Social Question

tranquilsea's avatar

Is there such a thing as being too nice and having serious consequences because of it?

Asked by tranquilsea (17655points) July 27th, 2010

We are gearing up for our trip and my husband made a comment about the portion of time I’ll be driving on my own without him. He told my daughter that I needed to be less pleasant with people with the inference that by being pleasant and chatty opens me to a world of trouble.

The only time I can think of where I was chatting pleasantly to someone and it ended up causing a lot of problems was when I was 15. The guy I was talking to ended up stalking me for a time. But he never harmed me. I can’t count the number of people who I have had the pleasure of talking to and it has made me a richer person for it.

I can kind of see his point, but I don’t like to be paranoid. I think there is a difference between naively friendly and wisely friendly. I’m a naturally friendly person as people really interest me. I don’t know how to shut that off or, whether I should.

So, do you believe that friendly people open themselves up to abuse and harm?

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26 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@tranquilsea I’m the same way, I’ll chat with anyone, but I’m male and big enough I don’t worry about it too much. On the other side, there are some creeps out there, usually of my gender, but not always. It’s a risk, you just have to evaluate the risks to you, as well as your daughter. If I were hubby, I’d be a little concerned about you, just in general.

kevbo's avatar

Being wisely friendly, to me, means that you are aware that some people use friendliness to con people (to whatever extent) and that some other people only understand or respect dysfunctional relationship dynamics such as confrontation or bullying. It also means you can tell the difference between these people and normal, friendly people. Generally, these kinds of people show their hand right away, albeit in subtle ways, so it’s not difficult most of the time to make that distinction more or less right away if you are paying attention.

stardust's avatar

I consider myself fairly friendly and I’ll admit it’s brought me a bit of bother at times – nothing too earth shattering. Overall, I think being wisely friendly is key. I think you can feel when somethings adrift with another and if you tap into that, then things should be fine.

Austinlad's avatar

My mother, being a late-in-life arrival and the youngest of six, was taught to be afraid of almost everything, and it took her many years of living and no small amount of therapy to reduce some of that fear. I, on theother hand, was taught always to trust and “go for it,” but that caused me some problems along the way. My point: one has to balance trust with caution.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

This sucks that we have to even consider this.:(

tranquilsea's avatar

I should say that I understand that being naive about the world can cause problems. I was naive as a teenager but I’m not anymore. I have a very good creep meter and I have plans on how to avoid those situations and deal with them should they arise.

It is a little nerve racking driving so far on my own with the kids. The fact that we’ve recently had a case in Alberta of an older couple who’ve gone missing but everybody knows that they are probably dead has not helped in the feeling secure department. But that is an anomaly in Canada.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Dont be over trusting of others. Being friendly and chatty is fine, but as others said, some will use your friendlyness and trusting against you.

Just pay attention and stay on your toes, you’ll be fine.

mrentropy's avatar

Yes. For a lot of reasons.

Fly's avatar

You sound exactly like my French teacher, who has managed to get herself stalked three times just by being a very nice person. There is definitely such a thing as being too nice. Just the fact that you say that you already have a “very good creep meter” says to me that you’re not as cautious as you should be. I’m not saying that you should stop being nice, but maybe try to tone it down a little until you know said person better and can be fairly certain that they’re not going to take your niceness the wrong way.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Know that there are some people who expect to be able to take advantage because women are usually taught to be kind and considerate of others at all times. What I’ve learned is to simply pay attention. Sure, be civil, of course, but always pay attention, and you can usually pick up on what’s happening in your interactions with others and adjust your behaviour accordingly.

tranquilsea's avatar

@Fly why would my saying that I’ve got a good creep meter indicate to you that I am incautious?

Aethelwine's avatar

Haha, I have “being too nice” listed in my profile under Fields of Expertise. It has gotten me hurt many times. I try to be a bit more careful now.

hope you have a safe trip @tranquilsea.

blueberry_kid's avatar

Totally, Im just not sure exactly why.

Cruiser's avatar

Some people, especially lonely and desperate people can’t differentiate between friendly and “interested” in something more than just being friendly. Interactions can shift directions in a hurry the minute that boundary is crossed or perceived as something it’s not despite your wanting to just be your friendly self.

Out on your trip you “won’t be in Kanasas anymore” and people won’t know you and you won’t know them and it’s best to be safe than sorry is all I think your husband is referring to!

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I’m friendly enough,but I’ll also kick your ass ;)
One should just be aware of their surroundings and the behaviour of the person they’re speaking with.

BoBo1946's avatar

yep, everyone steps on me! :~( poor little old me!

wundayatta's avatar

On another website, there are a lot of women who announce in no uncertain terms that everyone who fans them must write a letter of explanation if they want to be friended. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and having been fanned, myself, by a number of people who I have never heard of, I also find it a little creepy.

I guess on this other site it’s different because there seems to be a prevailing custom that if someone fans you, you fan them back and become friends. Which, surprisingly, gets me to my point (I hadn’t planned to go this route).

I think that the custom in many people’s minds is that if you are friendly to someone, they should be friendly back. Further, if you are both friendly to each other, then that means you are friends, with all the expectations that people have of their friends.

New Yorkers are famously “unfriendly” but thats a life saving skill. You can’t have two million friends, especially with so many as off beat as you find in the City.

In the Midwest, the tradition is different. It’s expected that you say hello to just about everyone you pass. I think this is done in the South, and maybe even the West, outside of the ocean communities. Part of this is because there are just fewer people around. You expect to know everyone. Part of it is because it’s the culture. Part of it, I bet, is because these communities have traditionally been very homogeneous, which makes it much easier to see others as part of your tribe. When they look different, things start to change, I’ll bet.

