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When It’s Time to Stop Being Nice!

When It’s Time to Stop Being Nice!


Is there ever a time to say, "Enough! No more Mr. Nice guy for me!"?

Think about this one before responding with a knee jerk reaction, it's not an easy question: Which quality would you like to impart to your child—how to be a nice person, or how to be a successful one?

In response, you'll probably wonder are the two necessarily mutually exclusive. Are they ever?

We define a nice person as someone who cares about others and is sensitive to their feelings. We've all met these sorts of individuals. These are the people who are selfless, seeing beyond their own wishes and putting the needs of others before their own. These are the people we love to be around.

Successful people, on the other hand, we identify as those who assert themselves to ensure that their personal goals are being met, irrespective of the needs, wishes or opinions of others. We've all met these types of individuals who guiltlessly step on anyone who gets in the way of their climb up their proverbial career or social ladders. These are the types whom we try to avoid—at all costs. But who nevertheless seem to be getting what they want out of life.

So, can the two co-exist?

Ideally, we'd all like to teach our children how to be accommodating to the perspectives of others. We'd like to teach them how to share their toys, their time on the swing and their snacks. We like to view ourselves, too, as considerate people who willingly give up our seat to the elderly or handicapped, who generously toss a few coins to the outstretched arms of a homeless indigent and who support the neighbourhood PTA. We value talking politely and criticizing sparingly. Until…that is, we have a run-in with someone who so blithely takes advantage of our good heartedness.

Ever had a situation where you are being neglectful to yourself (or your family) by tending to the whims of fussy Uncle Ben, critical cousin Sally and selfish neighbor Rhonda? Are you being considerate—or a wimp—by being a 'yes man' to your boss's opinions or by kowtowing to your tyrannical co-worker's quirks?

There are times when decidedly un-nice behaviour is the best response. Our traditions give the wise advice: "With a sly person, be sly." To achieve the greater goal, the correct response may be to deal deceitfully—or arrogantly, or selfishly, or sternly— with a person who only understands that negative language. With people who can't see beyond the little circle of their ego, ask yourself is being nice the correct approach or will a more stern method ultimately achieve more greater good?

How do you draw the line?

Maybe the answer lies in evaluating our motives.

Ask yourself, why be nice? Do you believe this is the right way to approach life? Or do you just want to be thought of as a nice person? Do you genuinely believe that your child should share the coveted park's swing with others, or is it your fear of him being labelled as the ill-mannered bully? Why are you giving a rubber stamp approval to your friend or co-worker, is it because you agree with what s/he is doing, or are you reluctant to appear disagreeable? Why are you generously offering your time and energy to others—do you want to be considered kind or do you genuinely believe in the cause?

Perhaps the key is developing an inner strength.

Let's impart to our children—and demonstrate ourselves—the backbone to stand strong, whether that means having the courage to act with kindness and sensitivity (which should always be our default) or to act with deceitful slyness or gruff sternness to those that only understand that language—to achieve the best outcome.

Some of the most self-centered people look strong on the outside, but are weak within, completely incapable of overcoming their personal biases and whims.

And some of the nicest, kindest people may seem weak on the outside but have the steely determination within—to do the right thing. Whether that means saying an accommodating, sweet "yes" (in most cases) or an unkind, stiff "no."

Not because they are affected by how others will view them. But by how their Creator does.

What do YOU think? When is it time to stop being nice?

Chana Weisberg is the editor of She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.
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Dovid Zev Cleveland January 1, 2013

A very apropos article for today I had the day off today (Jan 1) so when I came home after shul, my wife and I had the luxury of a breakfast discussion. I said, "There are mean people who get their way and there are nice people. I'm not saying I want to be mean, and I'm not saying that I don't have faith in G-d, but we need to consider the natural order of things" I tell recruiters that I can't work more than 30 minutes from home because I pray in the morning. Similarly, to be a nice guy, perhaps we have to work harder and make do with less. That is the price. On the other hand, we pray every day that G-d not bring us to a test, so maybe we need to protect our interests sometimes even if it means asserting our rights to the determent of others. Reply

