When Nice Doesn’t Cut It

I’ve decided to veer off the techie side for this week (until tomorrow’s Fetching Friday, of course). It’s been an emotional week, and one during which I have made some interesting self-discoveries.

The biggest one that I have been learning over the past few months is that nice doesn’t cut it when it comes to getting what you want, and in some cases, deserve. I’ve always been one to be as nice as much as possible when it comes to dealing with other people. I let things slide, I take their feelings into account before my own, I don’t get upset at the people I should get upset at, so on and so forth.

But there have been situations recently that have really required me going against my nature and stepping into the “dark side” as I would like to call it. When you can’t get things done being nice, it is time to start putting your foot down.

Executive Email Carpet Bomb

My first real experience of not playing nice was with a particular financial institution. I have gotten fees that I thought were unfair, and have called in, and let the customer service rep explain their “reasoning” and not pushed it any further, assuming that if they say no, there is nothing more I could do about it. Then one day, I got fees that there was no good explanation for. The customer service rep, as always, told me how “their” system works and why the fees were non-reversible.

So, because customer service was not understanding my point, I took it a step further and sent what is known as an executive email carpet bomb. In this letter, I explained why their system sucked, why I deserved to have the fees reversed, and exactly what I would do if I didn’t receive appropriate resolution, which not only included leaving their institution, but also making sure that they’re name was attached to some detailed articles all around the web about all the reasons of why I left. I also threw in my SEO skills, so that it would be clear that those articles would be found by their potential customers.

The result? I got a call the next business day from the assistant to one of the many upper level executives that received my email. She was actually really nice (nothing like the customer service reps had been) and talked to me for almost an hour, explaining how their system works and how the fees happened. But she also listened to my side and understood why I saw the fees as undeserved. My fees were credited the next day.

Trading Services

A pet peeve that has arose as a result of my freelance work is trading services vs. direct payment. If you go in, and get something done, and you pay for it, then it is done. Whereas, if you are trading services where I do this work for you, and you will do some service in exchange for it, you are stuck in a position where you feel like you owe something to them. I don’t like this feeling. There has to be balance.

When we’re having a meeting about the work I am doing for you, I don’t expect to take the hour we have set aside for that meeting to talk about the service you are doing for me. Just the same, when I come in for the service you are doing for me, I don’t want to talk about the work I’m doing for you. Depending on the service, it can put a real negative energy on the situation, making the service become less beneficial, and not really worth the exchange. There has to be a line, saying this is an appointment where we discuss my work for you, and that is an appointment where we discuss the service I am receiving from you. The two should not mix.

Also, if I am able to pay you for something, let me pay you. Don’t reject my money with the “understanding” that I now owe you something later, whatever that may be. Take the cash or do it for free. Your choice. I don’t want to feel obligated to doing some random thing for you down the road that will ultimately end up costing more in time and resources than what you did for me. You doing something for me that takes 10 minutes does not equate to me doing something for you that takes half an hour, two hours, etc. It seems relatively obvious that half an hour of my time is worth more than ten minutes of yours. It’s like you giving me a $10 gift card, with expectation that I will pay you $30 later. No matter how nice you are, you are still taking advantage of me, and I don’t appreciate it.

Putting My Feelings First

This part is a work in progress. A lot of the times, I will do things I don’t want to do, or not do things I want to do, all because I am considering someone else’s feelings before my own. After a nice, long writing session, I realized that approach was not working for me, as I have been missing out on things that I truly wanted to do. So now, I am working towards saying you know what, I want to do this. I’m not going to put it off or wait till later. Or, alternatively, I don’t want to do this, as in, it takes every bit of my emotional and mental stamina to survive this particular event. Why should I put myself through that kind of torture?

Considering the Best Approach

While the above situations have required or will require me to take the not nice as I generally am route, every situation really requires a lot of contemplation of what approach to use in order to get the best results.

  • Will putting your foot down help the other party see your point of view?
  • Will explaining your side of things make you feel better about the situation?
  • Is it possible that positive change could happen?
  • Is the person you are about to make your stand against responsible for the problem?
  • Will taking a stand worsen the situation?
  • Is there any form of retribution the other party may be able to take against you if things should go badly?

There are lots of considerations to make before choosing to make a stand, or standing down. Just be sure that you are doing what is in your best interest, as you are the one who has to live with the circumstances.


  1. says

    This is a wonderful post, Kristi. Of course, I see it in a slightly different way.

