Sally Mead says she was completely stunned when a new acquaintance called her a people-pleaser with no sense of identity.
"She told me that I ditch plans because my boss calls on my day off, see movies I don’t like because my friends want to, even take up line dancing at my mother’s insistence," explains Sally, a freelance flutist and part-time nanny. "People always said I was being ‘too nice,’ but this new friend told me that doing all of this stuff wasn’t nice at all-it was misleading and resulted in me being unhappy most of the time. Turns out, she was right."
According to Krista Roesler, a Toronto-based life coach, many people suffer from being too nice – being nice is a win-win scenario and being too nice is a win-lose situation. "If you’re nice, both people feel good and happy," she points out. "If you are too nice the other person probably feels good, but you don’t."
The perfect balance is giving as much as you want without feeling resentful about it-in other words, maintain boundaries. Without boundaries, you tend to get walked all over. Roesler shared her expert tips on how to maintain the tricky balance between being nice and too nice in romance, friendships, in your family and at work.
Relationship expert advice: When you’re too nice in romance
Do you find yourself constantly going out with your guy’s friends (who you secretly can’t stand), attending events, like curling competitions (oh joy), that bore you to the core, or watching your man play video games for hours even though you would rather be doing something else? Then chances are you’re "too nice" in your relationship.
The danger of constantly giving in to what the other person wants to do is, of course, losing yourself to your partner. While there is something to be said for going above and beyond for your significant other, regularly sacrificing your likes, desires and interests for theirs ultimately jeopardizes your individuality. "Being too nice can prevent healthy open communication that is important for all relationships," Roesler explains, adding that in some cases repressing how you really feel can also lead to putting up with abusive behaviour.
Are you being too nice at work? Keep reading to learn if you are damaging your professional prospects on the next page…
Another danger of being "too nice" is leading people on – in other words, being fake and pretending that you have a connection with somebody when you don’t. If you’re too scared to say that
you don’t see things working out, you could find yourself stuck in a meaningless relationship for months or even years.
Make sure you avoid these unpleasant scenarios by always speaking your mind and standing up for your opinions. And, Roesler warns, don’t expect the other person to be able to read your mind. If you don’t communicate what you like and don’t like, they won’t know. In fact they will probably assume that you love everything they do – disaster!
Relationship expert advice: When you’re too nice at work
When it comes to "teamwork" do you find that everyone else is the team while you do all the work? Is your boss a Miranda Priestly type who assigns unreasonable tasks with excruciating deadlines? Are you constantly working overtime when you shouldn’t be or taking on extra projects without being adequately compensated? Congratulations – your desire to be nice in the office has transformed you into a professional doormat.
According to Roesler, being too complacent in the workplace can increase stress, impact health, create tension in families and imbue work-life balance. "If you put work first, the rest of your life suffers," she says. Saying yes to everyone else will sabotage your own work priorities and goals, and will hold you back professionally as well as hinder your overall happiness.
To avoid this problem, make a conscious effort to learn where your boundaries are and express them to others. "People who are too nice have so much empathy," says Roesler. "What these individuals should do is learn how to say no in a polite way so that others realize they have their own lives and priorities."
Assert yourself to your employer and coworkers by politely declining situations that take advantage of you. Use empowering language such as "I want" to communicate your needs. And remember, there are always labour laws on your side if anyone gives you a hard time.
Are you being too nice with friends and family or just easy-going? Find out on the next page…
Relationship expert advice: When you’re too nice in a friendship
We are taught as children to make friends by sharing our toys and being nice, so what are we supposed to do when a
friendship turns toxic and takes advantage of us?
Signs that this may be happening in your friendship include doing activities that only they want to do, being pressured into doing harmful things just to please others, or giving up your goals to support your friend’s ambitions.
"Sometimes people stay friends with others who are harmful, self-destructive or whom they may have outgrown, just for the sake of being nice," says Roesler, who believes such behaviour stems from parents who teach children to be a ultra nice by not expressing negative emotions, such as anger. "Our feelings are sign posts that can help keep us going in the right direction," she continues. Suppressing anger or even the ability to say no disables our self-confidence as well as our individual control.
"We need to teach people, including friends, how to treat us," she advises. We also need to be prepared to breakup with a friend who is no longer good for us emotionally. So next time your supposed bestie tries to pressure you into a mani-pedi afternoon when you would rather be perusing a limited-time art show, speak up! If she’s a true pal she will understand and maybe even join you. If she gets upset, it might be time to reevaluate the friendship.
Relationship expert advice: When you’re too nice with family
Family is perhaps the trickiest group to interact with and many of us become people-pleasers when spending time with blood relations as a way to try and keep the peace. However, the truth is that it’s impossible to please everyone. Roesler says that if you’re trying to please everyone, you are clearly not aware that every family member should be responsible for his or her own happiness.
Sometimes being ‘too nice’ with family can result in following a career path that does not inspire you, having a wedding that does not reflect your style, or even naming your children after some long lost relative at a pestering mother’s insistence.
To stand up to family, Roesler recommends simply checking in with yourself. "We’re constantly surrounded by the idea of the martyr," she says. "The person gives so much, they aren’t happy with what they are doing. If you feel happy doing something, it’s probably okay. You just need to learn how to notice and acknowledge your emotions honestly."
Before you blindly give in to a family member’s whim, stop and ask yourself if this is something you really want to be doing or something you feel obligated to go through with. Stay true to your values and your own happiness.
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's daily newsletter.