Niceaholics—We’ve all met one; or perhaps you are one yourself. The term may be new, but the story is the same. Some people just can’t say no, and not because they don’t want to. They are people pleasers, and often saying “no” to a request could lead to disappointing or upsetting someone, encouraging conflict, or creating an otherwise unpleasant situation. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, one of the defining factors is that niceaholics don’t see this as a problem because of the way they feel; it’s a problem because it’s unpleasant for someone else.
“We live under this conception that saying yes, being available, always at the ready for other people, makes us a better person, but in fact it does quite the opposite,” says Susan Newman, author of The Book of No: 250 Ways to Say It—and Mean It and Stop People Pleasing Forever. According to Newman, “You get stressed and anxious; you’re viewed as a patsy.”
Being excessively nice can even be a repellent for some, who see the practice as patronizing and irritating. And, people who are perceived as overly “agreeable” (nice, warm, and cooperative) tend to make less money than their less agreeable employees of the same gender—Men made 18% less and women made 5% less.
“Nice people have to develop strategies to stand up for themselves,” Said Ronald Riggio, who is the Henry Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology and former Director of the Kravis Leadership Institute. “It’s about being assertive but not losing your niceness in the process.”
Being too nice can also lead to manipulation by others; if you’re always giving people the benefit of the doubt, then it’s easy for them to mislead you. This happens in situations that range from standing down on salary negotiations to staying with an abusive partner.
Certainly, it’s better to be an agreeable person than not, but there should be a limit and self-worth taken into account. Chronic people pleasers, or niceaholics, often deem others as more important than themselves—something that will slowly but surely wear and weigh on a person. Besides, it’s simply not true.