Today I met with, Bridget, a savvy woman with a business that’s buzzing along and a great big heart. On the surface everything is great in her world, but in a fundamental way it’s not.
Bridget, is treading water, waiting for the time when the sea of people in her life to stop bashing against the cliffs of their choices and experiences, so she doesn’t have to save them any longer.
“It’s time to remember what my own dreams are. To stop of putting myself, needs and expectations so far in the background they nearly disappear in an undefined dull gray mass.”
Through the years of taking care of everyone, Bridget’s been strong, giving and accommodating. Other words, She’s been nice. Really, really nice.
But not always kind. Kind to herself and others by voicing her needs and asking that they be met, just as she has done for her, colleagues, clients, family and friends.
Being Kind is Does Not Equate With Nice
Kind is being generous and caring enough to extend a hand when needed and to say what must be said. Even when it’s hard and the easier, nicer, route would be to bottle things up and not say anything.
After all who really wants to rock the boat, at work when is already enough stress.
You can’t bottle things up forever and still be authentically generous and caring, never mind compassionate.
Compassion is kindness plus. It is being aware of someone’s situation, and wanting to aid in improving it, and then taking action.
Aid is not a pat on the head.
It can be a well timed, just strong enough, nudge in the keister.
Compassion goes a long way to greasing the wheels of collaboration in a high pressured situations . . . like work.
The Shadow Side of Being Nice
Bridgett isn’t the first person who inadvertently falls into the trap of feeling guilty for wanting to put her needs first, because “nice women don’t do that.”
Nice people are polite and dutiful and considerate, which is important, admirable and appropriate. To a point. Always squelching your frustration, anger or disappointment, not giving voice to them is a route to resentment.
Nor is she the first person to feel responsible for someone else’s happiness and so holds her tongue when she shouldn’t, because she doesn’t want to the other person to feel bad.
Maybe something in this story sound familiar to you?
Taking on the responsibilities for someone else's emotions is not helping them. Just as correcting mistakes for someone without helping them learn how not to make them in the future is not helpful.
Own your part in a situation, and own your feelings. Apologize when it’s right to do. Offer your time when it can truly be support and not a crutch –for you or them.
You’re responsible for your actions, thoughts and feelings. Take on someone else’s and you’ve erased boundaries, piled more on then your share, and that too is a route to resentment.
You Have to Practice Being Kind
The next time you are feeling sad, mad, embarrassed, frustrated, resentful, instead of blasting someone or clamming up do this.
Take a breath. Gather your thoughts. Figure out what is underlying your emotion, there’s need of yours that’s not being met.
Screw up your courage to say what needs to be said.
And say it, clearly concisely and as calmly as you can. Remember even when it’s hard that is better than being nice, it’s kind.
Deirdre Danahar is a coach and consultant helping socially conscious organizations, entrepreneurs and professionals cultivate their reputation and profitability by making themselves and their communities better. Contact her at email@example.com.