This week’s House Call is really a personal confession! I’ve long struggled with being a “nice-a-holic,” which in a backward kind of way is actually a form of lying – kind of like when your mouth says yes and your heart says no.
“What does this have to do with being healthier, Dr. Hyman?” you might ask.
In a word: Everything.
If you want to be truly healthy, you MUST stop this pattern immediately.
Fear underlies this false niceness. When I say “yes” yet mean “no,” when I keep my mouth shut when I feel disappointed, when I don’t hold people accountable for things they agreed to do, it makes me unhappy.
I sleep poorly. I feel irritated or angry. That creates stress, which makes me feel tired and icky, creating more complications.
When I’m not honest, I create a war within myself and create conflict around me. I deprive myself, and everyone around me, of authentic, profound relationships.
This might play out a number of different ways. Take this scenario, for example…
In my business, I ask someone on my team to do something. And sometimes, I might not be clear on what I need, or I might be asking the wrong person. Regardless, I am disappointed by the resulting work product, and I could react in a few different ways.
I might say, “Hey, this is a good start, but I really need it to be like this and go work on it until it is right.” That would be the authentic way to approach this issue.
What I often do is take the “nice” way. I don’t say anything, put on a fake smile, mumble under my breath, do the work myself, and become a “hero” in my mind – all the while, harbor resentment toward the team member and feel dissatisfied with my own actions.
When I do that, I undermine what I really want. I don’t give people a chance to show up, reveal their best assets, or deal with the consequences of them not being right for the job.
Here’s another “nice-a-holic” scenario. A few years ago my son moved home. I didn’t give him a budget and subsequently discovered he was spending more than he really should.
I could have approached this several different ways, but falling into the “nice-a-holic” mentality meant I tolerated the over-spending while tiptoeing around the real problem and subsequently complaining to anyone who listened.
Now, to be fair, I felt remorse that he had lost his job. I didn’t want to create conflict or have him feel bad. Yet not saying anything robbed my son and I of an authentic relationship. Not only was I not parenting very well; I also deprived him of showing up differently and doing the right thing.
I will almost always be “nice” rather than tell the truth, at least until I am ready to explode. Then I’m not so nice.
Being “nice” when you feel unhappy, disappointed, or need to express what you need ultimately becomes a form of lying. Yet I do, and so do many people around me.
This artificial niceness is actually a form of manipulation. I’m trying to manage someone else’s response to my words or behavior, rather than simply saying it like it is and dealing maturely with the fallout.
I work as hard as I can to make things correct, even if they are not. Then I end up being unhappy and frustrated, and the other person doesn’t get that chance to display their best self.
I’ve long struggled to overcome my “nice-a-holic” syndrome. Eventually I asked for help. My life coach from the Handel Group® challenges me, holds me accountable, and shows me where I lie or don’t tell the whole truth.
My life coach helps me navigate my goals and dreams, but she also remains thoroughly committed to helping me hold integrity and be truthful with others and with myself.
Sometimes she helps me practice conversations so I can conduct them without blame or judgment. I can then show up with an authentic kindness, as opposed to an artificial “keep the peace” pretend niceness that creates war inside myself.
When I tell the truth, those in my life know where I stand and how I feel. We can have an authentic, more profound relationship. Ironically, that’s what I tried to create in the first place but with exactly the opposite (incorrect) strategy.
Even though I like my life, I want it to become greater. I want to live and communicate authentically so my heart and my mouth always say the same thing.
Self-change becomes incredibly challenging.
We’ve all been “nice-a-holics” at some point in our lives. Think about just one situation you recall where you fell into that pattern? Looking back, how would you have approached that situation authentically? Share your story below or on my Facebook page.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, M.D.