Let’s start by agreeing that there’s nothing wrong with ‘nice’ – although the word can have a slightly saccharine ring to it.
Being a thoughtful and loving or attentive partner, colleague or friend is a Good Thing. We all need to give and receive neighbourliness and creative connection in our lives.
Nice can be a force for good, but there are pitfalls when this tips over into dogged people pleasing.
Anger and resentments are part of the human condition and we all need healthy ways to admit and deal with their underlying causes.
Bottling up anger means that resentments and grievances have to stay hidden. By absorbing these emotions we do ourselves, and others, a disservice.
Hiding behind a permanently sunny and agreeable persona means we are never truly known. This leads us to fear that those negative qualities are never able to be seen as then we fear facing rejection.
Always being seen as The Good Guy equals an inability to be able to value ourselves and our own wants. Constantly pleasing others will mean that personal needs will always have to be pushed away.
This causes hidden resentment as we have to absorb all the negative feelings, swallow them and somehow find them a permanent inner storage space which will need to be suppressed when others can’t attain to our saintly level and reciprocate when the time comes for it to be our turn.
In fact, for the expert People Pleaser there is no turn. ‘After you’ becomes their motto and the rôle is that of always being the noble, needed one. There’s no healthy give and take as it’s all selfless giving.
For all the supposed gratitude that feeds this overbearing kindness, others can view the people pleaser as a bit of a pushover.
So, how to find a healthy balance?
We need to remember that we all have choices and it’s quite OK to say no sometimes. We don’t have to justify or excuse this.
It’s important that we all know the boundaries that are healthy for us and that balancing our own priorities and needs is an important part of self-care. We all have to look after ourselves in a healthy way before we try to look after others.
In couple therapy, we often see clients who are described as ‘conflict averse’ and cannot express their rage or dissatisfaction.
These people often come from families where there was no anger – so they have never seen differences and clashing opinions being safely aired.
Or they may come from families where rage or violence was a destructive force. And these clients understandably grow up to feel that dissent leads to chaotic, unmanageable situations.
Learning to safely confront negative feelings is an important part of good couple life.
Learning to ask for help and not always be seen as the first-aider is a life lesson.
Being able to be the needy one sometimes and not always the needed one is imperative in any relationship.
Friends can be roughly divided into Radiators and Drains. Let go and block those toxic drains, they aren’t an asset to a good relationship, but even a good Radiator will occasionally break down and need to be able to withstand care and TLC from others.
So, you overly nice people, remember it’s OK to sometimes be the leaky one and maybe friends, family and partners will enjoy being the nurse instead of the patient.