• Dynamic...
  • Inspiring...
  • Entertaining...
  • Principle-Based...
  • Immediately, Effective...
  • Bob Burg

“A no-nonsense approach to building your business through relationships.”

~ Jane Applegate, syndicated Los Angeles Times columnist

Are You Confusing “Nice” with Something Else?

March 12th, 2013 by Bob Burg

Confusing nice with being a doormat

Do you ever hear people say things like, “that person is too nice.” Usually, the context is that, “he or she is so nice that they are constantly being taken advantage of.”

Please understand this is based on the very false premise that “nice” and “taken advantage of” have any natural correlation. They do not.

Don’t confuse being nice with being a doormat. If you are nice AND being taken advantage of, it’s not because you are nice. It’s because you are allowing yourself to be taken advantage of.

If this seems to happen to you on a regular basis, begin to operate from a place of conscious awareness; ask yourself, do I simply not know how to tactfully (but effectively) set boundaries and say no?

Or, is there an “emotional payoff” to allowing myself to be taken advantage of?

Remember, while “nice/kind” is a natural state of being…being taken advantage of is not.

Please do not confuse the two. How are you doing in this regard?


Have you checked out our new whiteboard animation video of The Go-Giver yet? It’s a brief, fun overview of the story’s message. I hope you enjoy it. And, if you do, please feel free to share it. http://www.burg.com/tgg

15 Responses to “Are You Confusing “Nice” with Something Else?”
  1. Kumar Gauraw said at 8:22 am on

    Hi Bob,

    This is an excellent topic and there have been instances when I felt a few people thought they ‘took advantage’ of my “being nice’.
    If I look back and think through those instances, I know for sure it was hard for even those people to imagine I could be doormat. Yet they seemed to enjoy the benefit of me being nice ( as they seemed not to feel grateful for what I did for them).
    I give credit to my lack of understanding or “ignorance on my part” if you will. But, as soon as I stopped my favors and let them know why I stopped, they seemed to become grateful for what I had done for them so far πŸ™‚ Isn’t it amazing how sometimes it works?

    While “emotional payback” might be true in some cases, for a lot of people, I think it’s more to do with the fact that they do not take time to think if they are being “too nice” sometimes. As you said, being conscious and having the boundaries can help reduce some heartache for sure πŸ™‚


  2. there is a huge distinction in being nice and allowing oneself to be taken advantage of. As they say, you teach people how to behave towards you.

    “If you don’t want to be a doormat, get up off the floor!”

  3. Ross Boardman said at 8:47 am on


    So true. Nice is a very big 4 letter word. We all know a lot of nice people who don’t get walked over. If folks can take the time to treat people in a kind way no matter who they are, this is nice. Nasty gets peoples backs up quickly. Is nice also more patient?

    All the best,


  4. Maria del Pilar Cuadrado said at 9:41 am on

    Hi Bob,

    This post is very timing for me since yesterday I was really upset with a client who try to take advantage of me being nice, and this morning I read a post from Ricky Martin that said: Be kind, but not naive, next I saw your post ;)) So feeling better since I realized I did what I have to with my client, still being nice I keep being professional and say “NO”.

    Reading you today has given me much more confidence and have realized that I acted professionally, which is really important for me, and as you mentioned above, I tactfully (but effectively) sat my boundaries.

    Un abrazo!!

  5. Sherri Henley said at 11:17 am on


    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject. Saying “No” is a must for time management…knowing how to say “No” in a tactful way is an attribute of a relationship builder. Each are attainable to professionals and people in general. It takes discipline and practice to master your comfort level when saying “No”. Here is one of many examples; “At this time I will not be able to accomodate your request and I am honored you would ask”.

  6. Peter Horrill said at 11:37 am on

    Hi Bob! Interesting topic here.. I thought about my response in regards to current focus and self improvement studies.. here’s my input: From a prosperity consciousness viewpoint, love and wisdom are the two guiding principles to govern whether an idea or concept, or “quality of being” I beleive, have the desired “impact”; and ultimately whether one can say they reside in the “kingdom of heavens”.

    Kindness IS “of ” a kingdom of heaven. It’s a very prosperous trait to demonstrate. It communicates much personal strength; a natural quality of being.

    It seemed to me whether one is coming from a prosperity consciousness, or mediocrity consciousness or not would factor in n “how one preceives” kindness..

    Prosperity conscious people, trained in the (dynamic) laws of prosperity, “expect” and even “demand” kindness I beleive. Kindness is the forerunner to prosperity really..

    We are immersed in God’s kindness, all around us! If one is in tune to that and they have no “worthiness issues”, kindness is prevalent, abundant and foundational to true “appropriation” of the great life, at the very least the good life!

    To summarize then, if you’re in tune with “you’re birthright” of prosperity, one respects kindness and doesn’t abuse it. Prosper humility is the watchword of the day..

    Kindness is powerful! It’s one of God’s intentions.. so it all depends on quality of consciousness and a person’s “self image” as to how they respond to people showing “niceness” or kindness..

    I know many nice, kind people, “stuck” in mediocrity consciousness; that is their context and level of communication. Someone in prosperity consciousness might “see” kindness in a much “broader” way

    This topic provoked me to see the importance of the contrast between prosperity consciousness, mediocrity consciousness and even poverty consciousness. People in poverty consciousness, it seems to me, would be much more likely to “take advantage” of kind, nice people..

