Just Say No: Why You Shoudn’t Always Be Nice

Ever feel impaired by your niceness? Ever put the well being of others before yours? Well I have a story for you. One that I hope can free you from your niceness like Harry freed Dobby with a sock.

From a young age, I have been plagued with the need to be polite. I have an overactive sense of guilt and empathy. Many times this has lead me to desperate lengths to make other people happy. Being kind is great, really. But when it starts causing you anxiety or discomfort, you need to stop.


Image by Shek’s Aperture on Flickr, CC

You don’t have to be nice. You don’t owe anything to anyone but yourself. No matter how much guilt you might feel at first, I guarantee the relief you will feel later replaces it tenfold.

I’m not here to say you can’t be nice, just don’t let your niceness overrule your instinct.

I went out of my way to be kind to an elderly acquaintance. He is in his sixties, has no local family, and is a regular patron at my workplace. All of my coworkers know and adore him.

One day after work, about 11pm, he asked me to join him for dinner. He told me he hadn’t eaten all day, and because eating alone is awful, he would just go home starving. (On top of that, his dog also died recently.)

My coworker was shutting down the business for the night, and I felt extremely awkward, like I would be the difference whether or not this poor old man would eat but I also wondered why he didn’t ask her.

screenshot hburg chilis googlemap.png

Screenshot from Google Maps of the Chilis where we ate

I was exhausted and feel that he manipulated me into saying yes. Because he knew I was a nice person; he knew that the guilt I would feel (for his own actions) would weigh heavily on my soul, and would influence my opinion.

I regretted my decision the entire way to the restaurant, but the idea that I could give him some small joy in his lonely world outweighed my fatigue. I felt much better at the situation after this.

Fast forward to a week later, he asks me to go to a movie with him. After no response, he texts me, asking me why I hadn’t responded yet, and if there was something we needed to discuss.


Screenshot of messages, cropped in MS Paint

I turned off the read-reciept on my i-phone so I wouldn’t feel obligated to reply if I had read his messages. I was clearly uncomfortable and wanted nothing to do with him, but I could not stand the inner turmoil, of thinking about him suffering with his loneliness. Maybe I was just being paranoid. But he still knew my work schedule and was a favorite regular of my coworkers.

So another night he texts me:


Screenshot of messages, cropped in MS Paint

Which I think is fine, maybe he thinks of me as a Granddaughter, right? And hes projecting the longing he feels for his family who lives far away? Wrong.

Well, then he sent me this, with a picture of my coworker:


Screenshot of messages, cropped in MS Paint

He gets pushy, again tries to guilt me into being friendly. But thank my lucky stars that I have great friends who told me, “No. You’re right. That’s creepy,” and then helped me formulate this response, to his excuses:


Screenshot of message, cropped in MS Paint

Of course. He had nothing to say. If that isn’t his own guilt, I don’t know what it was. If you ever find yourself in a situation like this, here is the response my friends helped me formulate to shut him down permanently.


Screenshot of messages, cropped in MS Paint

There you have it. A polite way to set your limits and take control over your situation.

He tried calling me (ew!) before finally saying he would delete my number. He didn’t leave a voicemail. I constantly am grateful that he does not know where I live and that I have supportive, wonderful friends. But I still fear he will swing by the place that I work and try to talk to me.

No matter how nice people seem, or how guilty you feel for them, trust your instincts. Don’t be nice because you might encourage other people and enable them to manipulate your emotions.

If you are uncomfortable, that is a red flag. You are the you-est you that can ever be, so trust yourself – you have your best interest in heart always. And you can still be kind, just make your limits clear and let everyone know that you are in control of the situation.

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