Monday, April 20, 2009

How Nice Is Too Nice?

My husband says I'm "too nice." He's not saying it as a compliment or in admiration of a character trait he strives to possess. He says it more like a reprimand wrapped in a warning with a side of cynicism. Don't get me wrong... he LIKES that I'm nice, and he's quite amicable himself. Everyone who meets my husband is charmed and smitten by him. He's very friendly, animated and talkative. Between the two of us, it's hard to get a word in edgewise.

Here's where our niceness complement and contrast each other. I'm nice in a perky, bubbly (or spastic), good listener, heart on my sleeve, try to help you out sort of way. He's nice in an "I will impress you, ooh and ahh you, and make you walk away feeling good about yourself" kind of way. He's nice in that he is the center of attention, telling funny stories, and doing most of the talking and laughing. I'm nice in the way where I ask more questions and try to learn about the other person and listen. He's better in large groups, I'm better one on one.

I'm also the type that wants to jump in and save someone who is sad or stressed... be the shoulder they don't have, make them a meal if they are hungry, offer my help before I analyze if I have the time or energy, give my personal phone number and say with sincerity "Call anytime!" My husband is likable, funny, charismatic... but his boundaries are clear. No one is gonna glom on to him, hunt him down in the middle of the night, or cash in on a favor he's offered. He is very "careful" socially and boundaries are crisp and impermeable. This is the mind of a CEO. This is the mind of a carefully trained, highly skilled psychologist. This is the mind of a pragmatist who has control issues. This is not MY mind (or what's left of my mind). We balance each other out well.

My niceness occasionally gets me into trouble. Though there are times where I fall short, my basic motto is to always be friendly and nice. If the waiter brings out something I didn't order, I'll eat it just so he doesn't feel bad. That's how I roll. If someone seems lonely or shy or unsure or new in a situation, I try to make them feel comfortable by being nice. Sometimes, this quality attracts needy people and then I later have to extract myself from a relationship I never intended to have go that far with a scalpel, thus hurting the very person I never intended to hurt in the first place.

My husband would say "It was your fault for talking to her on the phone so much." I'd retort "She always called me, and what was I supposed to do? Hang up on her?!?" He would basically say "Yes" in that I should have given signs from the get go that I was not interested in pursuing anything more than a casual friendship. That kind of stuff goes so against my need to be nice AND my need to be liked. But, in the end, all my niceness can get me into annoying predicaments. So, is being "too nice" not really the nicest thing to do? Does it just end up as being disingenuous?

My current niceness-induced situation involves a young teen in my neighborhood who has "taken" to my kids and, quite honestly, to me. Somehow, in my need to be overly "nice" to someone who seems fragile and friendless, I have probably created more problems than if I just kept some grown-up boundaries in tact. Now, I've created this whole situation that I never meant to create which leaves me back-pedalling and laying ground rules that were not in place initially along with boundary/limit setting...and feel like I have to be a jerk to get out of it. In addition, I'm all stressed because I think I'm on her parents sh*t list, which is an even longer story involving nothing but my own ridiculous naivety and dumb bobble-head conversations where I have diarrhea of the mouth and later realize I probably just said all the wrong things. I'm not trying to be cryptic, just trying to avoid the boring details.

What I guess I'm really trying to ask is this: Is there such a thing as being "Too Nice?" Does it bite you in the rear? Does it end up doing more harm than good; as my husband points out, such as when you start out being "too nice" and then can't deliver long term on the unspoken "promises" you've made to that person? Is this more about my need to be nice and not really about helping them at all? Truth be told, I don't think I'm really that nice after all...

Is this the most boring, self-indulgent post ever in the history of webloging? Yes, it is. It's okay, you can tell me... you don't have to be nice...


BeckyO2001 said...

Wow now you have me wondering who this girl is, HAHA!
I see your problem with being too nice and then trying to get out of a situation. I have been there. Its very tough.
I hope everything works out.

Michelle said...

Okay, I'm just glad it's the teen down the street. When I got to the paragraph about talking on the phone, I was convinced you and your husband were talking about me. I could hear him saying (in a very nice voice, of course) "Tell Michelle to STOP calling!"
So, as you can see, I'm not really focused on the point of your blog at all. It's me that I'm focused on... AGAIN. WHAT IS MY PROBLEM? IT ALWAYS GETS BACK TO ME! Can you or your husband please diagnose me with something- PLEASE!Do it when you have time, of course. I don't want to step on any toes, let alone have to be removed by a scalpel :)

Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

I often feel like I'm in the same boat. This "being nice" business - it's not all it's cracked up to be!

Carrie Wilson Link said...

I used to be as nice as you, but middle age has helped me be less nice. I like to think I'm still (very) kind, but not so much nice. My husband sounds a LOT like your husband. His boundaries are so clear (rigid) they cut like a knife. He has zero drama in his life, however, so there is something to be said for boundaries.

Chun Wong said...

I don't think that being "too nice" is a problem unless you let yourself get completely used or it's putting you and your family at risk of harm. More people need to be nice!

Chun Wong

SE'LAH... said...

Finding the happy long as people don't take kindness for weakness.

There's nothing wrong with being nice. What would the world be like without nice people???

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