Do you get suspicious around people who are overly nice?
Are you convinced that there is more than meets the eye?
You might be right…
From earliest childhood, most of us are inundated with the message that we need to be nice to other people. Generally, this is a good thing, as it encourages kids to be less sociopathic and more gentle, compassionate, and generous, but it can also breed a whole load of unhealthy behavior patterns.
Sometimes the niceness can be taken too far, and when it is, there are plenty of good reasons to be wary of it:
People Who Insist That They’re Nice Rarely Are
“I’m a really nice person!” = an instant cue for you to take off at a run and never look back. Basically, people are rarely what they claim to be, and those who maintain that they are a certain way are usually overcompensating for what they aren’t.
A lady doesn’t have to announce what she is; you can just tell by her behavior. Same goes for a nice person; their actions will speak volumes about who they are, so they don’t have to reiterate it at every opportunity.
Besides, it’s more than likely that the overly nice person is perfectly aware that they’re being manipulative, but they’re trying desperately to prove otherwise. Such an ultra-smiley person can sometimes turn out to be a bunny boiler in disguise.
Or, they could have…
Also known as martyr/victim complex, this is a syndrome that affects more people than you might realize, and is a ticking time bomb as well. People with martyr complexes sacrifice their own happiness, health, and wellbeing to care for others, while breeding anger and resentment below the surface.
They maintain a façade of selflessness and servitude, putting other people’s needs ahead of their own, and demand to be lavished with appreciation and praise for their behavior in return. If they don’t receive these accolades, they get passive-aggressive and turn to guilt-tripping those around them.
People with “white knight” syndrome tend to be drawn to martyrs because they develop a codependency with one another: the knight sees the martyr’s suffering and desperately tries to save them from themselves, while the martyr clings to their protective shell of suffering servitude and lashes out at the knight for trying to make them change their circumstances. Ultimately, it ends up being a toxic relationship for both and will either go to hell early, or will be drawn into a long, brutal situation that’s damned near impossible for either to extricate themselves from.
They Can Be Manipulative
Being overly nice is also a form of manipulation; an attempt to get what you want by displaying unwarranted affection. Whether it’s the stereotypical damsel in distress routine some women put on in order to persuade a passing gentleman to help, or the mask some narcissistic men wear to lure a partner, being “too nice” can be a sign of ulterior motives.
This behavior, though not in a malicious form, can even be seen in children. How many times must a child have put on a big smile and refrained from playing up in an attempt to negotiate a treat from an adult? Heck, parents even encourage this behavior by bargaining with their children and giving them rewards for being good.
It’s no wonder, then, that some children grow into adults who think that they can get what they want out of people by putting on their best smile. They effectively barter their niceness for other perks rather than being nice for the sake of it.
They Don’t Allow Themselves To Be Fully Human
Constant niceness is a façade, and not a good one. See, the thing about a mature being human is that we all come with a veritable maelstrom of emotions ranging from kindness and compassion to rage and despair. When someone is nice all the time, you can be certain that they have all kinds of other emotions roiling beneath the surface, but they have such a need to be perceived as good, and kind, and sweet that they don’t allow themselves to even experience feelings they might construe as “negative,” let alone express them.
That’s not healthy by any stretch of the imagination.
If you get involved with someone like this, chances are that you’ll have to deal with an emotion explosion at some point in the foreseeable future. All of those repressed feelings build up over the years, usually causing issues with anxiety and depression, or worse. One fine day, all of that will build up to the point where they can’t contain it anymore, and they’ll end up having a nervous breakdown or psychotic episode, and that is a hellish mess for everyone involved to clean up.
Or, They’re On Drugs
Don’t dismiss this one outright: it’s actually very plausible. If the uber-nice person you know doesn’t get upset, frustrated, or angry no matter what the circumstances, it’s entirely possible that they’re self-medicating to the point of catatonia. Sure, they could be on prescription drugs of some kind, but even those allow people to feel the wealth and breadth of emotion on some level.
Those who are permanently plastered with beatific smiles and are unfazed at even the most extreme circumstances just might be blazed off their faces. Opioid painkillers can create this effect in people, but so can a number of other drugs, legal and illicit alike.
Either way, it’s another situation in which that supposed niceness is a byproduct rather than authentic, and can end up harming both the smiler, and those in their immediate circles.
They’re Really Annoying
Nice people are boring as mashed potato and white bread sandwiches. Yeah, okay, a nice person can be tolerable for a short period of time, but the constant saccharine sweetness can be overwhelmingly irritating. One bite of triple-chocolate cake is okay, but an entire slice of it (let alone half the gateau) will make you nauseated.
It’s appreciated when people are nice to us, but we also need to be challenged. We need people who will snark and be sarcastic bastards and have some semblance of a personality beyond that of an overly sugary custard. Be honest: what kind of person would you rather hang out with on a Friday night? Someone with whom you can take the piss in mutual (good-natured) torment? Or a person who’ll reprimand you for swearing because it’s not a nice thing to do?
Niceness Isn’t Honest
Someone who is overly nice is undoubtedly a liar. They lie to themselves about how they really feel inside, and they lie to other people in order to make sure that they don’t upset anyone, even when that’s detrimental. They’re so worried about upsetting others or being perceived as unkind that they’ll be thoroughly dishonest… and no-one wants that. Not really.
Here’s an example: a child (let’s call him Billy) is working on an art piece, and turns to his father for input. The father lavishes him with praise and encouragement about how wonderful it is, and when Billy prods him for constructive criticism because he feels like it needs improvement, daddy dearest scoffs and tells him that it’s perfect.
Billy then loses faith in his father because he knows damn well that daddykins is kissing his backside and not being honest with him… and once trust is broken like that, it’s really hard to rekindle.
In adult relationships, choosing niceness over honesty can breed not only mistrust, but also resentment. Conflict is inevitable in life, but we generally want (and need) to be able to trust our close friends and romantic partners, so when we’re patently aware that we’re being lied to just to spare our feelings, that can destroy trust on a fundamental level. Forever.
Whatever the reasons behind it, most people instinctively know that excessive niceness is not a natural trait to have. Nice people are everywhere, but there is a sliding scale along which one can move. Go too far towards the nice end and the balance is lost. So be wary of anyone who seems a little too pleasant in their general demeanor.
Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.