Is it possible to be too nice? It may seem like an odd question, since as far back as we can remember, our parents, teachers and other authority figures (not to mention Sesame Street) drilled into us the importance of being nice to others.
And yet, the answer is an unqualified “yes.” It is absolutely possible to be too nice: in sales, in other areas of business and even in your personal life. And being too nice can have disastrous consequences.
A salesperson who is too nice will give away all their profit, jump through endless hoops for a sale that may never materialize and acquiesce to every customer demand, no matter how unimportant it actually is to the customer or how difficult it is for the company to fulfill. Such a salesperson will get taken to the cleaners, and both the salesperson and the company will suffer as a result.
A manager who is too nice doesn’t hold their people accountable, isn’t effective at resolving conflicts and can’t fire someone who desperately needs to be fired. All of which hurts the entire organization.
If you’re too nice in your personal life, friends, family and even casual acquaintances will constantly take advantage of you, draining you of your time, energy and—often—money. Leaving you without enough of those things for yourself or for those who are truly deserving of your kindness and generosity.
In each of the above cases, people may like you, but primarily because they know they can walk all over you. And they definitely won’t respect you.
So precisely how nice is too nice? When your niceness ceases to be an asset and starts to become a liability. When you can’t be effective because you’re too worried about someone else’s feelings, real or imagined. In short, when your niceness is sabotaging your success and preventing you from reaching your goals.
To help you determine whether you’re too nice, ask yourself these questions:
• Do I typically back down in a confrontation?
• Is it very important to me that people like me?
• Do I frequently volunteer to do extra work?
• Do I go to great lengths to avoid conflict?
• Am I cutting my margins too often?
• Do I consistently sacrifice myself for others?
• When people make requests, do I always say yes?
• Do I avoid complaining because I don’t want to cause trouble?
• Am I spending all my time on other people’s issues?
• Do I make excuses for others’ bad behavior?
If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, odds are, you’re too nice. (In which case, can I borrow a hundred bucks?)
If you suspect you’re too nice, talk with a trusted friend, a mentor or a therapist. Read some books on leadership, negotiating or self-confidence.
Don’t get me wrong. Being nice is, well…nice. It’s certainly a positive attribute, and valuable in both sales and life in general. I mean, you never want to be mean, rude or surly. (Unless you’re a maitre d’ at a French restaurant—then it’s a job requirement.)
But there are times when you have to say “no.” Situations in which you have to discipline people. Conflicts that require you to stand up for yourself. Sometimes, being nice creates more (and bigger) problems than it solves. (Believe me, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.)
Keep in mind, you can still be courteous, sensitive and respectful when you’re refusing a request or lodging a complaint or calling someone on the carpet. Niceness and assertiveness aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, employing both together will make you more effective and help you achieve your goals faster, in sales, business and life.
Wouldn’t that be nice?