How Being “Nice” Hurts Your Finances

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Everyone should be kind. But that’s quite different than being “nice.”

According to Wikipedia:

The term”nice guy syndrome” can be used to describe a man who views himself as a prototypical “nice guy,” but whose “nice deeds” are deemed to be solely motivated by a desire to court women.

A nice guy does certain things that appear, on their face, to be nice, but he doesn’t do these actions just to be nice – no, he has an agenda. In his mind he’s thinking, if I do X nice things for a girl, then she should date me. But the girl never agreed to any of this. The way you recognize a “nice guy” is that when he doesn’t get the results he expected, he gets really upset and the nice actions stop. He views these women as leading him on.

This isn’t a phenomenon solely for men though. I’ve seen women also make these mental contracts. I’ve known women who act believing that if she does certain things, the guy she’s dating will want her to be his girlfriend, or will propose or will be a better husband.  And then when the guy doesn’t call, doesn’t propose, doesn’t pick up the extra chores, she’s upset. She views these men as players.

In both these “nice people’s” minds is the idea that the other person should have known that the nice guy/girl wouldn’t have done these things without some quid pro quo arrangement. The nice guy/girl held up his/her end of the deal so where was their reward?

So what’s a nice guy/girl to do?

Well, I’m a lawyer so I’m going to say “Make a contract.” But you probably won’t.

The problem with “nice guys” or “nice girls” is that you can only control your own actions. If you expect people to read your mind, you’ll generally be disappointed. Even if they could read your mind, it doesn’t mean that they’ll do what you want them to do. If you need someone else to do something in order to make your actions worth it, either state your intentions and get an agreement or don’t do it.

What does this have to do with finances?

Just like in relationships, you can only control your own actions when it comes to your finances; you don’t have control over results and you don’t have control over anyone else. The important thing here is acknowledging the contracts you are making in your own head. For instance:

You’re killing yourself at work, but no one agreed to promote you.

You write blog posts based on what you perceive other people want to read, but no one agreed to read it.

If you’re acting like a “nice guy/girl” these are reasonable things to do but these actions will only lead to resentment. Instead, you need to ask yourself why you’re doing the things you do. If you find your work intrinsically rewarding, then keep on doing it. If you would only do certain activities if you get a certain return, then you have to ask for it and do what it takes to get the other person to agree. If what you’re asking them to do sounds hideous to ask (if I am nice to you, then you will work for free), then don’t expect a great response.Even if the other person agrees to your terms, you should always act as if the return is uncertain. That means, if it’s something you really don’t want to do, you really shouldn’t do it.

I know everyone says doing what you love is terrible advice. It’s true that it’s a dicey proposition to do what you love and expect to make a living from it. But the worst part of doing what you love is that you might not get paid; you still spent your time doing what you love. If you aren’t doing what you love, you better make sure you are getting something worthwhile in return.

5 thoughts on “How Being “Nice” Hurts Your Finances

  1. “Everyone should be kind. But that’s quite different than being “nice.” ”

    I like that quote. Did you come up with that yourself?

    My younger self was not sophisticated enough to understand the difference of being kind and being nice. Being kind seems to be more of an innate personality trait. Whereas being nice seems more superficial, and like you said.. possibly with the intent of having ulterior motives.

    No one ever says: “Alright, no more Mr. Kind guy!!!”

    1. I did come up with that quote myself! I do like “No more Mr. Kind Guy!” Might steal it.

      Being nice does seem superficial. Kindness is where it’s at.

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