Beware of Nice Narcissists

Nice feels good.  Nice looks good.

Nice smooths rough edges, makes conversations less awkward, and hides ugliness.

There’s a plaque above my cupboard that says, Because Nice Matters.  Another sign at the front door reads, Be nice or go away.

For a long time, I firmly believed that the world would be better off if we would all be a little nicer.  What if we always made casseroles and brought them to those recuperating from surgery?  What if we remembered birthdays and sent cards?  What if we gave up our seat on the bus and held the door and remembered to shut our mouths when we couldn’t think of anything nice to say.


I’ve read all the posts about how nice girls are doormats.

I’ve read the articles about how nice people forget to put themselves first.

I was the cheerleader for Nice.


It has taken me awhile to realize that nice isn’t important.


Good is important.


Nice is texting a birthday greeting three days after sending a scathing email and intentionally avoiding  bridging the two messages with an apology.

Nice is a parade of sweetness and light while in front of others, followed by cold shoulders and slammed doors in private.

Nice is delivering a casserole, making a note of it, and waiting to see if one day you get one back.

Nice is grandstanding.

Nice has an agenda.

Nice manipulates.


When he isn’t cooperating or jumping when I say, “Jump!” I’ll shower him with a little nice and that’ll get him on the right track.

When she gets tired of my plans, my agenda and my routine, I’ll send her some nice flowers.  That ought to get her to start seeing things my way again.


Nice is a tool often used by narcissists to manipulate, control and avoid apologizing.

Don’t be fooled by nice treatment.  The narcissist cannot sustain such treatment over the long haul.


Good vs. Nice


Good happens behind the scenes.

Good is constant, and includes an apology when we slip up.

Good doesn’t look to see who might be watching.

Good is doing right without first checking to see how you will benefit.

Good doesn’t keep score, play to an audience or pout when it goes unnoticed.


Nice is chatting up the gal at the front counter in order to get your appointment, only to bad mouth her to the other employees when you finally get seated in the chair.

Good is being as kind to the smelly guy at the library as you are to the gal who checks out your books.


Nice is giving up your chair for the pregnant gal on the bus, and then loudly calling attention to yourself for doing so.

Good is mowing the older neighbor lady’s lawn, not charging her for it, but accepting her cookies in trade.


Nice is showy.

Good is quiet.


Nice is about appearances.

Good doesn’t care about image.


Nice is about association.

Good extends a hand without judging.


Nice is a mask for evil.

Good won’t be bothered with evil…  or masks…  or nice.



p.s.  I’ll be bringing some nice plaques to Goodwill today.

p.s.s.  I read this to Jen and Will.  Will said, “If you are being nice in a goodhearted way, that’s awesome.”

Related Post

Proof of Love The bouquet looks tired.  She ought to have pitched it a couple days ago.  She turns the vase to view the arrangement from a different angle and convinces herself that if she changed the water, she could enjoy it for another day or two. He leaves ...
Notes on Travel Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. Izaak Walton Too often travel, instead of broadening the mind, merely lengthens the conversation. Elizabeth Drew No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home ...
Sunny-Side Up I love cooking and eating.  I'm no slouch in the kitchen.  I've had several restaurant jobs that I enjoyed.  My experience in professional kitchens would indicate that at least I know the technical aspects of cooking. When I was a kid, if someone ...
Say It With Me  Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough. - Josh Billings What is a rebel?  A *woman* who says no. - Albert Camus     

Tags: , , , , , , ,


  1. Very good point! I tweeted an article on teachers impacting lives by being nice, but was really meaning be good to everyone. Wise Will said it! Nice can be superficial, goodness can’t.

    Makes me think about validity and reliability (help me…stats invading my brain!). Something can be reliable, but not valid. Nothing can be valid without reliability. Nice is reliable. It’s the goodness that validates it.

  2. Hi Z,

    In my experience, narcissists are reliably nice when:

    a.) I’ve pissed them off.

    b.) I’ve stopped sourcing them.

    Other than that, there’s nothing reliable about the nice treatment. And that should have been my first Red Flag! :)

  3. My ex N is never nice when I piss him off or really anytime to me. He seems nice when he wants something so that fits into the unreliable category.
    Lately he has been almost pleasant and nearly cooperative. I think he has been trying to butter me up because we have mediation with the court of appeals again on Tuesday. Thank goodness it is tangible items he is disputing and not custody.

    However, I can count on him being reliably nice to friends and acquaintances as long as they think he is awesome. ha.

  4. Z,

    I had to laugh. They are always reliably nice when they have an audience of friends and acquaintances to idolize them! So true!!

    To clarify: When I piss him off (unintentionally, mind you, since I’m not often sure what will set him off, and even my attempts at kindness can tip him over), I’m initially met with serious nastiness, a couple days of silence and then syrupy niceness. That is predictable (reliable) in this unpredictable world with a narcissist. I think the syrupy niceness is an attempt to get me to start thinking that he’s wonderful again.

    I only attempt kindness if I think it will benefit the kids’ relationships with him. I know…. why do I still bother?

    Good luck on Tuesday!

  5. Thanks. Tuesday is his appeal from when the panel of judges overturned a decision in his favor. Not surprising that he appealed. He tried to “settle” again after I won so he wouldn’t file the appeal. It doesn’t matter what I do or say, he rejects it so I knew it would come to this. The paperwork asks what I think will be a good settlement for this issue. I replied that I didn’t know because I don’t know what he wants from this. lol. It’s true. He sends me a list of things he wants back and I don’t have them all. He calls me a liar and says I am uncooperative because I refused to give him stuff I don’t have. It’s really asinine.