    You’re not putting your foot down, because that sounds negative. Instead, you’re claiming what’s rightfully yours, that being to be treated with respect you deserve. You’re only looking for fairness; you’re not looking to get something that you’re not owed.

    Trust me, I’m someone who’s written a share of letters over time. I’m somewhat like you in that I never yell at anyone in customer service, though I have been known to get sarcastic. But when I feel as though I’m being taken advantage of, I’ll write that letter, close that account, and move on.

    I say “good for you!”
    .-= Mitch´s last blog ..Take Responsibility For Your Blogging =-.

  2. says

    I’m proud of you Kristi. It’s nice to just go with the flow but sometimes you need to wake a few people up. Blogging makes it possible to make yourself heard in a way that was never available to regular people before. It’s a new system of checks and balances that can stop big companies from ignoring their customers, and they know it.
    .-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..Why Multitasking is More than Just Inefficient =-.

  3. says

    Kristi, it’s cheerful and important to read a “non-techi” post from time to time because I think we all learn from our expirences. As for this post, it’s exactly as if I wrote myself in case I chaned the situations. I am now 32 years old however I reached your conclusion many years ago, since I was 19.

    Unfortunately Kristi, sometimes people misunderstand how to be ‘nice and gentel’ and tend to abuse this nature so simply we deal with people in as gentelmen/gentelwomen unless thier attitude affect our ‘rights’ so in this case if we didn’t deal to protect our rights, we shall lose them forever, and as you finished your post!

    C’est la vie!
    .-= Hicham´s last blog ..Library Cats =-.

  4. says

    I am no push over and when I recently was a victim of identity thief I was on a rampage. I never stopped until I received answers and compensation.

    That felt good!

    Nice post Kristi – I Like a change of pace once in a while.
    .-= Frank J´s last blog ..The Queen of Conservatives =-.

  5. says

    Hello Kristy!
    This is way what I think sometimes to teach big bully corporates. Media is the power Kristy. Do not think that you have stepping into the dark side, this is the right way to teach such type of organizations who do not care the ethics of business. When you can’t get things done being nice, it is time to start putting your foot down, No it is the time to teach them in thier own way.
    Going a step forward I’d like to suggest that the online media is better way to protect the rights of consumers and consumers like you should be lead to activism. Yes the big things start from very small incidents when someone like you is being hurted emotionally.
    So this is a nice post, I really appriciate it very much.

  6. says


    This is a wonderful post and I have only one suggestion for you in all situations when you call or are face to face with customer service demand to speak to a supervisor. The person who you usually first get patched through too, doesn’t have any authority to make any decisions. He/she is only a mouthpiece for the company. Don’t waste your time at the bottom go straight to the top with your grievances. This will safe you time.
    .-= BunnygotBlog´s last blog ..Lost In A Sea Of Identities =-.

  7. says


    Your post made me think of an old saying my mother always used to tell me, “The squeekey wheel gets the oil.” She would generally enlighten me with this when I was having trouble standing up for myself or getting the credit I rightfully deserved for something.

    In the end if you don’t stand up for yourself many times no one else will. I wouldn’t consider this the “dark side.” Just a part of the game. And part of having to periodically interact with rude, mean, clueless, or just plain unhappy people that life forces us to deal with. Nothing wrong with being assertive when the situation requires it.
    .-= Mike McEvoy´s last blog ..7 Reasons Netbook Computers are great for students =-.

  8. says

    Nice job Kristi, you are right to expect mutual respect and consideration from others. Some people just don’t get it and others do and just don’t care.

    Good move sending an email to the bank. I had a similar problem and went straight to posting it online. Then I called the bank manager and told him to go look. I got my money back but it was very unpleasant and heated. (I used that post as my link above). Your way was much more professional with the same result.

    I don’t believe in that silly saying, ‘Nice Guys Finish Last’ but I do believe a lot of people see niceness as a weakness and then try to take advantage of it. You did good.
    .-= Brian D. Hawkins´s last blog ..Gas Stations Make Me SICK! =-.

  9. says

    I’ve been in the business where you are now and I must tell you that you got to be firm.

    One way that made things work better for me was to drastically increase my throughput and hunt for more clients / opportunities. After a certain amount of time I started to be EXTREMELY selective. That changed everything. I would send the portfolio and references only to the clients I wanted to work for. And, despite the popular belief that this would lower the number of clients, it did exactly the opposite. I remember that 9 years ago I did around 100.000 USD / year only by freelancing. So, go for it, and settle only for the best.
    .-= Dragos Roua´s last blog ..7 Symptoms You’re On The Verge Of A Burn Out =-.

