When It Hurts To Be Nice

I have a realtor, or I should say I had a realtor, because as of today she’s no longer my realtor. I’m sure she’s plenty nice, but she wasn’t getting the job done, a.k.a. not working to find me a home to buy. That’s what realtors do, right?

I don’t have time to mess around. I fly out next week. I have four days to see homes, make my decision and hand over our life savings.

My realtor, whom I met over the phone and via email, has taken all of five minutes to set up an automated MLS listing service that spits out available homes to my inbox every morning, (so it looks like she’s working). Cool trick.

On three occasions I’ve asked her to show my sister-in-law, who lives in St. George, a home I might want to buy. She does manage to show up with the key and watch as my sister-in-law Facetime’s me with all the details, but that’s it. No follow-up email. No, what did you think? No love.

All I want is a little bit of, “This neighborhood will be perfect for you, there’s a park around the corner and the kids can walk to school!” Or “I know the carpet looks dingy but with some new flooring and paint and this place is gonna sing like a soprano.” Okay, I’m not asking for a color commentator, I don’t need metaphors, but I do need more information than what a guy at the local McDonald’s could supply. Communicate pleeease!

Pros and cons. Give me an opinion of the property. Let me know if the yard is maintained or if it has good resale value. Anything!

I’d actually found myself feeling depressed about finding a home, as if the situation were dire. That’s when I stopped and asked myself, why do I feel this way? And my subconscious provided…

Because you have a non-energetic, no-pulse realtor.

Ugh! I needed to end the relationship.

But how?

How did I let her down easy? I didn’t want this person who wasn’t helping me to feel like she wasn’t helping me. Hmm… I thought of different things I could say…Yeah we’re just not in the market anymore, or, we’ve decided to move to Alaska. (‘cause that’s always a good one).

I went online to see how other people dismissed their realtors. My short little google search turned up loads of complaints, ranging from, “I didn’t get the home of my dreams because my realtor never put in the offer” or “I can’t get my realtor to return calls.” Most people, turns out, go through 3-4 realtors before they find the one they like. That makes sense, given that buying a home is a highly personal decision and you need someone who has your vision.

What struck me as really odd, though, was the amount of time I was spending trying so hard to be nice to this person who wasn’t helping me. We had no contract, no written or unwritten agreement about anything. Yet I was having real angst about saying, “Look, it’s over, I just can’t go on like this,” as if we’d had seven great years together and tragically it was ending.

Where does that feeling of having to be nice all the time come from?

And it’s not just to realtors. Now that I’m on the subject, I try to be nice to everyone. It’s the right thing to do. Show kindness. But if you’re hiring someone to do a job, be that a doctor, dentist, landscaper, contractor, then there’s a point where niceness can hurt you if you’re not getting what you need.

Of course we don’t want to be rude. We want to feel like a good person who treats people fairly. It’s part of what we as humans get to do with our advanced cerebral cortex—understand the nuanced social graces of politeness. (Gorillas aren’t concerned with social graces.) We like to hear please and thank you. And phrases like, “Don’t you look nice today!” or “Have you lost weight?”

But women of my generation, raised to be nice girls, get a little tripped up over the word “nice.” And double whammy if you’re Christian because not only are you trying to be nice, you’re trying to do what Jesus would do.

What would Jesus do?

He would hug lepers.

I’m 100% in favor of good manners and helping the helpless. But when I’m paying someone to do a job, then the niceness needs to flow both ways. I think Jesus would agree. Jesus also taught honesty, standing up for the truth and being direct.

Al Pacino said, “The hardest thing about being famous is that people are always nice to you. You’re in a conversation and everybody’s agreeing with what you’re saying—even if you say something totally crazy. You need people who can tell you what you don’t want to hear.”

My parents, God love them, are the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. But I saw them get taken advantage of because of their niceness. They’d hire people who didn’t have a clue about building, but needed work, to remodel their home; then a year later, hire a professional to fix what was built. Thank goodness the day some out-of-work folks called them up (who knew about their legendary niceness), and asked them to buy them an ice cream truck so they could start a business (in the middle of winter in PA) my parents said “No.” But in a really really nice way. After that the people never spoke to them again. Hmm…nice, huh?

Not everyone has read “The Four Agreements,” by Miguel Ruiz. Not everyone is impeccable with his or her word nor does his or her best. But the great thing about following both of these axioms is that you can have integrity in everything you do. You can speak the truth and avoid regret and judgment—that’s being nice.

“Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama.” ~Miguel Ruiz

Do you have a lot of drama in your life? Are you frustrated? Do you keep people in your life even though they’re not keeping up their end of the bargain? Maybe your real problem is that you’re being too nice.

Be nice to yourself. Be honest. Be direct.

Be clear about what you want and let go of the drama mama!


11 Comments on “When It Hurts To Be Nice

  1. Yea for buying a house! How exciting! And in St. George, such a lovely place. Does this mean some settling down in the future or simply a way to not give away your money in rent? You post is beautifully written as always. Good luck!

    • This is IT Marinda. At least for the next two years. But yes, I’m getting closer to my goal of living in the desert with my artist studio. Maybe a few more years and we can live there permanently. But I’ll always love traveling. This life style has forever altered my DNA of what “home” means.

  2. I’m pretty nice, but my husband–he has no problem telling the truth. I’ve come to rely on him for those nasty situations.

    • Me too Jacqui. But I’m learning to be direct. It’s a gift, for me, that’s come with age. Something I’ve had to learn. See, we do get better as we get older!

  3. Wow – Lana! I really needed to hear this. I’m also getting to the point where I’m realizing that not being entirely honest at times in the name of kindness and then carrying frustration and resentment around with me doesn’t do anyone any favors. Great post! Best of luck with your house hunt!

    • It’s a life lesson I’ve learned in so many ways. This time I could really see where being “kind” was causing our family stress. Life gives enough stress, so why invite more? You know what I mean. What is “kind” way is redefined for me. To be kind you have to be honest–with others and yourself. That’s the bottom line. Glad you agree. Thanks for your comment!

  4. Amen! Words I need reminded of time and time and time again. I am learning that it is far more valued to be honest/respected/drama+anxiety-free than to be liked. Because who really wants friends who couldn’t handle the truth, anyhow?
    So, how does the story end? How did you break it off with your Realtor?

    • I told her the truth in a very nice way. I thought I was doing her a service by letting her know why she was losing a client. She told me she thought she was doing everything possible to help me. We agreed to disagree. I walked away feeling more self respect, knowing I did the right thing. That felt really good.

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