When Nice Is Cruel

broken-mirror-cloudsIs your niceness killing people, softly?

Niceness, politeness, and diplomacy are generally considered positive attributes. And for the past part, they are — if people weren’t as nice social relations wouldn’t run as smoothly, new environments would be unwelcoming, and life would generally be less pleasant. But the more discerning notice that niceness isn’t always what it’s hailed to be, and can even be the opposite of what it seems, that is, it can be cruel.

In my experience the Nicely Cruel manifest in three broad types, which can overlap but which each have their own particular motivations. The Nicely Cruel all have one thing in common — they expect something in return for their nice deeds.

The Martyr

The Martyr is probably the most obvious and well-known of the Kindly Cruel. The Martyr makes a lifestyle of doing things for others and sacrificing their own well-being so that others are taken care of. Somewhere along the line the Martyr decided that their life’s purpose was to help other people and become known as the “good” person.

The hitch to the martyr’s endless giving is clear after some time — they expect you to do endlessly for them as well. The problem comes when you’re not aware of this implicit agreement and take the Martyr’s gifts as just that. Then the Martyr attempts to guilt you into returning the favors or brands you a selfish and “bad” person.

The Good Guy (or Girl)

Not to be confused with The Nice Guy ™

The Good Guy’s niceness stems from an overwhelming need to see himself as a nice and “good” person, and to have others see him this way as well. This desire is so strong that the Good Guy will do what others ask without thinking about whether he really wants to do it or not.

The issue with the Good Guy comes when he realizes, or comes to terms with, the fact that he is just like everyone else; not so “good” after all and never wanted to do any of the things he did. Once he comes to this realization he will either take back his gifts or if that is not possible, bitterly denounce the persons who received them. People are left bewildered at how such a Good Guy could turn out to be anything but, and what they did to cause his passive-aggressive frustration.

Needless to say the Good Guy is often, if not always, a passive personality.

“Never Say No”s

The Never Say Nos are easy to understand — they never say no. And because they never say no they end up doing many things they would rather not. But why do they never say no? Well, because it’s simply not nice! And being nice is of the utmost importance.

What the Never Say No wants is simply for you to acknowledge that they are a very nice person. And should you ever imply that they are not that nice or that their favors aren’t that noteworthy, then they will suddenly begin to say no. Why not, since you don’t see that they are such a nice person? Their favors would be lost on such an ungrateful person.

Anyone else have experience with the Nicely Cruel?

See also:

Black Women and The Martyr Complex


So much for the myth of the strong black woman.

Black women in America have historically taken on the role of the martyr — one who suffers for a cause or belief. During and after slavery in the United States, black women sacrificed their own needs and well-being for the benefit of others.

Over time, many black women have developed not only the role of the martyr, but the mindset of the martyr. They have come to see themselves as the eternal victim, specially chosen to endure pain and sacrifice their happiness for others. In contradiction to their outward appearance of resilience and ability, some black women indulge in unending victimhood, and consider pain and hardship a basic aspect of their existence.

This martyr complex is easy to observe, if one looks in the right places. Magazines catered to black women, online forums and blogs where black women participate, and conversations among black women offer many examples. In such venues it is not uncommon to hear rants and complaints from black women on everything from beauty standards to career.

For every martyr, victimhood fulfills certain needs. What do black women gain from the martyr syndrome?

1. An explanation

Believing that one’s fate in life is to endure pain provides an explanation for suffering, if a simple and unchangeable one. If black women are destined to suffer, an individual black woman’s problems in life are simply the fulfillment of this fate. There is no need to reflect or determine if one’s problems are due to any personal failings. There is no need to improve.

2. A sense of belonging

People enjoy bonding and feeling like they are part of a community. They appreciate this sense of belonging even if their only tie to others in their community is shared trials and frustration. By joining together in martyrdom, black women feel less alone in any struggles they may be having.

3. The biggest loser

Martyrs gain a sense of self and identity from their suffering. No one suffers as much as they do, no one is as honorable in their ability to bear difficulties. The martyr is strengthened from being broken down. This sense of misery provides relief for black women. Even if they can’t win at anything else, black women can win at one thing — losing.

But no matter the benefits the martyr complex appears to offer in the short-run, it is more damaging than anything else. Martyrs hold themselves back from their maximum potential in life. They strain themselves mentally and emotionally by making experience of pain a life priority. Martyrs make life for those around them more difficult with their negativity and constant victimhood.

Black women would be better served by concentrating less energy on the victim complex and more energy on finding or creating solutions to any issues they may come up against in life. True peace and happiness are more uplifting than martyrdom.

The Manipulative Personality

manipulative-personalityManipulators attempt to indirectly control or influence the actions and behavior of others. Instead of being direct with their methods, the manipulator uses underhanded tactics to force their will. Because they are subtle, the manipulative personality easily goes undetected and overlooked, and the person or people being manipulated don’t realize what’s going on until it’s too late. Or not at all. They may believe that they are obligated to do what the manipulator wishes, and feel guilty if they don’t. The manipulative personality may be a family member, friend, or colleague.

With experience or learning, the manipulative personality is much easier to recognize. But many people learn through hard experience what manipulative behavior looks like, and it doesn’t have to be that way. The safest way to learn about the manipulative personality is from a distance, from those who have studied these personalities.

Experts agree that there are three main types of manipulative personality:

  • The Narcissist — The Narcissist is the ultimate manipulator. They are egotistic, self-absorbed and feel entitled to nearly everything they desire. They lack empathy and consideration for others, so they will easily manipulate to their own gain. They think it is their right to have others do what they say.
  • The Needy — The Needy person is the most difficult type of manipulator to let go of. They are experts at making you feel sorry for them, and making you feel like you are the only person that can help them. Some Needy personalities don’t realize that they are manipulative. They have learned to depend on others for their needs, and simply don’t know how to get along without help. They may cry or become offended when accused of manipulation. Those that realize they are manipulative may become passive-aggressive in their attempts to regain control.
  • The Martyr — This type of personality will give you everything — but at a price. They will do you favors, give you special attention, and be overly considerate, but they expect much in return. Their giving is tied to their desire to be considered a “good person” or be considered important to another person. They “cash in” on the favors they’ve done for you to get you to comply with their wishes. Common phrases heard from the Martyr include, “After all I’ve done for you” and “I would do it for you.”

The most common methods of manipulation are flattery, guilt-tripping, repetition, assumption, confrontation, and gaslighting: a way of twisting information in such a way that the person being manipulated begins to doubt their own perceptions and memory.

The best way to deal with a manipulative personality is to acknowledge their ways outright and respond calmly, and even turn their own tactics against them. The manipulator is counting on you to be surprised, confused, and overreact to them, so don’t be. If they say “After all that I’ve done for you!” reply “I’m very grateful for all that you’ve done. Why do you think I’m not? That’s not very nice of you.”

Once the manipulator realizes that they can’t affect you in the way that they want, and can’t influence your thoughts or actions, they will move on. And even if they don’t — you’re safe. Manipulation is all about control, and once you figure out the manipulative personality, they are no longer in control.

Do you have any experience with manipulative personalities? Do you have tips for how to deal with manipulation?

See also: