“Nice” people don’t have needs.
“Nice” people put the needs of other people before their own.
If I hustle too hard for my own needs, other people will judge that I’m not a “nice” person.
I’ve believed this for four decades.
For four decades I’ve done my best not to be pushy.
For four decades I’ve sold myself out by saying “sure!” when, in fact, something wasn’t sitting well with me.
For four decades I’ve been a rabbit in the headlights of other people’s needs.
So a pattern in my life is that other people’s needs come before my own.
It started young, and I’ve repeated it myself ever since.
When your needs and mine collide, you’ll win out. Almost every time.
And when I’m brave, I often get punitive blowback. Someone will judge me. Tell me I crossed a line.
We live scripts in life. This is one of mine. Scripts are decisions we make very young. Then we spend the rest of our lives proving that this “reality” is true.
We find evidence everywhere. We create situations and friendships that are certain to generate more.
I’m good at abandoning my needs. I don’t even wait for others to push theirs. I calculate the possible needs of others in advance, all by myself. I do it all the time. It can drive me mad.
I was eating an ice cream in the countryside. The weather was sunny. The view was amazing. I stood looking across the hills.
I noticed an elderly couple behind me. They were sat in their car, eating an ice cream too.
I moved. They didn’t ask me to. I calculated they might need me to. I worried I was in their way. I probably wasn’t. But I moved anyway. No problem.
It’s no bad thing to take account of others. Having the rest of humanity in my equation suits me fine.
The ice cream thing is just an example of how my brain works. “How is everyone? Do I need to do something different here?”
But it can veer into over-responsibility. Like it’s my job to calculate and accommodate everyone’s needs.
There’s a fine line between consideration and being self negating.
That voice can get too loud. After all, the only way to not get in anyone’s way is to not exist at all. That’s not a great logical conclusion.
All this chatter and self regulation when nobody has even asked me to do anything. What chance do I have when they do?
People often ask for things that go against what we want ourselves. How to respond? The simple thing is to say so.
But remember: “nice” people don’t have needs. And if they do, they don’t insist on getting them met!
Who Is The Nice Guy?
Brene Brown says compassionate people have a characteristic that others don’t have. Boundaries.
Her research taught her that the most loving people are also the most boundaried.
Not the nice guy who says “sure” and feels torn inside.
But the ones who say “that doesn’t work for me.” The ones who don’t drop their needs, but hold onto them hard and get them met.
These people have no resentments. They get their needs met. So their hearts are free to love and be compassionate.
When To Drop Your Needs
So when should “nice” people let their needs go? When should they refuse to drop them? What’s the balance?
I struggle with this. It seems a complicated question.
But it’s not. It’s simple. The answer is to never drop them.
The answer is to insist that your needs get met.
Because your needs are no less important than anyone else’s. Even when others do a better job at making the case for theirs.
Marshall Rosenberg taught that we are creative enough to meet all our needs. This, he said, is how we bring peace and joy to the world. There are no bad needs, only misguided strategies.
A Win Win World
Great negotiators talk about creating win win situations. That is only possible when everyone’s needs are met. Otherwise, it’s win-lose. That’s where resentments breed.
To create the peace and joy that Marshall speaks of, stand up for yourself. Keep your needs on the table. But keep your strategies flexible.
Would a “nice person” stand in the way of peace and joy? Would they sabotage the desired win-win by dropping their own needs?
The world doesn’t want us to abandon our needs. Or anyone else’s. It wants us to keep hold of both while trying out new strategies to get them all met.
That’s what Brene Brown calls boundaried. It means no more Mr “Nice” Guy. Because that was bullshit anyway.
As her research shows, it’s the best road to becoming the compassionate, loving person that we all hope to be.