Can You Be Too Nice? The Problem With Friendliness

What’s the problem with being nice? Can you be too nice to people?

Not Nice by Aziz Gazipura says that being nice isn’t about being good. He explains that niceness stems from a fear of rejection that makes people be nicer than they should.

Continue reading to learn why you should be less nice.

The Problem With Nice

Can you be too nice? If niceness is wrapped up in the need to be liked, amplified guilt, and a fear of conflict, then, Gazipura argues, we should all aspire to be less nice. While being nice may help you avoid discomfort in the moment, it has a long-term cost. Gazipura outlines the mental, emotional, and physical consequences of being nice.

(Shortform note: Gazipura focuses on the personal consequences of being nice. However, the Blackburn Center, an organization committed to ending violence, points out how being nice also has the potential to perpetuate injustice. For example, in a social situation, if you hear a sexist joke, the nice thing to do would be to laugh quietly or say nothing. The kind response, on the other hand, would be to speak up. The organization argues the distinction matters, especially in efforts to combat gender-based violence because while being nice maintains comfort, it doesn’t bring about change.)

According to Gazipura, prioritizing others’ needs over your own can lead to chronic stress, anxiety, anger, and resentment. Uncomfortable emotions may manifest as physical symptoms, including headaches, muscle tension, disrupted sleep, or other stress-related issues.

(Shortform note: Gazipura highlights how our emotional state can impact our physical well-being. According to psychologist Gabor Maté, author of When The Body Says No, this connection between our emotional and physical well-being is often underestimated by doctors. He explains that Western medicine is rooted in mind-body dualism where the body and mind are treated as separate entities. He instead advocates a more holistic approach that recognizes the complex interplay of our nervous system, immune system, hormones, and psychology.) 

Moreover, Gazipura argues that being overly nice, while intended to foster connection, prevents the development of genuine, mutually satisfying relationships. By constantly seeking to please everyone and avoid disagreements, you engage in inauthentic behavior that disconnects you from your core values and beliefs, and results in only superficial connections.

(Shortform note: Inauthentic behavior not only compromises the depth of your relationships, but it can also erode your self-esteem. In The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, Nathaniel Branden explains that personal integrity—living in congruence with your actions, values, and beliefs—is key to healthy self-esteem. When you fail to act in alignment with your values, you damage your self-respect.) 

Finally, Gazipura says that choosing to be overly nice often means avoiding challenges, conversations, and situations that might push you out of your comfort zone. This avoidance can hinder your growth, which requires embracing discomfort, taking risks, and asserting yourself. Staying within the bounds of niceness therefore keeps you stagnant and prevents you from reaching your full potential.

The Learning Zone Model

Gazipura argues that growth requires stepping outside your comfort zone, but the Learning Zone Model, a concept rooted in psychological research, suggests that stepping too far outside your comfort zone also inhibits learning. The Learning Zone Model outlines three zones:

1. Comfort Zone: This is where people feel safe and at ease, doing familiar tasks that require minimal effort. Staying here can hinder personal growth. Gazipura suggests that nice people prefer to stay in their comfort zone.

2. Stretch Zone: In this zone, individuals embrace some challenge and discomfort, leading to personal growth and learning. It involves mild to moderate stress but within manageable limits.

3. Panic Zone: The panic zone involves high levels of stress, anxiety, or fear, often triggered by challenges far beyond one’s comfort or stretch zones. Learning becomes challenging in this state.

Optimal learning occurs in the stretch zone, which allows for growth without being overwhelmed by stress and anxiety. 
Can You Be Too Nice? The Problem With Friendliness

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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