While kindness and empathy are great traits, they might not always make your life easier.

If you’re the kind, sensitive type, the chances are you’ll get lots of party invitations this festive season – others are drawn to your gentle, caring nature. But there’s a down side to being a warm and generous soul. Putting others first means you can attach your self-worth to their approval, and that can be unhealthy because you can lose the ability to value yourself unless others do. Plus, others may take advantage of your good nature. ‘Quite often, unfortunately, very nice women end up with men who don’t treat them well,’ says relationship therapist Susan Quilliam. These women can empathise deeply and understand why others behave as they do – which can mean they may make excuses for behaviour other people consider unacceptable.

Are You Too Nice For Your Own Good?

Are You Too Nice For Your Own Good?

So, is your niceness holding you back in life?

It could be if….

·         A colleague makes a snide remark criticising your work and you automatically feel you’ve failed in some way.

·         You make excuses for your boyfriend who’s always late or who forgets your birthday.

·         You take on loads of extra work if a colleague is having a personal crisis.

·         You find yourself doing the household chores your partner or flatmate leaves.

·         You find it hard to say ‘no’ to anything or anyone.

·         You always end up crossing town to see the friend who refuses to meet halfway.

Learn the language of assertiveness

Being assertive might seem a challenge, especially if it goes against your natural personality. But assertiveness is important because being too nice means you’ll become everyone’s doormat, build up destructive resentments and sooner or later you’ll reach breaking point – and may say things you regret.

Learn the language of assertiveness

Learn the language of assertiveness

Here are some simple and effective assertiveness techniques that won’t rock the boat or affect your popularity. These steps may seem difficult to start with, but practise them regularly and people will treat you with more consideration and respect.

·         Learn to say ‘no’.

Always saying ‘yes’ leads to exhaustion and a feeling of being taken for granted. Remember that when you say ‘no’, you’re rejecting the request, not the person. Don’t want to go out for a drink tonight? You don’t need to think up a long-winded excuse. If you’re too tired, say so. Everyone has been too tired to do something and your friend should be able to relate to that.

·         Sharpen your body language.

In a tricky work meeting, sit up straight. Spread your papers out in front of you. Maintain direct eye contact to give yourself an air of confidence and a poised, can-do attitude.

·         Avoid words with negative connotations.

If you’re saying ‘no’ to something, offer alternative suggestions of things you can do. Pepper your sentences with upbeat, positive words like ‘fantastic’ and ‘great’. That way, even when you’re refusing to do something or explaining some challenges, you’ll convey enthusiasm. For example, you could say: ‘I can’t come to your party, but it would be brilliant to see you soon – how about meeting for a coffee next week?’

·         If someone asks you something difficult, reply with a question.

This shows you’re engaged with the topic, but it puts the ball back in the other person’s court while buying you time to think.

·         Give specific examples, not general criticisms.

Don’t tell your man: ‘You never listen’. Instead, say ‘When I started trying to tell you what happened at work today, you picked up your iPad. I was talking about something important, so I felt hurt.’ This will have a much more powerful impact and avoid putting your partner on the defensive.

·         Set boundaries.

Learn to state your needs as well as taking others’ into account. For example, if your partner asks you to pick him up from work, only agree if you didn’t have other plans. Doing favours for others rather than doing what you’d planned will leave you resentful and miserable – not good for you or anyone around you.

For A Festive Feelgood Kick…

…read Fall in Love for Life: Inspiration from a 73-Year Marriage by Barbara ‘Cutie’ Cooper (Chronicle Books, $18.58), in which she shares the secrets of her long and happy union. It’s a heartwarming read which, despite the author’s grand age (95), feels refreshing and different. With many of today’s relationship experts emphasising the need for a solid friendship above all else, it’s reassuring that Cutie believes in romance and that dizzy rush of adrenaline when you fall in love. But she’s honest about the fact that love isn’t always easy.

The book: Fall in Love for Life

The book: Fall in Love for Life


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