Don’t Mistake My Kindness For Weakness

by Risa Dixon

I have always been the bubbly type of female. The one who is always smiling and, as I’ve been told, had a laugh that could brighten up anyone’s day. My name in Spanish means “to smile” and I have always been told I live up to it as it is very rare to see me not grinning about something. I always loved my happy and positive demeanor, until I learned that many times people will mistake my smile and kind nature for weakness…big mistake.

I am one who constantly tells others to be themselves no matter what the world has to say about you, but I learned that when you are a genuinely kind and light spirited person that at times you have to turn it off in order to be taken seriously. Small things like how people responded to me when I said no to something or tried to get serious about a particular topic opened up my eyes to this. They were so used to the smiling, happy Risa that they didn’t have as much respect for when I put my foot down as others who always seemed to have a “don’t mess with me” sign on their head. Sadly it wasn’t until I really went off on someone that people realized that when I said something I meant it. Just because I love to smile and laugh, doesn’t make me any weaker than the person who doesn’t. I have dealt with this in the workplace and with friends. At some point I had to switch it up on someone to let them know I was not the one to be played with.

I constantly wondered why some of the most successful women I knew were so kind and sweet with some and with others they were a straight faced, let’s get to business type of woman. This is when I began to realize that you have to have two sides to yourself. The playful gleeful side and the side that can turn someone to stone with the look in your eyes. I learned that it’s not what you say, but the way you say it.

Respect is ridiculously important and a sweet personality shouldn’t overshadow that, but often times it does. I finally learned how to create that balance so that it is understood that my kindness should never be taken for weakness. I can now switch it on and off effortlessly.

People only say and do to you what you allow them to. You don’t have to walk around looking mad all the time, but you can put people in their place when you feel some sort of disrespect and even do it with a smile.


Have you ever had to deal with this?

  • golden_girl

    I wish a lot of these discussions were out when I was a teenager. Maybe I wouldn’t be such a bytch today. I thought I was a sweat person but as I grew up, I realized that I was only nice cause I didn’t know how to tell someone picking on me to kiss my pretty azz. I was tall,, super skinny and a loner. So my only defense was to be nice. If I knew how to fight or how to accept getting picked on and fighting for myself….I’d have higher self esteem.

    So I totally get the conversation. As a people will bull-doze over you cause they think you are a softy.

    Great conversation. I hope this article finds it way to some girlscouts club.Cause this is what little girls need to know. You can be nice but don’t let these skans run over you.

  • Jessica Williams

    Yes I deal with it all of the time. I am just like you – the type of person who is always happy and smiling as well and I know that it why I’m not taken seriously, especially in the workplace. Can you share some tips & tricks in how you are able to have those two sides and how to turn it on and off?

  • Clutch

    Hi Jessica,

    Thanks for reading the post! Some tips I have learned is that when I am discussing business or a serious topic, the smile gets tucked away and I put on a more stern demeanor. Straight face and constant eye contact. Eye contact is a very big thing, especially when you want to be taken seriously. Never look down or away, look the person straight in their eyes.

    Like I said in the piece, it’s not what you say but how you say it. Control the laughing and smiles and most of all stand firm by what you are saying. Be bold and don’t waiver.

    Hope this helps!

  • Ocean Blue (LaDreaming86)

    I was extremely shy growing up, along with being an introvert and like you, my only defense was to be nice, because I didn’t know what else to do.

    Eventually I got tired of being nice and learned to just say ‘no’ to people. There became a time period where I hated people a lot and it was very noticeable. When I think back on thing, I think people mistook me being silent about their poor treatment as weakness.

    I don’t have that problem now. I don’t smile often. My face is usually neutral, so people assume I am upset.

  • purplekeychain

    I think it’s hard for people who are super nice to be taken seriously. Someone told me recently about themselves “I’m nice and people think I’m stupid.”

    I, on the other hand, am like golden_girl up there — I’m a complete biznatch, but mainly as a defense mechanism, I’m starting to learn, because I’d rather people think I was mean than stupid, and being thought of as stupid is really scary to me. Plus, I’m fat, and I vehemently reject the “happy fat lady” stereotype, especially the “happy fat black lady.” This, of course backfires ALWAYS, because now I’m just the “angry black lady” but, hell, I guess I’d prefer that one to Aunt Jemima.

    Also, EWWWWWW for calling yourself a “female”.

