Be Mean Prudently

December 4 , 2020
By Kidist Yidnekachew ( Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at )

A friend recently made a conscious decision to stop being nice. It is hard to change behaviour, but he says he has had it with being a nice guy. Finally, he has come to the presumption that it is nice guys that finish last.

He has a reason for this. He is sick and tired of people taking advantage of him; treating him like a doormat.

"Is that because you are too nice or because you don't stand up for yourself?" I asked him.

It is hard to tell the difference between the two sometimes, though they may overlap.

"It is just because I am too nice to everyone. I do whatever they want me to do, because I am that guy,” he said angrily. “I know how to stand up for myself, but I expect people to draw the lines between using me and abusing me."

Everyone at work would ask him to cover for them, because he often says “yes.” When he manages to ask them for a similar favour, they come up with excuses. His boss does not have a problem asking him to work on weekends or take an extra shift. But the very few times he is late for work because of unforeseeable circumstances, he would catch slack. Other employees, on the other hand, seem to get a break.

And then there are his friends from high school. They seemed to be getting ahead, hustling here and there, acting as middlemen, mooching off transactions that would have happened anyway, as far as he is concerned. But he has been stuck in the same office and position for close to four years. His friends live a “lavish” life not bothered by the shady things they do and seem happy while he is struggling to make ends meet for his family.

He has decided to stop being so nice before. But every time he is rude to someone, even a stranger, he finds himself thinking about it all day and regretting it. However, now it is a resolution, and he has decided to be mean and say “no” more often. I could not convince him to go to his old ways as he said he has had enough.

Admittedly, there is something astonishing about people capable of being brutally honest and to some level mean to others. They are also unapologetic about it, owning up to their words. They are go-getters and pretty much determined when it comes to going after what they want.

On the other side of the spectrum are people like my friend, who get a sense of guilt whenever they say “no” or are mean to others. These are nice people too, with a suppressed potential for meanness, like me. There are times when I want to scream at people, but I do not. I keep my anger bottled up inside, especially these days when the world seems to be getting madder. In times like this, I wish I could just let it spill. But I do not.

Ironically, some of us are suspicious of overly nice people.

What are their hidden intentions? Why are they going out of their way, inconveniencing themselves to make us feel better?

It is impossible to deny, as my friend argues, that nice people are liable not just to be taken advantage of but be suspected for their intentions. It is a compounding factor that points to the fact that nice people do get less respect than they deserve. It is sad to see such people being taken for granted, disrespected and even bullied, just for the simple possibility that they may not respond in kind.

This is common in schools, workplaces, on the road and in many places. Nice people are seen as weak, timid and scared. Tolerance is often confused with fear.

Does it mean that we should all be selfish, looking out only for ourselves and not caring about how others feel?

No. Society will be incapable of functioning in that matter. But we should look out for ourselves in such a competitive world as well, and this may mean that, if necessary, we should not be afraid to say “no.”

PUBLISHED ON Dec 04,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1075]

Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at

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