Being “nice” is undoubtedly one of the most virtuous personality traits you can have. After all, people who show a high level of agreeableness on the Big 5 personality test are empathetic, helpful, get along with others and demonstrate an ability to understand other people’s pains and struggles.
Still, sometimes being nice can leave you in awkward situations. Like getting stuck in a long conversation you can’t back away from, or feeling the urge to constantly apologize for things you’re not responsible for. As with most personality traits, there’s a point when it all just becomes too much to handle.
Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being kind. But too much niceness can open up an opportunity for people to take advantage of you, leading to feelings of resentment, frustration, and countless misunderstandings.
Here are five signs that you might be acting a little too nice for your own good -- and a few tips on what you can do about it.
You’re constantly saying ‘sorry’
A sincere apology is a sign of emotional maturity. It means you’re not only regretful for what you might have said or done, but you’re also acknowledging how your words or actions have caused pain to someone else.
Yet some personality types, notably Feelers, sometimes go overboard with their need to apologize. This behavior often comes from a place of insecurity. We want to make sure we’re liked, so we start apologizing before we ask someone for a favor, for example.
It can also come from a need for reconciliation. Feelers are connected and empathetic people, and those on the introverted side of the spectrum tend to feel their own emotions deeply. This means we feel terrible when we know we’ve hurt someone, so our instinct is to immediately apologize. We feel so guilty or ashamed for what happened that even after being forgiven, we keep tossing the word ‘sorry’ around, trying to forgive ourselves.
Types most likely to do this: INFJ, ENFJ, ISFJ, INFP, ISFP
What to do about it: Before you start jumping to conclusions and believing that you’ve hurt someone, stop and think. Have you really done something wrong here? If so, try to demonstrate your regret without beating yourself up.
Sometimes, writing down what happened can help you process your emotions so you can be more prepared when you go on to apologize. The key is to build your self-confidence, so you can discern between situations that actually call for an apology from a desperate need for acceptance.
You agree to something without thinking
Extravert Perceivers (EPs) are natural ‘people-persons,’ which makes them great friends and communicators. They’re also constantly on the lookout for ways to escape the mundanity of everyday life; the next big adventure. These two traits combined means they can be impulsive, and often act before they think.
While there’s nothing wrong with leaving room for spontaneity, saying ‘yes’ to everything without a blink can sometimes lead to hasty decisions and regret. No one can deny that EPs exude joy and their energy is infectious (think Jim Carrey in Yes Man). But this need to always say “yes” to the crazy ideas of others can get in their way, making them accept invitations they have no time for or that may actually harm them in some way.
Types most likely to do this: ENFP, ESFP, ESTP, ISTP
What to do about it: For you, life’s like a giant amusement park and you want to experience everything. But reality check: that’s not always possible. So instead of agreeing to do something out of sheer excitement or to go along with the crowd, take some time to reflect if this project or activity is fitting for you right now.
It’s all about planning more and doing less, meaning you need to spend less time jumping from one thing to the next and more time being thoughtful. Taking the time to do a little risk assessment doesn’t make the activity any less fun! It only helps you to be more assertive when making decisions in both your personal and professional life.
You avoid confrontation at all costs
For some types, the thought of having to confront someone is a living nightmare, so they avoid it at all costs. Usually, they’re worried about hurting someone’s feelings. When you prefer to maintain peace in a relationship, you’ll find yourself compromising in ways that don’t sit right with you and sweeping lots of unpleasant situations under the rug -- and you’ll convince yourself that ignoring things that bother you is the nice thing to do.
The problem with this avoidant confrontation style is that it has a snowball effect. You can close your eyes all you want, but you’ll eventually reach a point where you can no longer ignore whatever is upsetting you. Only by now, everyone's a little more heated, so the chances of having a rational debate are slim.
Types most likely to do this: INFJ, ISFJ, ESFP
What to do about it: If you dream of a harmonious relationship with mutual respect and understanding, you’ll have to learn to set boundaries. Instead of avoiding confrontation and hoping it will work out for the best, take a stand.
This can mean saying ‘no’ to a few things and learning to convey your emotions to other people. No one’s asking you to be rude, or disrespectful. Only to be confident enough to express how you feel and be clear about what’s okay and not okay for you. Once you learn to set boundaries, you’ll find it easier to deal with confrontation.
You’re always putting others first
Some personality types will go out of their way to help and affirm others, often neglecting their own needs in the process. As endearing and noble as this selfless behavior is, putting others first can become tiresome -- and it can overwhelm the person on the receiving end who doesn’t want or need quite so much support!
Problems arise when you don’t get back as much as you’re giving. At this point, it’s easy to feel resentful towards whomever you’re trying to help because they’re not as appreciative as you want them to be. Others may also take advantage of your gentle nature, playing on your willingness to be of service.
Types most likely to do this: ENFJ, INFJ, INFP, ISFJ, ESFJ
What to do about it: With your protective and selfless nature, you’ll always put other people first. Still, that doesn’t mean you have to be available for every single person, at all times. No matter how much you love them, you also need some time to check-in with yourself. Make yourself a priority and remember to save some ‘alone time’ by scheduling an hour of your day for something that brings you peace, whether that’s reading, going for a walk, or taking a bath.
You try too hard to help someone without them asking
Not everyone welcomes unsolicited advice. But some personality types have a tendency to express their opinions so openly that sometimes, without noticing, they’re already orienting people on how they should respond to a certain situation, in an effort to help them out.
Though well intended, this behavior can be ill received. After all, no one likes to be constantly told they’re doing something the wrong way, or to feel scrutinized for their decisions. Yet often, the person who is giving the unsolicited advice is unaware of how controlling they’re being. In their minds, they’re the expert on this subject, so it makes sense to share their expertise with others to get the problem resolved faster and more effectively. They don’t always register how that makes the other person feel.
Types most likely to do this: INTP, ENTP, INTJ, ENTJ, ISTJ, ESTJ
What to do about it: You might have the best intentions when giving advice, but it’s important to recognize not everyone will welcome your interference. Ultimately, you can’t force people to come around to your point of view. They have to come up with solutions to their problems by themselves.
So, when someone opens up to you, try to listen before giving your opinion. Understand that if they’re trusting you with something personal, the worst thing you can do is to probe and question or undermine their opinions. Sometimes, the simple act of listening is a better way to make someone feel valued and acknowledged.
The bottom line
In one way or another, we can all act too nice for our own good. And while being nice is an admirable quality, it can also have negative effects in the way we communicate, jeopardizing our relationships and well-being.
The key to recognizing if you’re acting too nice is to be aware of your behavior patterns and understand whether this ‘niceness’ is coming from a controlling place, or a place of insecurity. When you tune in with yourself, it becomes easier to avoid the negative side effects that niceness can bring, so you can stay as good a person as ever!