  10. says

    I think your post speak for a lot of us here. It’s a tough world out there and certainly we can’t expect everyone to be considerate and understanding as you Krisiti. I think you made a good move, if I were you, I will be doing the same and stand firm on what it is to be done. It’s true, considerations have to be made, but we shall always know our rights and practice them when need to.

    Social/Blogging Tracker
    .-= Ching Ya´s last blog ..How Seriously Do You Take Blog Comments? =-.

  11. says

    You know Kristi I am getting ready to really wage war against the company that built our new house about 3 1/2 years ago, we have two roof leaks now and they are getting bad and fast.

    Over a year ago they claimed to fix the issue, now they are trying to pass me off to some “warranty company” which is complete crap since they fixed it, or thought so the first time around.

    It took me three months to get a phone call back from these losers, now on a side after making one post about them I am already ranked in the top 3 on Bing as well as Google for the companies name. They can ignore me now, but they are going to feel it.

    Checking out the carpet bomb technique, thank you Kristi.
    .-= Extreme John´s last blog ..An email to Mark Maconi Homes =-.

  12. says

    Great post. I think it’s important to learn to say no, and that’s been a big learning curve for me. I too tend to be a people pleaser, and I put others’ needs and wants before my own too often.

    Thanks for the reminder that it’s important to put myself first sometimes too!
    .-= Joanie´s last blog ..9 Tips for attracting Twitter followers =-.

  13. says

    I hate that sometimes you have to turn to the dark side, in order to get things done. It shouldn’t be necessary, customer service rep’s – and people in generally – should be able to understand your frustration and desires by listening to you while you are nice, not when you get angry.

    I prefer the nice approach myself too, but when a guy somehow gets in front of me at the line and a 2nd one tries to do the same, then I turn to the dark side and the force becomes stronger with me.
    .-= Klaus @ TechPatio´s last blog ..Facebook: World’s 4th Most Visited Website. Google: Brand Value $100 Billion =-.

  14. says

    Great post, this must come to an inspiration for all. Never get back, eaven with the price of “putting your foot down”, to fight for all the things that are really important for you. This article made me feel proud for some of the actions, and i remebered so of the one i did some time ago (something simmilar). Thanks for your post

  15. says

    Like music to my ears sadly.I’m telling you being nice sucks actually.
    and I get tired of it but when it’s our nature it’s difficult
    glad you spoke up now I need to stop speaking up and take some action.
    Like saying I DON’T deserve to put with people’s crap for whatever reason.
    Thanks I’m glad I read this
    .-= John Sullivan´s last blog ..Is friendship a fantasy ? =-.

  16. says

    The practice of being assertive is a good thing. Being used as a doormat is not an experience that anyone should have to deal with, but when dealing with people with dominant egos, the person who does not have a type A personality, will more than likely let the other have his or her way.
    .-= Adam @Travel Sites´s last blog .. =-.

  17. says

    Hey Kiristi, I loved this article as you sound so much like me. I run a business, and have a business partner. I am considered the “nice” one and she a little more harsh. It has been a struggle as sometimes I think she is to harsh while she takes me for a push over.

    However recently I turned from nice to a little evil. I had a telemarketing company continuously call me. My nice side came out at first, then as the phone calls became insane I got harsh and asked to me removed…a total of 10 times in 24 hour period.

    Thats when the harshness went and the devil came in, as there phone calls became not salesy but turned to a scary harassment. I called the local cops, and the BBB, the attorney general, and all had complaints from others with the same scary story.

    I learned that when there is something I need to stand up for. I am not as nice as everyone thinks.

    Thanks for this Kristi, got a chuckle out of me

  18. says


    I can totally relate to this post. I’ve always been the type of person that would do anything to help others. That’s just the person that I am. But my husband warns me regularly that I shouldn’t maintain certain friendships with people that only call me when they need something. He gets really upset when he sees this happening. Recently, I’ve began standing up for myself with a few of these “friends”. It turned out that once they noticed that I’m not a pushover any longer, they deemed our friendship irrelevant. I guess they’re out looking for other victims that they could take advantage of. At the end of the day, I feel sorry for these individuals, because they repel people away from them, which will lead to very lonely lives.