    He knows he can never make me like him (or pretend to like him) so I am the enemy. Oh well. He just replied to my email and his nasty self is back. He must now be preparing for war on Tuesday. hahaha.

    I keep wondering how he feels about me doing fairly well representing myself in these stupid proceedings and if my stable demeanor irritates him. I hope so! :D

  6. Z,

    You have the makings of a juicy screenplay. Who would believe that they could talk themselves into a corner like that?!

    I have to believe that if he even notices how well you are doing representing himself, he must be thinking that you have help behind the scenes. And I hope your demeanor is making him crazier than he already is.

  7. Wouldn’t that be something…a movie focused on NPD to demonstrate the craziness of it all. Bradley Cooper did OCD (Silver Linings…a must see) so maybe we could get Channing Tatum to do NPD. LOL!

    Almost game time…

  8. Z,

    I think it works to cross fingers all the way from here. Doing it any way.

    Off to Google Channing Tatum.

    Good luck!

  9. Enjoyed reading. Have heard narcissism is more of a man thing. Unfortunately my daughter’s mother is a narcissist. My experiences with her can be gut wrenching but at the same time is fascinating to read about this disorder and watch my daughter’s mother’s life play out both from afar and when we were together. Can see how powerful the “act” of being nice can be and how it’s used to fulfill the narcissists empty/fragile self. Mine does this by encircling herself with people-(mainly other women) who are in a way all suffering from the same if not similar disorders. It’s as if they feed off each other to fill that emptiness and “nice” is the glue that holds them together. What’s even more interesting is how manipulative she can be and how nice is the one weapon they use to manipulate with. Our daughter brought us together. I did not choose my ex as a lifetime partner and refused to marry her due to her disorder. Unfortunately my daughter has to suffer but I’m hopeful I can have enough influence on her life to help her deal with such confusing and emotional abuse from her mother. I pray to god she does not become like her mother so that she can have an emotionally strong and happy/good marriage and family one day. Only time will tell.

  10. Hi Chris,

    Thanks so much for writing.

    I wish more men would write of their experiences with narcissistic women. I think they – narcissistic women – get away with a lot because so many assume it’s more of a male issue.

    You bring up an interesting point about using “nice” to manipulate. I’ve seen that. It disgusts me. And so many are duped by it – especially kids. When you learn to detect that fake form of “nice” you start to see it everywhere.

    Your daughter is blessed to have you as a counterbalance in her life.

    Wishing you and your daughter the peace that comes from learning about what you are both dealing with.

  11. OMG!!! I left my marriage 6 months ago. I left after many years of silent treatment, disrespect, being accused of things I didn’t do, no emotional support, extreme selfishness, lying, blaming etc… I was anxious and depressed and felt trapped and terrified even though there had been no physical abuse. I have second guessed myself as he has promised to change and been very NICE since I left. When I try to describe the problem to others they act confused, it doesn’t seem that bad from the outside looking in yet I have this pervasive fear of him and the thought of going back makes me feel ill and I wasn’t even sure why. I now believe he is a narcissist, it all fits, his behaviors are dead on and so are my reactions to them. The NICE post is exactly what I needed right now as I file for divorce, I have no contact with him other than short necessary letters, his are filled with poor me, and look what I am doing and look how you are hurting me and mine are short and informational. My parents don’t understand because he is being NICE… I want to scream No!!! Don’t fall for it!!! I think they think I am crazy. At least now I am convinced I am not. Thanks

  12. Kelli,

    YOU ARE NOT CRAZY! Let that be your mantra during this transition.

    Your intuition has been telling you to protect yourself. Now that your actions acknowledge what your intuition has been trying to tell you, your intuition will get stronger. You will doubt yourself less. You’ll have more confidence that you are doing the right thing. At least that’s how it worked in my case. ;)

    Now that you have identified his issues and understand his motives, it’ll be somewhat easier to guard yourself.

    You probably already know this, but his “nice” letters filled with poor me, what about me, I am hurting – all of those are a trap. Many of us have been fooled by “nice” narcissists. I hope your parents come around to see him for who he truly is.

    Thanks for writing, Kelli. Welcome to the blog. I wish you comfort and peace in this very difficult transition.

  13. Thank you. Yes, my intuitive voice is getting louder than my doubting voice and my anxiety is decreasing. Got very nervous when I ran into a friend of his the other day… instead of the hard time I thought I would get, he said “What took you so long to leave?” Wow!!

    This blog is so helpful , thanks for the info.

  14. Kelli,

    Thanks for being here.

    You know, I heard that a lot after I finally left. “What took you so long?” It always surprised me and proved that not everyone was charmed by him.

  15. “his are filled with poor me, and look what I am doing and look how you are hurting me and mine are short and informational”

    This has been the most recent manifestation over here. They must read the same playbook. It is exhausting.

    *Note to self- move to foreign country and change name.

  16. Sandy,

    I’m always astounded at how they behave as if performing from the same script.

    And yes, the foreign country thing is appealing. I’ve learned that 90 minutes isn’t far enough away. For the sake of my kids, I often wonder about pitching their phones so they don’t feel like they have to answer.

  17. Wow. This is like reading about my life 15 years ago! It’s so much better without him and he still tries to manipulate when he can. Even our son has tired of it. He (son) will not speak to him (ex). I’m so glad he made this decision on his own! I’ve always played nice and hoped he would figure out which one of us was “good.” In the end they do figure it out.

  18. Hi Claire,

    Thanks for writing and sending encouragement to those who may worry that their kids will never see the light.

    All the best!

Leave a comment