Ellie knew what her problem was in dating:
She was too nice.
She kept exchanging messages even when she was no longer interested.
She said yes every time a man asked her out, because she didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
She had long conversations where she listened and nodded and encouraged—only to realize, by the end of the evening, she hadn’t said a single thing about herself.
But the thing she wished she could stop the most was this:
Trying to make every man like her, even if she didn’t like him back.
She couldn’t help it. She felt like she had to.
It was his job to contact her and start a conversation. It was her job to reply in a way that made him smile and feel good about himself.
If she didn’t reply, or she told him she wasn’t interested, he’d feel bad about himself, and that’s the last thing Ellie wanted.
It didn’t matter that she rationally knew she wasn’t responsible for anyone else’s feelings. She felt responsible, and that’s what mattered.
She’d read about how women were supposed to “treat him mean to keep him keen.” She admired the confidence it took to keep a man on his leash. But that wasn’t her.
She was a nice person. And she’d always been that way.
People like Ellie make the world a better place.
She thought before she spoke. She considered the impact of her words on people. She was a wonderful friend.
But in some ways, Ellie wasn’t very kind.
Her inability to say no dragged out relationships that should have ended long before.
Her inability to be honest sent mixed messages.
Her inability to set boundaries created an unhealthy dynamic.
It was time for Ellie to make a mindset shift. Being nice was great, but being kind was even better.
Kindness is so much bigger and more powerful than niceness. It’s about considering everyone’s wellbeing, including your own. It’s about considering the long-term consequences of what you say and do, rather than making people happy in the short-term.
The problem with niceness, as Ellie had discovered, is that it turns you into a people-pleaser.
You focus on how other people feel and don’t consider how you feel. You say the nice thing and avoid mentioning the difficult thing. You do what you think is best for others, even if it’s not what’s best for you.
I wanted Ellie to have her happily-ever after. I wanted her to meet someone who was as much of a giver as she was. I wanted her to show up authentically, so she could be loved for who she truly was.
The following 3 Kindness Principles helped her do just that.
Kindness Principle #1:
Respect Your Limits.
Ellie was spending hours online dating and getting nowhere.
She wrote back to everyone. If a man “liked” her, she carefully clicked through and read his profile. She wanted to give everyone a chance. She didn’t want to judge anyone. How could she know if she was writing off a gem in the rough?
None of us have unlimited time and energy. We have to decide how to invest it. If we fail to make that choice for ourselves, other people will make it for us.
Not respecting her limits was making Ellie tired, resentful, and frustrated. She was burning out on online dating.
It was kinder to set limits on how much time she spent online and only reply to men she was genuinely interested in. She didn’t have to give everyone a chance; she just had to give the right people a chance.
Kindness Principle #2:
Balance Giving with Receiving.
Ellie was a giver.
She’d rather do something nice for someone than have someone do something nice for her.
No wonder her relationships were unbalanced. Even if she was with someone who wanted to make her happy, she felt uncomfortable receiving anything from him.
Kind people don’t hoard to themselves the pleasure of giving. Especially where romance is concerned!
Expressing pleasure in his gifts is one of the quickest ways to a good man’s heart.
Kindness Principle #3:
If You Can’t Say Yes with Your Whole Heart, Say No.
Ellie thought the secret to making people happy was to always say yes to them.
If you never said no, you never made anyone mad or upset!
But she often found herself doing things she didn’t really want to do. She’d end up feeling resentful.
If you want to do something, you should absolutely do it.
But if you know that deep inside you don’t want to do it, don’t agree just to be nice.
Saying no to a good man won’t turn him off. It will earn his respect. He wants to know what you like and what you don’t like. If you never say no, he’ll never learn.
As Ellie came to learn in the end, making people happy isn’t about being agreeable and accommodating them.
It’s about sharing your true self in a way that makes everyone—including you—feel good.
Thanks for this post. I am in a very new relationship, loving every moment of getting to know him. He is happy and carefree, a real pleasure to be around. He is complementary on every level. I am not used to the attention and it can make me uncomfortable at times and honestly, I secretly wish he would stop, because I don’t know how to respond to his continuous compliments. I want to be much more accepting of his attention, and this post helped a lot. I must have a balance of giving and receiving. However, “thank you” only goes so far and I don’t want to drive him away. I really appreciate his attention but it can be so uncomfortable. I have created some new affirmations to retrain my brain to be more accepting. Any other ideas or opinions to help with this area of my relationship?
Appreciating you, Pam
Pam. What a wonderful problem to have! It’s exciting to hear about this new relationship, and the beautiful goodness it holds for both of you.
It might help to pause to consider if there is a theme to the type of compliments that make you feel most uncomfortable. For example, is it when he draws attention to some physical feature that he adores but you feel self-conscious about? Whatever it is, that may give you a clue regarding the best place to start when it comes to accepting your good qualities more fully.
For some of us, just being aware of the fact that we are the center of attention can be uncomfortable, regardless of the topic or reason. If that’s the case, some people find it helps to spend 10 minutes per day meditating to achieve the kind of peace and clarity that can only come from separating your sense of self from the thoughts that you have.
It’s like you have your thoughts, and then you have the observer of those thoughts, and meditation helps to widen the gap between those two things. It makes you calmer and better able to refocus your attention on your values and purpose in life, becoming less concerned with the various ways our psychology and neurobiology predispose us to stress.
In the meantime, here’s a practical tip that may help. When people give us compliments and then continue on to another topic as if the compliment was merely an aside that requires no response, we feel more comfortable. It’s when somebody makes a big deal out of a compliment, and then looks you in the eye with a long pause anticipating your response that we feel more self-conscious.
When someone else lacks the social skill to offer a compliment the right way, you can help them out. You can just smile, verbally acknowledged the compliment with a “thanks,” or “that was sweet,” followed immediately by a change of subject or continuation of the prior subject of discussion without making any fanfare or big deal out of the fact that he just verbally appreciated something about you. In this way, you shift the attention off of yourself but only after having acknowledged his effort to make you feel good.
Wishing you love and happiness,
My mother-in-law always called me a people pleaser and I asked her what was wrong with that. She said nothing until you’re doing it at the detriment of yourself. I am really. I’ve never thought of making other people happy as detrimental to myself but I do have to admit that sometimes I am just very tired from trying to make sure everyone is happy.
I agree to a point however if you both connect and both compromising. Is it wrong to be excepting of things that you might not really want to do?