Be real, not nice

There is a good book called Be Real, Not Nice, and it’s a topic that’s especially important for us who score high on the agreeableness scale (on the Big Five personality traits).

I am still “nice” more than I like, in the sense of sometimes being overly polite, self-effacing, not speaking up, avoiding rocking the boat, follow other people’s advice even when it goes against my own best judgment.

This means I sometimes don’t get what I want. (Even if I could have, if I had been more clear and spoken up.) And it also means that I sometimes go into resentment.

It’s as if the energy that should have gone into being clear and speaking up is unused in that situation, and then later goes into forms of anger or irritation directed towards myself and/or others.

The intention behind all this is partly to be kind, polite, and well-liked, and also to avoid confrontation and unpleasant interactions. And the reality is that the opposite often happens: I – and sometimes others – don’t get what we want, and are unhappy about the situation. It’s really anything but kind.

And it all comes from unquestioned assumptions, and probably unloved parts of myself. For instance unloved and unquestioned fear about what it means to speak up, negotiate, and risk not being liked. (Of course, people who are clear and speak up, and are willing to negotiate about strategies so everyone can have their needs met, are often well liked.)

Ironically, what I seek to avoid by not being clear and real with myself and others is exactly what I get. That’s how it often is. It’s how life shows me what I am doing, and invites me to meet my fears and be clear and real with myself and others.

It’s how life invites me to be more transparent. To speak up about what’s already here. To go for what I want, through finding strategies that meets my own needs and – ideally – those of others.

Seeing this in a general way is a start. But what really helps is to really look at a specific situation in my life where I “left myself” and felt resentful afterwards. Why did I do it? What did I fear would happen if I spoke up and was transparent? What were the consequences? What would have been the likely consequences of speaking up?

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