    What do you think?

    Thought I’d share a few of my thoughts on this topic..

  7. Lene Jytte Hansen said at 12:38 pm on

    Hello Bob! πŸ™‚
    This is SOOO true. I made that mistake earlier in my life – I had that misunderstanding, that you had to agree to be nice!!!! SO I did what I learned from home – were nice and by that tried to please everyone.
    A LOT of grown-ups live with this misunderstanding most of their life!
    In my oppinion – I’m always nice (almost always) – but I definately don’t agree on every ones oppinion – that IS 2 completely different things – GREAT topic Bob! LOVE it (and you my dear friend). And I LOVE your comparence with the consciousness. You cannot be taken advantage of unless you give your consent – and in my oppinion that is very BAD behavior and actually lying to the person you let DO this and cheating on yourself. That is treason towards yourself and your fellow beings!!!! And yes – It’s definately linked to mediocre success and mindset and is full of people that want to take advantage of you.
    Successful people don’t need to take advantage – they have achieved the power of strength to even make others “SEE” this viewpoint is the true energy source – that never runs out or gets smaller by using it – it’s without limits!!!! This “without limits is by the way a common denominator” for this level of living – you tap into a pool of limitless energy, ideas and enlightment.
    I’m definately not always “there” but I’ve tasted it too many times to ignore this as a fact. It’s just how it is – believe it or not.
    Being kind can even saying NO as you also sugest. GOSH I think I could continue talking about this for hours – Bob IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL – LOVE LIFE because of this and now I know I’m getting there, because now I recognise it.
    Thank’s for this AWESOME ARTICLE AND TOPIC πŸ™‚

  8. Lene Jytte Hansen said at 12:44 pm on

    Lot of GREAT comments here πŸ™‚

  9. Sean O'Shea said at 1:54 pm on

    Love, love, love, love, love LOVE this Bob! πŸ™‚ I’ve heard you talk about this distinction before, and the simple truth of it never fails to get me revved up! πŸ™‚



  10. Hello Bob,
    I very much enjoy your insights and appreciate that you share them.
    I’m a kind/nice person by nature and probably always will be. Kindness is shown to me by others regularly. You have to be taken advantage of but once and a lesson should be learned.
    I used to extend myself to prospective associates. Giving of my time and expertise and to be disappointed. The point I’m making is there are lesson’s to learn by all. Even those that I allowed to take advantage of my generosity learned very important lessons at my expense. As you stated boundaries must be set and I have set up mine.

    Thank you again for provoking good thoughts on improving the day to day challenges faced by so many.

  11. Hi Bob,
    Great article as always Bob and food for thought. It’s lovely to be nice and sometimes nice involves knowing how and when to say NO like you rightly point out in your article.
    It’s nice to know that one’s doormat is safely outside one’s door and that inside all is well πŸ™‚
    Smiles from The English Sisters

  12. Jan Payne said at 7:52 pm on

    If this is you, choose to change! Find your β€œNO!” The word no is a complete sentence! It is! There is no need to explain. It is not necessary to find some kind of an excuse! Find your β€œNO!”

  13. Bob Burg said at 9:04 pm on

    Hi All – My apologies for not responding individually and in a more timely basis. If I may, I’m going to respond now (but responses might be rather brief) πŸ™‚

    Kumar: Thank you. Great, and well-though out points, as always!

    Claire: Terrific way to put it!

    Ross: Great. Thank you for sharing!

    Maria: Que awesome. Sounds like you handled it perfectly. And, I think Ricky Martin’s quote was right on! I appreciate you, Amiga. Un abrazo back at ya’!

    Sherri: Excellent points and a great example. And, yes, the way you tactfully said no is very congruent with how I did that in the example I linked to. Great!

    Peter: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!

    To be continued πŸ™‚ …

  14. Bob Burg said at 9:18 pm on

    Lene: Thank you. Beautifully expressed and powerfully said! Regards to all in Denmark for me!

    Sean: Greatly appreciated, my brother. Thank you!

    Leila: Thank you so much for sharing with us!

    English Sisters: Hello, my friends. I LOVE the metaphor you used. Thank you for sharing with us!

    Jan: Love ya’ my friend, and I appreciate you sharing with us. I must respectfully take issue with couple of points, if I may:
    Point #1 Is “NO” really a complete sentence? To me, that seems less like self-respect and more like disrespect to another. And I know you well enough to know that that is not you at all. One can say “no” with tact, diplomacy and respect.
    Which brings me to…
    Point #2 You wrote: “It is not necessary to find some kind of excuse.” I totally agree; not only is it not necessary; it is actually very counter-productive to do so. Again though, saying “no” kindly and diplomatically does not in any way imply being wishy-washy or making excuses. If you’ll read the two-part article I linked to in the above post, you’ll see that, while I provide suggested framing and language that is very diplomatic, I absolutely make the point to not make excuses, both for practical and other reasons.
    Above all, when done correctly, we can say “no” in a way that respects our boundaries AND communicates to the other person that we value and respect them.

  15. A wonderful point to mention, Bob. And there’s also an other side to this coin. Some people think when you don’t say “no,” mostly because you’re a generous person in heart, or just to make the other person happy with good intentions, others may think of you as a “weak” person, whereas generosity comes from strength, not weakness. And saying “no” sometimes may mean protecting the person you say no.

Leave a Reply