Emma Peel el paso June 26, 2012

please pay attention to the lesson the author has plainly stated it's about knowing how to act in order to elicit the best outcome. if that's nice, so be it. if not, so be it.

shalom. Reply

Marley Johannesburg, South Africa November 22, 2008

The ' You think you have walked over me' I totally agree with what the other respondents have said to Chana's blog. I must commend you for the interesting read.
I must say that in a sense, being nice has allowed a whole lot of challenges in my life, I have to face the continuous challenge of being the initiator of the forgiveness process, I lost the sense to what is self at some point, have continually let myself go to the weirdest extents for other people where a translator and a map is needed to get there. But one thing that I must assert is that being nice has provided for me is the consistent introspection on whether I am practising what my belief system ascribes to regardless of whatever opposition circumstance I have come to meet. I agree with what you mentioned to the end of your blog, I may seem 'weak' or a 'softy' from the outside and thereby give the person the ability to act great but oh my! how great my soul feels when I know that still I have served with love and respect that which I believe! Reply

tzipporah August 8, 2008

fine line I spent the first 50 years of my life always being "nice" ... and I usually got stomped on by not nice people. Yes, I was strong enough to turn the other cheek. Yes, I was strong enough to know in my own mind I was fine and had done no wrong .. but I also agree that when certain individuals who are close to you constantly attack and being nice doesn't work ... then that is the point where you have to stand up for yourself and as the first person said, let them know you are not going to take that behavior over and over. Reply

Anonymous Short Hills, N.J. via August 7, 2008

Being Alaways The Nice Person...(nerd) Being the "Nice" person all the time and taking whatever anger and nastiness is directed , being taken advantage of by "Not Nice Guy People"...having them treat you without kindness, or appreciativeness ...letting others "walk all over you" because you are the "nice guy" unconditionally is self degrading and not liking oneself. ...We have to stand up to bad behavior towards us from nasty people and just"taking it " constandtly will encourage more nasty behavior towards you and others. These type of people I'm talking about are negative influences and should be avoided. One should try to surround themselves with optomistic, kind and generous people who appreciate them and people who one can learn from. It is not ones duty to try to change others but to protect ourselves. The greatest gift from G-d is ourselves and our family. With family it is a different story...then being tolerant is an "act of loving kindness"....In this case all efforts hould be made for a happy medium. Reply

Rhoda August 1, 2008

being nice I agree totally with what has been said above. As a social worker I have experienced many people who are suffering from many hardships in their lives. Yet even when I have not been able to give them what they ask for because of the many government rules around care of the marginalised, I have always been willing to share myself with them, even if only as a listening ear and advice on where to try next. In most cases one never hears how these individuals make out in their life, but there has been the odd time when I have heard from other organisations that a certain person got their life back to gether because a certain social worker (myself) was willing to listen and stand by them as far as the rules would allow. This for me amounted to a sense of God acknowledging my love of Him through serving His children, even though I expected no visible reward for the work I was doing, it was encourement to continue working with others where and how they were situated in society. Reply

Anonymous July 31, 2008

Being Nice?? I would like my children to be both nice people ... and successful....why do we judge successful people as inherently assertive, aggressive and selfish? My experience is the exact opposite.... my husband is quite successful only because of being an EXTREMELY hard worker, treating his clients and workers very respectfully, all the while being a real "nice" guy. His determination and self sacrificing is inspirational.... to provide a wonderful life for me and his children, those are the qualities that we want to teach our children. I think the important thing here is to always try to treat people nicely regardless of how we are "feeling" at the time, it's not that hard to do .... we can only pray to accept how other people act and feel, we can only change how we act and feel. Reply

Burt July 27, 2008

Very very insightful Thank you so much for this. I really needed to hear this.

Thanks to you I've resolved to implement these ideas in my life! Reply

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Chana Weisberg is the author of Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman and four other books. Weisberg is a noted educator and columnist and lectures worldwide on issues relating to women, faith, relationships and the Jewish soul.
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