience. Always going with things along only gives others a fuller experience of how they currently view themselves. Offering alternatives might surprise and delight them, and that can make you much more attractive to be around.
A version of this article originally appeared on Body + Soul, and has been republished here with permission.