Do you ever have a conversation with somebody and walk away thinking “she’s nice”?
I know I’m as guilty as the next person for doing this. Especially when you first meet somebody and they do and say all the right things and make you feel good. Essentially they fluff you up and your ego gets a bloody good stroke! Who doesn’t want to feel that lightness and joy, if only for a fleeting moment? It feels great and at the end of the day, that wonderful feeling is what we’re all chasing.
But then a day or two later you start to think about the little things that person said and wonder if they were being patronising. And then all the other stuff kicks in. What if they don’t like me and they were just pretending to? What if they were just agreeing with me, but didn’t really agree under the surface?
Ultimately, this leaves us wondering. Sometimes down track they even let us down with a very solid thump.
Now, before we all start doubting every person we ever cross paths with, I’m not saying this is true of everybody. I know from most of my experiences it isn’t.
The truth is, and I’m ashamed to admit it, that I’ve done this to others and no doubt so have you. So, before we start pointing fingers, let’s all drop the perfection act and start to consider how we interact with others and how they interact with us. Perhaps a better word than interact could be influence.
Last week in my blog about whether the oxygen mask analogy works, I said:
“There’s a difference between being nice and being kind. Being nice perpetuates people pleasing, and being kind creates healthy boundaries and sustainable actions whereby everybody can enjoy a win.”
Let’s unpack that…
Does being nice perpetuate people pleasing? Yes, I think it does. And I’m not alone in thinking this. In my circle alone, I hear a number of women talking about this and agreeing that when we’re ‘nice’ to somebody it often means we say what they want to hear, and not what we really mean because we don’t want to offend them.
Yep that sure is nice, and I guess the other person can toddle off none the wiser, feeling quite chuffed with themselves – like I mentioned at the start of this article.
BUT what about when it extends to a request for you to give something – perhaps your time.
This could include things like going to a party, taking care of their kids, driving them to another town. Or even worse, popping over for a coffee which you already know will end up in a 3hr gossip session that you don’t want to partake in. You already know you’ll be completely drained by the end of the session.
My worst nightmare!
Think about this for a moment. Why would we agree to do something we don’t want to do? To be seen to be nice?
When we say yes to something we don’t want to do, we are essentially saying no to something that does matter to us. Loved ones, health, leisure time, work we need to catch up on because we’re stressed from being behind.
Saying yes to somebody else simply because you are trying to be nice will not help your situation. It will make you feel lousy, resentful, stressed and powerless.
Why would we do this to ourselves?
How often were you told as a child to “be nice”? Even as young children we feel the energy of the undertone that is really saying ‘smile and be tolerant’. Inferring that as long as we use good manners and behave in a way that doesn’t rock the boat, then all will be fine with the world.
It’s really saying “just be fake and smile a lot and learn to keep your voice suppressed”.
Imagine the world if we could change the parenting paradigm to teaching our kids to ‘be kind’.
Being kind means being kind to the other person as well as to yourself, and I believe we should extend the kindness to ourselves first. There’s a good reason why the oxygen mask analogy has stood the test of time.
If we don’t take care of ourselves, we are no good to anybody, and none of us deserve to live a stressful life simply because of the expectations of others.
Let’s be honest here, if the other person was actually kind, they’d be considerate and not want to put you under pressure. They’d be thoughtful about what matters to you.
Don’t get me wrong here – I don’t think any of us should just start swinging out truth bombs and hurting people all over the place – that’s not nice or kind. I’m just saying we need to treat each other and ourselves with respect, consideration, and create and maintain healthy boundaries.
Having said all that, there are exceptions. Sometimes situations call upon us to extend ourselves, which means being put out and letting something that matters to us slip by the wayside. For example, if somebody is in a crisis, I believe we should help IF we have the physical and mental capacity to do so.
Outside of a crisis, be aware of the patterns of others. I always like to give people the benefit of the doubt and always anticipate their motivations to be above board. Yes, that expectation has let me down many times over, but I want to believe people are innately good. That feeds my hope.
BUT, if a toxic pattern starts to emerge then it’s time to give them the flick. That’s their crap, not yours, and you have not been given this one precious life to squander on eggshell tip-toeing around somebody else’s inadequacies.
I know it’s not easy, because they have a gigantic box of manipulation tools and those super-sized power tools do a bloody good job on our vulnerabilities!
If you really cared you would…
Don’t worry about it, I’ll ask somebody who cares
I thought you’d want to…
Don’t worry about me, I’ll work it out somehow
Please!!!!!!!! I need you!!!!! You’re my bestie!!!!!
Come on, you’ll love it when you get there
What are you being so hoity toity about?
Oh, you’re suddenly too good hey?
Well I don’t know what I’ll do now if you don’t help me
The list goes on and on and on, and can often include pitching you against somebody else, either by comparison or the threat of you being replaced by another. And we haven’t even started on the threats that panic your FOMO!
Look, that tool box is ingenious and works overtime to pull at every little crack in our armour.
Don’t fall for it! And if you happened to be sucked in once or twice, please learn to say NO.
You are not a puppet and why should you be pulled all over the place just because you want to be seen as nice.
Just be kind, and especially to yourself.
That means creating respectful boundaries for you and others, but it also means being compassionate and extending yourself in genuine times of need. It means caring because you truly do care, and it means caring that the other person reciprocates in a respectful, considerate way.
Kindness is not a fluffy extra – it’s essential for each of us, future generations, society, the planet, and humanity. Kindness is our lifeblood.
Kindness is strength and authenticity.
Let’s all hit reset and share the love.