The problem is that just as we should not be automatically prejudiced against those who look different from us, neither should we be automatically be prejudiced towards someone because they look like us.

It comes down to this: can you be friendly with someone without them mistaking it for more than it is, and without them mistaking you as someone that is easy prey. Predators can look just like your people.

So, is it safer to treat everyone as a predator until proven otherwise, or is it possible to treat everyone nicely until they have proven themselves to be unworthy of the niceness? Further, if they are unworthy, does having treated them nicely make them more likely to bother you than had you given them the cold shoulder in the first place?

I think your husband believes that by being nice to everyone, you invite more trouble for yourself. I think he believes it doesn’t matter how good your radar is. If you start out by treating someone nice, then even when you turn around, they press on far longer than they would with someone who had been mean in the first place. In other words, you are inviting trouble.

He probably knows that men are always looking for a woman to be nice to them, and once they meet one, many men think that means the woman likes them. Or at least is open to them. Predators may think that a friendly woman is going to be easier to take on than a less friendly women. This is because, often, women who are nice have a much harder time saying “no” than other women. These women are nice up to the last minute, and sometimes even further.

My wife is a city girl, now. She grew up in the suburbs, but she has lived in the city for decades. She is very cautious. She is teaching our kids to be very cautious. She won’t go out after dark in our neighborhood, and worries about me when I go out. I feel like I have good radar and know how to stay away from trouble.

Last week, we heard someone screaming for help outside. Half the neighborhood came out to see what happened. 911 was called. Fire trucks and ambulances came.

There was a man who had been the object of a seemingly random act of violence. Someone had come up on him, hit him on the head with an object of some kind, and taken off, not even pausing to steal something. My wife uses this as an excuse to lock us up tighter than the space station. We are in danger of never letting the kids out for anything. We are in danger of never seeing our neighbors.

We hate to see danger everywhere, but we also need to see it where it exists. Should we err on the side of caution? Does that cost us too much in terms of human relationships?

If you go on being as friendly as you are, and nothing happens, does that prove that your view of human nature is right, or that you are merely lucky? If you cut back on your friendliness and stay away from people and nothing happens, did your behavior help you, or was it unnecessary? There are a couple of other possibilities: you could be friendly and be subjected to something bad, or you could be unfriendly and be subjected to something bad. In either case, is there any relationship between your behavior and the bad thing that happened?

I don’t think it is possible to know. I think that, in the end, it’s best to be who you are. It does no good to try to change yourself, even for your spouse. Especially for your spouse. Take this as a sign of his concern. He’s worried. He cares. Thank him for that.

Hit the road, and be yourself. You really have no other choice.

tranquilsea's avatar

@wundayatta Great answer.

I’ve had bad things happen to me. I did retreat into my shell to recover and heal. What I’ve come to understand is that there are no guarantees. I could be quiet and aloof but that won’t guarantee my safety. I have to be me. To be anything other than that is to give in to the creeps out there.

When bad things happen there is a desire to put some meaning into them. To understand them in an effort to stop bad things from happening again. But they are random and I don’t have a crystal ball.

Fly's avatar

@tranquilsea Just the fact that you seem to be fairly confident that you will be able to tell that someone is a creep implies that you would most likely not be too careful based on the fact that you believe will just be able tell if something is off. While it is easy to tell in several cases, many of said creeps are hard to detect if you’re not looking for it, and some even if you are.
That being said, I don’t know you well at all, so who am I to say that this is true about you? That is just the vibe that I got from your answer.

Coloma's avatar

No.

I am naturally very outgoing, love to chat up people and have never had any, even remote issue or ‘trouble’ with being my happy go lucky, humorous and verbose self!

I think it is the exact OPPOSITE, far more risk of being seen as a humorless, stick in the mud stuck up, by being closed off and paranoid.

iIke attracts like and I always have some of the best conversations with ‘perfect’ strangers.

Actually I think I just charmed my way into a big fat credit increase playing with a customer service rep on the phone this afternoon.

The cheerful and perky bird gets the worm!

mrentropy's avatar

@Coloma Yes, but there is a point where you can be too nice. And I mean being nice by doing favors or helping people. Once in a while isn’t bad, but sometimes people decide that you’re there for their beck and call. When you finally put your foot down and say, ‘No more!’ then you turn into the bad guy/girl.

Being nice needs to be tempered with not going overboard.

And, as I’m sure has been mentioned, when some women are nice, there are guys who take being nice and pleasant as “she’s into me!”

Coloma's avatar

@mrentropy

Oh yeah, of course.

I am talking about a general extroverted & happy nature, not co-dependancy!

I got a handle on that years ago. lolol

As far as men taking a general friendly conversation or encounter as a come on…well..that’s their problem. haha

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

There was a young man at work, and we’d chat briefly every day when he came on duty. One day, he called me up and asked if I could meet him because he had just purchased a car that was stick shift and didn’t know how to drive it. I met him there, we exchanged cars, (mine was automatic at the time), and drove back to his parents’ home. He also asked for a few lessons on how to drive stick shift, so we set up a date/time, went out to a parking lot with a hill, where he could practice stopping and starting midway up.

A few weeks later, he came into work and told me that on his day off, he had driven 2½ hours to my hometown to see where I grew up, including driving by my parent’s house. Talk about sending chills down a spine and having the hair raise up on the back of the neck. Nothing evil ever happened, but it was creepy enough to teach me to be a bit more cautious.

perspicacious's avatar

The answer to your posted question is yes. However, I do not see what your narrative has to do with it.

BoBo1946's avatar

yes, but sometimes, you have no options. Hard to fight “city hall!” No worse feeling than having the feeling someone ran over you and got away with it. Your “guts” hurts so bad when this happen. My does.

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