One of the first things you were probably taught as a child is to be courteous, and nice to others. It’s generally a good rule to live by. You’re far more likely to be a likable person if you were good to other people, and tried your best to not hurt their feelings, but is there a limit to how nice you should be? Is there a point where you can be too nice for your own good?
Some people seem to think so. They would argue that if you are too nice; then you are making yourself vulnerable to being taken for a ride. People will try to abuse your good character, and try to profit from it. While this may be true to a large extent, I don’t agree entirely with that premise in all situations.
An unfortunate fact is that most people don’t put enough effort in selecting the people they want to be nice to. If you’ve ever had anyone become angry with you because of something other people have to them, or if you have ever taken out your anger on someone because other people have upset you, then you probably already know someone who’s guilty of not putting enough effort.
I suppose that people tend to get busy with other things, and a lot of their focus is centered on their work and not enough on the people they interact with on a daily basis. They may adopt a friendly, cheerful disposition, and approach a group of people they don’t know too well who don’t reciprocate the friendly attitude. This negative response will undoubtedly affect their mood, and it will be reflected harshly and unjustly against the next person they encounter, who almost always, turns out to be someone they do care about.
The person I’m describing could be someone you know, or they can be you. In any case, I believe there are two areas that need attention. First, there needs to be some kind of realization that this doesn’t have to happen. Meaning if one puts more effort into being aware with who they interact, and how they interact with them, then many unfortunate situations where the wrong person gets the short end of the stick can be eliminated.
Second, there has to be a conscious decision to become adept at customizing relationships. In the beginning of the post, I asked if it was true that there was such a thing as being too nice for your own good. If there is an absence of customization, then yes, there is. If customization does exist, then there needn’t be such a thing as being too nice for your own good. What I mean by customization, is make a conscious effort to tailor your behavior and attitudes according to the people you intend to interact with.
What some of us tend to, it seems, is homogenize our behavior with little variability with a large number of people. I believe this is harmful for two reasons. The people who are good to you, and deserving of kindness are mistreated while those who are undeserving are indulged.
For some people, being too nice is never a burden, but a privilege. Thus, I don’t believe that making a concerted effort to be more of an asshole is ever a useful exercise. Instead, I believe it would be more useful and just if that effort were geared towards customizing your attitudes according to people. Some people are truly blessed with this skill. I know quite a few of them. They are extremely efficient at knowing exactly who they should be good to, and they shouldn’t be good to. It comes naturally to them. They don’t even have to make a conscious effort to think about it.
For others, it doesn’t come so naturally. It can actually appear confusing and unsettling when they don’t get the positive reactions that they were expecting. And it’s only because they’re nature is purer and more trusting. The Golden Rule states that you should treat others the way you expect to be treated. Despite being the best rule that there is and certainly the most acclaimed, it doesn’t really make much sense to me in all contexts.
If you wanted to be treated nicely, and you treated everyone else nicely indiscriminately, then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. My rule isn’t simpler than the Golden Rule, but perhaps can at times be more effective. Perhaps consider this one as an alternative in some cases.’Treat others in a way that you think they deserve to be treated.’