Are you that one friend whose shoulder is always available to cry on?
Drive out at 2 am when a friend calls saying she’s run out of her significant other’s apartment in tears?
Listen to a co-worker’s never-ending rants about a nasty boss?
Slave over a six-course meal for a family dinner when you could have met at a restaurant?
And so on. And on?
But have you ever wondered why you’re saying “Yes” to everything and are unable to utter the word “No” loud and clear?
Do you feel trapped? Burdened with too much to do? Overwhelmed with guilt whenever you say “Sorry, I’m not free right now”? Constantly worried about what the world thinks about you?
If you’ve checked more than one of those questions, it’s time to step back and take a good, long look in the mirror, Mr Nice Guy.
You could be suffering from People Pleaser Syndrome.
Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with helping, spreading happiness, being good to people but under this veneer, could lurk more serious issues.
- You could be destroying your own sense of self
- You may be unable to have true relationships with people
- You take on blame when it’s not your fault
- You pretend to agree when you don’t really concur
- You aren’t able to handle conflict and discussions in a healthy manner
- You feel personally responsible for others’ emotions
- You end up feeling stressed, frustrated and full of resentment
- You enable people to take unfair advantage of you
- Your partners, family and real friends feel upset when they find out that you haven’t been truthful with them
These issues could spiral out of control, leading to more serious psychological problems, sleep disorders, eating disorders, high blood pressure, and more.
Who’s A Nice Guy?
Everyone can recognize niceness, helpful nature, good human beings and humane values, but being a “people pleaser” goes far beyond. It is a pattern of behavior that is consistent and predictable.
Taken to its logical conclusion, it means constantly editing the world/people, behaviors and words, and altering your own words and behaviors to match theirs.
You make assumptions about others’ feelings and emotions and proceed to act on those.
You spend an inordinate amount of time in thinking about ensuring that people like you and think well of you. You may:
- Have a low sense of self-worth and self-esteem
- Be unable to bear the thought of not being liked, even by people you don’t know personally
- Find it impossible to say “no”
- Be constantly afraid of being “left out,” rejected, abandoned
- Be unable to set boundaries and limits in relationships and interactions
- Be neglectful of your own needs
- Be trapped in relationships where you give more than you receive
- Take on responsibilities where you end up over-booked, exhausted
- Break your own values for others, while regretting it later
- Constantly fake emotions that you don’t genuinely feel
- Feel anxious when you think someone is angry with you
- Seldom have/express opinions of your own
- Have unusual skills such as being able to “tune into” situations, “taking the temperature” of a room as you walk in, anticipating needs, high level of being able to blend in, making yourself indispensable.
On the flip side, Nice Guys are great friends to have, they have a strong work ethic, and are usually perfectionists!
The roots usually lie in childhood, in the parental dynamics at home. If the child encounters inconsistencies in parental affection, perhaps due to circumstances, illness, addiction, life choices or personality of the parent/s, he/she finds it confusing. As the child grows, they feel they have to work hard to “win” love and they become worried about and preoccupied with this constant effort.
These memories shape their own personalities. So, is it time to stop being a nice guy?
How To Break The Chain?
Stop being a nice guy? Really? Why would you want to? Because long-term, it’s damaging to yourself and to others.
It’s important to recognize and accept it first.
Once you’ve crossed that bridge, it’s time to develop smart strategies.
The hardest part is that everyone around you has become used to it, and the new you could upset, confuse, scare and annoy them.
But like they say, Just Do It.
1. Connect with yourself: Introspect and analyze the roots of your Nice Guy syndrome. Once you understand and accept this about yourself, you can set your own personal boundaries/limits.
2. Understand your priorities: Me First is not a bad policy. In an airplane crisis, you must take care of yourself first before you attend to anyone else. Similarly, you would be of no use to anyone if you burn out and don’t understand what your goals and roadmap are.
3. Get a Script: Don’t give immediate answers to requests. Use stock phrases such as “Let me get back to you,” “I’ll check with my spouse/kids/sibling” “I’m not sure if I can” “Whenever need this, I’ll buy it only from you.”
4. Learn How To Say No: Start with small things, and people who don’t have a direct impact in your life. Salespersons, wait-staff and telecallers are good to experiment on. It gets harder in closer relationships because they would always respond with, “But why? Last time you were OK with this?” Avoid falling into the Just This Once trap, or when they say “It’s not such a big deal” or “How will you know if you don’t try?” etc etc. Make sure your NO is clear, unambiguous and non-negotiable. Any relationship that doesn’t have mutual respect for No’s isn’t worth it!
5. Take Charge: Nice Guys are compelled to “finish last.” They feel obliged to drift along with the crowd, go with the flow and stay safe. Take emotional risks with those you love, comfort zones and safety nets that you’ve built over the years. This helps you to feel less manipulated, overwhelmed and controlled.
6. Recognize and Avoid Toxic Relationships: Nice guys have a number of people in their lives who extract energy, waste time and suck them into their own dramas. Identify them and work out ways to minimize their impact and presence.
7. Apologize correctly: Turn off Auto-Apologize and see how liberating it is. Nice Guys are first off the block to apologize, whether they’re to blame or not. Find ways to calibrate your apologies – a casual “Hey sorry about that” is very different from “I’m really ashamed of what I did”. This helps you to understand whether you actually need to apologize or not.
8: Internal Validation: Listen to yourself a bit more than look for external rewards. Remember that it’s impossible to please the whole world. You only need to be Nice Guy to the right people.