The High Price of “Nice”
You probably have some “nice” people in your life. You know them: The smile a lot, but not a big smile. Just a small smile. Nice kids are quiet and no trouble. Nice adults go along with the wishes of others just to avoid any conflict. It’s important to them that other people like them. They are almost always very polite and patient. In fact, you might be nice, yourself!
Likewise, everyone knows some real jerks. They are unmistakable and reveal themselves fairly quickly. They talk loud. They seem to have a chip on their shoulder. They can’t stand to lose arguments, and are not above being rude and sarcastic. They force their opinions, methods and desires on everyone around them. They know what they want, and usually get it, but are not usually well-liked by others.
In fact, I have just described two of the three basic ways to approach all relationships. The “nice” person is Submissive. The ‘jerk” is Aggressive. The only approach I haven’t mentioned is the relationship style in the middle: Assertive.
If you are reading this, you could be thinking, “Of the two, I’d rather be Nice. People like Nice.” Perhaps, but… Nice has its price.
Submissive people go along to get along. In their effort to be liked and accepted by others, they repress the part of themselves that would like to say, “Here’s what I would like. This is not fair!” The only part of themselves that is left for other people to form relationships with is the parts that have not been repressed in order to be liked. Consequently, their relationships are not very deep or satisfying.
Please Like Me
Being liked and being respected are two very different things. A submissive person is willing to sacrifice the respect of others in order to be liked, and in the long run, fails to achieve either. In fact, psychologists have discovered that the more submissive a person is in their relationships, the more likely others will come to regard them, not as likeable, but with pity or irritation.
Sick of Myself
Habitually submissive people often find themselves victims of headaches, arthritis, asthma, ulcers, chronic fatigue syndrome and high blood pressure. This, psychologists believe, is the price of repressed resentment and anger when their submissive behavior is taken advantage of over and over again throughout their lives.
The best way to understand the difference between Submissive, Aggressive and Assertive is with the idea of “rights.” Our typical style of getting our needs met will be found somewhere on this continuum between Aggressive and Submissive.
Aggressive people violate the rights of others.
Submissive people violate their own rights.
Assertive people find solutions that preserve everyone’s rights.
There is a great deal of misunderstanding about the difference between Aggressive and Assertive. One of the most common relationship mistakes that people make is for a normally Submissive person to suddenly become “fed up” and lash out aggressively. They often swing to the opposite side of the continuum and mistake it for simple Assertiveness. In fact, they are no better off. It makes for great movies, but poor real-life relationships. Let me illustrate:
In a packed stadium, the teenage boy behind you is blowing a very loud air horn in support of his team, and it is hurting your ears.
Submissive: You cringe, hold your ears, and hope they see from your body language that it is unpleasant for you, and get the right idea to stop.
Aggressive: You turn around and say, “That is totally uncalled for. If you do it again I’m going to take that thing away from you and break it.”
Assertive: You turn and say, “Sir, that horn is causing me great discomfort. I need for you to stop using it, or aim it away from me up into the air.”
Here is another: Your co-worker breaks her scissors and begins to borrow yours continually. Today you reached for them, only to discover that they are on your co-workers desk.
Submissive: Take your scissors back while she is away from her desk, and store them in a place that, though inconvenient for you, your co-worker cannot find them.
Aggressive: Confront your co-worker: “What, are you too lazy or cheap to get your own scissors, or do you just like being annoying? Don’t borrow them anymore.”
Assertive: Address your co-worker: “When I must retrieve my scissors from your desk it’s very inefficient. I need for you to replace your scissors so you don’t need to borrow
Are there costs to being Assertive? Sure. But in the long run, it is the best way to interact with anyone in your life.
Click here for a complete catalog of my blog posts with a brief description of their content.