You Can Be “Nice” Or You Can Be Respected – But Not Both
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I spent the first two decades of my life always trying to be “nice” to everyone around me. You may have heard the term “Nice guys finish last” a few million times, and it’s true. Not just in dating, but in life.
Why could this be?
Have you ever described someone as being nice? When you do that, what are you really saying about them?
Oh, he’s nice though.
*Shrug* She’s nice I guess.
“Nice” people typically are people-pleasers or those who don’t like to make waves.
Besides that, it doesn’t really mean much of anything, because you probably don’t know much about the person since they are always doing what they think other people want them to do.
Like the moon reflects the sun but doesn’t shine its own light, being nice simply shows us who you think we want you to be. It doesn’t show us what your own brightness looks like.
When I was considered a “nice guy” I was always trying to fit in. To be the guy that women wanted to date (it never worked). To be the guy other guys wanted to be friends with (that didn’t really work either).
And it’s primarily because I hadn’t truly worked to develop my own identity. I was simply blowing in the breeze of social pressures and never stood my ground about anything because I was afraid of being disliked.
So I would be “nice” instead.
As a result, I wasn’t respected because my presence in the world was flimsy and at the whim of whoever I was around. What I should’ve focused on, was being KIND. Generous, Goodhearted. Giving. But, firm and with boundaries.
Nice people will do whatever it takes in order to keep the peace, including avoiding important conversations or even being dishonest in order to save someone’s feelings.
When you think about it this way…being nice is actually a selfish decision, because it might be saving YOUR ass, but it’s certainly not providing any value to the people around you.
Being KIND, on the other hand, is being willing to be honest with people in a way that serves them and brings value. It may require you to give some difficult truths, but people will respect your candor and be glad you didn’t lie to them about something important.
Being straightforward doesn’t mean you have to be an asshole about it.
You can be kind, but also be direct. You can be goodhearted, but tell people what they need to hear. You can be generous, but have your limits.
Build an identity for yourself. Decide what you stand for. Be a person of principle. Understand that not everyone is going to agree with you or like you, AND THAT’S OKAY.
If you spend your life trying to be liked by everyone, you will also spend your life being controlled by everyone because every decision you make will be designed to gain their approval.
In the end – do they even know anything about you? Or are you simply reflecting their own opinions back at them?
And, how many people can you do this with until you begin to face internal conflict or be exposed as a complete fake?
Be good to everyone around you. Do not lose your kindness. Show up in the world with a giving and loving heart. But – always set boundaries for the treatment you accept in return.
There’s a reason the nice guy always finishes last. He’s taught the people around him that’s where he feels like he belongs.
I can’t guarantee that you will be liked by everyone if you stand up for what you truly believe in. But I can tell you you’ll earn a lot more respect that way.
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Very well said!!! AMEN!
Thanks so much!!
Fantastic interpretation, and timely! I am a kind person surrounded by nice people….
Thanks so much for the comment, yes, once we start gaining clarity on these topics it’s easy to see all of the people around us who have yet to “wake up.” Sort of makes you think ignorance really is bliss!
This was a great read, and you bring out good distinctions. I especially liked this part: “…being nice is actually a selfish decision, because it might be saving YOUR ass, but it’s certainly not providing any value to the people around you.” This is very well said, and describes my ex-boyfriend perfectly lol. He was the typical “nice guy” in the sense that he never stood up for himself, avoided conflict and agreed with everyone just to “keep the peace”, like you said. In the year and a half that we were together, we never once had a fight. This made me feel like everything was going well, and that he was happy. I thought that never fighting was a good sign…but it should have been a red flag lol. In the end, all the thoughts he kept to himself, he eventually spoke up about out of nowhere, and used as an excuse to end the relationship. I was so confused and heartbroken for a very long time, but over time I realized how selfish and cowardly that was of him. The “nice guy” image I had of him slowly faded away and I finally saw him for who he was, and he became very unattractive to me, which is what helped get me over him lol. I’m forever grateful for that experience. I learned a lot, and one of those things was to choose to be with a partner who has confidence (which is ultimately what he lacked). I vowed to never be with an insecure guy like that again. Now I’m in a relationship with someone who speaks his mind, we talk things out, we’re as transparent as we can be with each other. We both learn from each other, and we keep growing together. AND, he’s incredibly pure-hearted, sweet and thoughtful (qualities most people confuse with “nice”). Breakups can really be a blessing! 🙂 Anyways, thanks for the good read!
Your Message was a great one to me… Me especially because I fall under this category trying to make peace reign and all and at the end there was never a gain from it no respect and instead it gives me pain in my heart soul and mind. I agree to everything you said. a lesson well learnt
Amazing article!! So many people need to read this. Growing up, I was always the nice girl and that amounted to a lot of people taking advantage of me. I thought that’s what you did. That’s how I was raised, you know? Be nice. People should like you. Be pleasing. Who I really was and how I felt never got addressed. Like you said, I never formed my own identity. As I hit my late thirties and grew into my own skin, I started being more honest – with myself and other people. And I started to shed that nice girl image. It was hard, believe me. I’d tell it like it is and it would upset someone, and I’d go, “Oh my God! What did I do?” If you’re used to saying what people want to hear all the time, honesty can feel foreign. And I’ve reverted to those old ways many times. But I wasn’t happy being like that. I was depressed a lot and I felt suppressed and didn’t understand why at first. And then it clicked. One day, I heard someone say something I had heard a million times throughout my life: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” And I remember getting so angry. I grew up on this saying, as I’m sure you and countless others have. But in that moment, I realized exactly what this was telling me to do. It’s telling me to hold back the truth. My truth. The truth isn’t nice a lot of the time so I was being taught not to tell it. And it went further. It was saying to me that if who I really am is offensive to anyone, then I need to be someone else. And that’s pretty much what I lived most of my life. I think that’s when my transformation really began. I gradually started being truer to myself and found that I was able to be more honest. I protected my boundaries more and I was holding people accountable for the things they said and did a hell of a lot more, something some people would rather you didn’t do! I’ve lost friends and eventually stopped worrying about that. I gained the best friend of all – myself. And that is so liberating!
I agree with you, James, on this blog post.
If you want to be nice, then you have to deal with not only people who dislike you but also people who would try to manipulate you too.
But, if you want to be respected, you need to be more confident, straightforward, honest, and indifferent to the opinions of other people. If they do not like you, at least they are still going to respect you as a person, expert, etc.