  • Ocean Blue (LaDreaming86)

    “I have always been the bubbly type of female.” – Yea, that line bothered me too.

  • golden_girl

    LOLOLOL!!!!! Ya’ll funny as hell. Not like she said it like Sir Mix-A-Lot……when it comes to my females.

    You know…I notice that black men call women females….like we a bunch of donkeys. A herd or something….crazy.

  • entro

    I spent so much time at my last job with the” Don’t F with me look on my face” that when I quit and started my own business I had a permanent scowl line on my forehead and had to relearn how to smile (really). Just be yourself and stick to your principles and know that people will try you, most of the time it says more about them than you. trying to change yourself to fend off their behavior will do you more harm than good. I still cant get these lines off my forehead

  • MarloweOverShakespeare

    “Trying to change yourself to fend off their behavior will do more harm than good.”

    Can you please say more about this? I like this comment.

  • Ocean Blue (LaDreaming86)

    “Trying to change yourself to fend off their behavior will do more harm than good.”>/b>

    I am glad that despite people always wanting to me to be a certain way, I could easily brush them off, because there is no way I could pretend to be someone who I am not.

  • Ocean Blue (LaDreaming86)

    “Trying to change yourself to fend off their behavior will do more harm than good.”

    I am glad that despite people always wanting to me to be a certain way, I could easily brush them off, because there is no way I could pretend to be someone who I am not.

  • Nina

    I like this article. I’m always smiling and generally optimistic, and people tend to think that means they can ask me to do whatever they want. Everyone’s always surprised when I say NO. I can be sweet all day, but my needs come first for me. Too bad for anyone who doesn’t understand.

  • Leo the Yardie Chick

    I began to learn the predatory nature of people as early as six years old. I used to share my things because sharing is caring, right? I quickly realized that people were taking me for a free-access school supply shop, and put a stop to that b.s. – yes, at six.

    Now, I stay neutrally civil if you’re a stranger, and neutrally civil-frosty if I know you’re a user.

  • entro

    My look of “don’t f with me” was only a defense mechanism to stop people from trying me and although it kept certain people away it did me more harm because it just was not indicative of who I was inside so not only did it leave an outward mark(permanent scowl line) it stunted the kind, caring person that I was inwardly from growing. It was just a lazy way of communicating.

  • DN

    I am always smiling and happy and people have taken that for weakness too until they see me lose my temper.

    In the Navy they learned it the hard way (I did not get in trouble in fact got a day off for cursing out someone higher rank than me. I was known as the quiet happy one, I’ll do my job just leave me alone. So when it got around that I lost my temper (got around the ship before I even got down the stairs).)

    As a teacher in South Korea, my students learned this too. They were fighting I raised my voice (so they could hear me) at the ones that were fighting, put them in opposite corners, then went back to smiling and teaching the class as I turned back around. All I have to do is change the tone of my voice from the usual and they get quiet.

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  • kaseeiy

    this article is something i needed to read….i mean just knowing you are not by yourself really made me feel better when i am having a bad day. im very kind and sweet. im energetic and full of life. i am also very optimistic and can be a jokester. to me i love being all these things. but some family and friends see it as me being their welcome mat to walk all on. today i am still being called “a child” and that i “need to grow up” because of how i am and because i am 22 but looks sixteenish. n lately i see a few ppl are acting different towards me when i dont do what they expect. for example: this one dude been hitting on me and would help me do little errands…got tired of him hitting on me cuz it was getting annoying and weird. i told him to back off and when i asked him to help me with something he did, but had an attitude cuz i dont like him. this other person, i try to help them out whenever i can and they dun got use to me helping them out that when i didnt help them out one time they act like they want to turn their back on me….oh but everything goes back to normal for them the next day like nothing ever happened and still assuming im going to help them out again. my point is: People dont mistake my kindness for weakness…cuz i can be mean when i wanna be…i just choose not be. how can i be true to myself, but taken seriously when i have such a young looking face?

  • Rick

    Ive had this problem my whole life. For a while I went to total dick mode and started blasting people away when they would try to push me down. Then I came into myself and now if someone tries taking my kindness for weakness, I simply ignore them. Vengeful people are no good for me or you and the sooner we start shunning them and making them loners, the sooner theyll realize it. The problem is that 95% of people are just like those people in some mild or worse form but honestly fuck them, im a nice dude and I like being nice. If you mistake it for weakness then that sucks for you. I wont be mean to you, youll just simple be nonexistent.

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