Being nice — gift or curse?

November 30, 2016

One of the first things I encourage clients to do is identify their greatest strengths, and then when they’re ready, to keep looking.  Because buried deep within those strengths, they may also find their greatest limitations.

Take me as an example.  I’m told I’m a strong communicator.  I like hearing that!  I love words.  I love playing with language and seeing how it can transform the mundane into the magical.  Words can give depth and meaning to hidden things, things not visible to the naked eye.  What’s not to love?

Well, the underbelly to my love of words is that I love to hear myself talk.  And talk.  And talk.  So I’ve spent the vast majority of my adult life attempting to make friends with both parts of me.  The part that can transform hidden things into words and word pictures, metaphors and analogies, as well as the part that can be so invested in hearing myself talk that I can unknowingly stop listening or even being present with the person I’m with.  And I’m a therapist!

Recognizing that my greatest strength can also be my Achilles heel has been beyond important in my career, not to mention in my relationships with family and friends.

Here’s a client example of what I’m talking about.  I run across this one with surprising frequency.  A client comes in for a first-time visit and in telling their story says: “People tell me I’m too nice.  And I think they’re right.”

From those simple statements, I can surmise that one of this client’s greatest strengths is that they like to please.  They like to be of service because they care about other people.  They want to help.  Lovely.

At the same time, I know there may be an underbelly to this characteristic, and I wonder if the client is aware of it?

The underbelly may be that the client can behave like a doormat and let people run over him.  Or it could be that she’s trying to control everyone around her by doing for others what they can and should be doing for themselves?  Or maybe it means that the client can’t say no and simply needs to learn that saying no is a skill that can be developed relatively quickly.

The other possibility when someone has framed themselves as ‘too nice’, is that when they’re not nice, they won’t notice it.

See what I mean?  Strengths can be tricky!!

Take a moment to come up with what you think might be your greatest strength.  And then consider, is there more to it than meets the eye?

By the way, the best news about all this is that if it’s true, the opposite is also true.  That hidden within your greatest limitations are your greatest strengths!  How’s that for a softer landing than you expected?

Much love,

8 comments

  1. Linda Ford says:

    This was a really good read, Robyn, and resonated with me as well. I like to hear myself talk …. and talk … and talk! I recognize my need to be liked and sometimes using words (that I think are very profound) prevents me, in the long run, from listening to others. Thanks!

    • Robyn says:

      Exactly! Thanks for your thoughts. I ran into it again this morning in a conversation I was just having with someone. The need to hear myself talk. I think on some level I use it to reassure myself when I’m feeling uncomfortable. This is not something that I’m going to change overnight – it’s something I will need to re-address over and over and over. And isn’t that the way of limitations, they are tricky!

  2. David says:

    Interesting blog. I, on the other hand seem to be the person who the talk, talk, talkers cling onto. No, I am not a talker myself but I’m that person who can listen with a few shakes of the heads, grunts and an “OK” until I’m off somewhere else in my head because the talker won’t stop, LOL. Seriously, this can be a strength or that Achilles heel you mentioned. It’s just who I am. What I feel is one of the best strengths in anyone is the ability to realize behaviors from within that you want to work on, being true to yourself and use those in order to become a better “you”. Yes, it may take a while. Some will be successes and other failures. However realizing, working on and strengthening yourself (however it is) are the greatest strength I feel.

    • Robyn says:

      Thanks David. And yes, a desire to strengthen ones self certainly seems like a great strength! And it’s easier these days with what we know about neuroplasticity, which is awesome. That there isn’t such a firm ‘this is just who I am’ anymore; that who we are changes moment by moment, but for that to be true, we need to notice it’s happening. That seems pretty relaxing and exciting at the same time.

  3. Lyle says:

    Yes Robyn, you can talk, but it’s almost always something insightful, thought-provoking, or something I need to hear. Thanks for playing it as you see it; I think I could tell you almost anything. Oh wait, I already have! 🙂

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