We all want to be nice, right? Isn’t that a good trait?
Well, yes. Except when being “too nice” can actually hurt you more than it helps.
Listen up, all you people pleasers. Of course you want people to like you. We all do. When you give up yourself, though, to morph into other peoples’ expectations, that’s when you enter the danger zone.
You may have done it so much that you live your life on autopilot. And you’ve lost your connection to yourself.
You’ll know this when there’s a gnawing empty feeling inside, and you can’t put your finger on why you feel this way. Outwardly, everything is going well. On the inside, though, you feel numb — like something is missing.
Something IS missing, and it’s you!
Don’t rock the boat
If your tendency is to keep the peace — at all costs — just look at what it might be costing you.
Conflict can be messy, for sure. But avoiding it is not always the best route to go. You need to pick your battles. If you’re always sweeping things under the rug, though, they can come back to haunt you.
Loud and clear
The big challenge with handling most conflicts has to do with clear communications. And this involves some finesse.
If you sugar coat your requests, though, don’t be surprised if you’re misunderstood. Even more complicated is the passive aggressive approach. You don’t want to deal with the situation directly, so you drop hints — and expect the other person to read your mind.
Stand for something
Get ready for a rude awakening. While you’re being nice — and looking to avoid hurting someone’s feelings — those around you are forming their own opinions. If you just agree with everything, it will become obvious that you don’t stand for anything.
People may tell you you’re nice, although they won’t trust you to be honest with them. Yikes! I read this insight from author Annie Zelm, and it made an impact.
Situations can be tricky. Just think about the classic question, “Does this dress make me look fat?” Of course, you don’t want to crush your friend. If your intention is to truly support her, though, you need to step up.
Think of some neutral statements you could use. “It’s not your best look,” is one that has always stuck with me. It doesn’t come across as an insult, yet it definitely conveys the message.
The first step with a sticky wicket is always the hardest. Here are a few connector statements that help to set the stage in a tactful way. The other person realizes a situation is being addressed, yet it doesn’t trigger defense mechanisms.
I realize there are
- some challenges with (fill in the blank).
- Have you thought about it from this angle?
- We need to take a look at some other options.
- This may not be the right time.
- That won’t work for me/us right now. Let’s explore some other approaches.
- I’d like to find a way to make this work, although I need your help.
- How do you see this fitting into our budget?
- It makes sense to run this by the rest of the family first.
Be nice and decide
I like this example shared from author Zelm about communications with her husband. She describes him as compassionate and considerate, although they run into problems as revealed in the following dialogue:
“What do you want for dinner?”
“Whatever you want.”
“Where do you want to go on vacation?”
“I don’t know. Whatever sounds good to you …”
“I’m asking you because I want your ideas!”
While there’s a time to compromise and go with the flow, Zelm says, it’s not helpful if you’re always avoiding decisions in the name of being agreeable. You’re just putting the burden on someone else to make all the decisions.
Be nice, be kind
There’s a big difference between being nice and being kind, Zelm explains. It depends on your motivation.
The person who is too nice is externally motivated, says psychiatrist Marcia Sirota. “He or she is driven by the need for other people’s approval and validation, craving acceptance. The kind person is internally motivated. He or she is less concerned about what others might think — and more interested in doing the right thing.”
“The nice person can’t be authentic because he or she is too preoccupied with being a people pleaser,” Sirota said. This person may seem to have a lot of friends, although few are genuine connections. And then he or she can start to feel resentful inside, while still striving to keep up that nice disposition.
We tend to respect a person who is kind, Zelm elaborates, while we can look down on someone who is too nice. A kind person values himself or herself and is able to handle conflict and constructive criticism. Often, those who are too nice have low self-esteem and are afraid to stand up for themselves.
What kind of person do you want to be?
I’d like to give a special shout out to Joe and Peg Greenlee on their 70th wedding anniversary, coming up on Wednesday. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know the two of you through this column, and you’re certainly role models for “living life fully!”
Your love of life and zest for living — from ballroom dancing to your continuing curiosity — speak volumes. Congratulations, Joe and Peg. Here’s to many more!