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Are You Too Nice?

Being agreeable is one thing. Being a doormat is another. How to tell if it's time to put yourself first for a change.

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Are you too nice?

When you look at the other people in your life, there are lots of ways that you are the same. You speak the same language, you all eat a few times a day and you have a tendency to breathe regularly. There are also lots of ways that you differ. Some of those differences are physical—some people are tall and others are short—but many of them have to do with behavior.

The differences in the way people behave form what we call their personality.

QUIZ: Measure Five Key Aspects of Your Personality

Psychologists have identified a number of core aspects of personality, and one of the most important is a characteristic called agreeableness. Agreeableness reflects how important it is for you to get along with other people. If you are highly agreeable, then you organize your life in ways to make sure that the people around you are happy and that they feel warmly toward you. If you are not that agreeable, then you don’t really care much about how the people around you feel about you.

If you want to know your own level of agreeableness, you can take the YouBeauty personality inventory

Now, you might think that being agreeable is generally a good thing and that being disagreeable is not. After all, if you are disagreeable, you may get people angry with you or you might turn off your friends. Disagreeable people may come off as judgmental or cold.

But people who are highly agreeable are often too nice. And that can be a huge problem.

Remember, that if you are highly agreeable, you want other people to like you. As a result, you may not want to say things to other people that might upset them. That means that you will not stick up for yourself in lots of situations. You may not tell a friend or significant other that you are not interested in going to an event that they want to attend. You may not tell someone else that they have upset you. You probably have a hard time asking for a raise.

What can you do if you find that you’re being too nice?  Here are a few suggestions.

COLUMN: The Perils of Being a People Pleaser

Say what you mean. Agreeable people often speak indirectly when they want to criticize or to disagree. If you and your friends are deciding on a plan, and someone suggests something that you don’t enjoy doing, don’t say something vague like, “That isn’t my favorite thing,” or “I guess that is ok.” Be more direct. It is ok to say, “I don’t enjoy that.” You may not always get your way, but at least your opinion will be known.

Write what you can’t say. One problem with not expressing yourself directly is that you may end up resenting people who always get their way. Rather than putting yourself in a position where you may resent others, try to find some way to communicate with them. Writing can help. When you write a note or email to someone else, you distance yourself from their direct reaction. That can be helpful for starting a difficult conversation. While it is always better to speak to someone directly than to write to them, it is better to write than to say nothing at all.

Engage your friends. Often, when you have to say something that you are afraid might offend someone, you assume the worst. You begin to believe that someone else will take what you have to say in the worst possible way. In the end, it is easy to talk yourself out of communicating at all, because you fear a negative reaction.

In those cases, find a neutral friend and explain the situation. Tell them what you plan to say and get their reaction. Sometimes, your friend may suggest other ways of approaching the interaction. But, often, your friends will help you to realize that your complaint is not going to cause a huge rift. That can give you the confidence to say what you need to say.

In the end, the key is to make sure that you communicate with people as directly as possible. When you are a nice person, that communication can be difficult. But, in the end, it will make your relationships stronger.

MORE: The Health Benefits of Expressing Anger

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