Stop Trying to Be Nice:
I felt puzzled, embarrassed, and a little annoyed. I had reached out to an acquaintance to give her a heads-up about something I was planning. I thought it would affect her and that she would probably like to know ahead of time. Nobody likes being caught off guard or feel like they are out of the loop. I was being thoughtful, right? Anticipating issues and trying to prevent them.
I did not anticipate her response. I felt like I had just touched a hot stove.
I was only trying to be nice.
Trying to be Nice is Tricky:
I had heard that same phrase from a client a few weeks before. She was perplexed and angry with a colleague for not appreciating that she had gone out of her way to help him. In fact, he was openly hostile about her “help.”
She and I had very similar motives. She was trying to save the person time and inconvenience. I was trying to avoid an awkward moment. Both of us were trying to be helpful.
Her words, “trying to be nice,” struck me in a way I never noticed before.
If We Have to Try, Then Maybe We Need to Rethink It:
Let’s think about that phrasing. If being nice requires “trying” then maybe we should reconsider our motives. It’s tough though because most times we only say it in retrospect, after things don’t go as we intended, rather than before we “try to be nice.”
When I think about situations that prompt me to say this phrase, I realize I set myself up. The person didn’t ask me to do anything. When they don’t respond as I expect I’m left feeling like disappointed or embarrassed. Sometimes I get into resentment. I think I’m being helpful. A lot of us are naturally helpful. We take pride in our empathy, ability to think ahead, and being tuned in to other’s needs. Heaven forbid that someone considers me thoughtless, clueless, or just bumbling through the world obliviously. Thus, sometimes I overdo “helping” to avoid being judged when in reality the only one doing the judging is me.
Nowadays, I’m more aware of the stories I’m making up in my head. I’m also learning to stay in my lane. The key is catching myself before I cross the line.
It’s a Fine Line:
Now, when I feel the urge to be ever-so-helpful, I ask myself questions like:
- Why am I doing this?
- Is this coming from genuine generosity or to avoid being judged?
- Did the person ask for help?
- Did I ask them if they want help?
- Am I expecting a particular response?
- How will I feel if I don’t get it?
The Upshot for a Recovering Over-Giver:
For me, this is a life-long process of refinement. I’m going to make mistakes because I can’t anticipate every possible outcome. At least now I can bring a little more insight into what I’m getting into. I’ll check myself with my questions. And I’ll also give myself a break when I was just trying to be nice.
(Original Source for this Article: https://maryschaefer.com/blog/f/stop-trying-to-be-nice)