On Saying “No”: Being Nice Is Not The Same As Being A Doormat - Fiona McCallion Personal Development Blog

"Being nice" isn't the same as being a doormat. 

broadband being nice image

On Saying "No": Being Nice Is Not The Same As Being A Doormat

If you're female, you were probably brought up with many of the same values I was:  be kind; if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all; be compliant; honey catches more flies than vinegar ... and so on.

It can be summed up as: Be Nice

We all want to be liked.  Back in Neanderthal times, it was important that you were liked by the tribe.  To be despised was to be expelled from its protection and nurturance.  Not being liked meant death in a very real sense. 

Being liked was what kept us alive.

But that was a long time and many, many generations ago. 

And here we are, "being nice" as if our lives still depended on it.

All too often, "being nice" translates to being a doormat.  We don't get our needs met, our voices aren't heard ... and our boundaries are not respected.

A recent experience has helped me - and I hope it will help you, too - to redefine what "being nice" means.

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I have for many years shopped at a big store called John Lewis, experiencing a high level of customer service, efficiency and surprisingly low prices.

Imagine my delight on discovering that John Lewis is now offering broadband packages!  I lost no time in signing up.

There followed some lovely John Lewis emails and one letter, keeping me updated on how things were going, including the switch over date, which would inevitably result in a couple of hours' downtime.  This is to be expected: so far so good.

On the day, around lunchtime, our internet and phone dropped out.  Again, as expected. 

However, around 5pm, the phone was still silent and the broadband only noticeable by its absence.

Not having a landline, I called the customer service number on my mobile (cell), only to be told that the switchover would take TWO DAYS, not 2 hours.  John Lewis uses a company called Plusnet to provide the service they (John Lewis) relabel as their own.  Plusnet is quite famous for their customer service.  But not in a good way.

I want to be liked.  If I am liked, then Plusnet will make my broadband work.  I was nice to the call centre guy. 

By this time, I am using mobile data to access my emails - and not a lot else, because, well, broadband not working.  The call centre guy raised a ticket indicating that my issue was that John Lewis hadn't revealed that Plusnet provided their broadband service. 

This was not my issue.  You will note that my issue had not been heard by the call centre guy.  Even though I was nice to him. 

​Being nice to the call centre guy had not worked.  And I felt like I was dying. 

​When Being Nice ​Doesn't Work

A bit of an exaggeration.  But still.  Being nice.  Not working.  Two days.

Have you noticed that when your body is flooded with adrenalin (ie when you experience stress), your brain won't make sentences?  This is because all the blood is rushing to your muscles, getting ready to fight or run.  Unfortunately, in a situation like this, neither fighting, nor fleeing helps.  The third alternative is freeze, play dead.  And, frankly, that doesn't help either. 

The freeze response in many of these types of situations in the modern world has, I think, been transformed, into "being nice". 

In this situation, I need my brain to work - I need the adrenalin response to subside so that I can come up with a solution to this problem.  While still being nice, obviously. 

This is where I unpack my tools.  Just doing a few EFT tapping rounds in this type of situation - even when you're unable to articulate what the problem is, or even say anything - is enough to calm you down, reduce the fight/flight/freeze response, get the blood circulating properly again and as a result, you start being able to think clearly once more.

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So, obviously, I wrote a nice email to the CEO of John Lewis.

The next day, I received an email (more mobile data) from a helpful young man, who said he had rung my landline but had received no reply and would I please get in touch.  He rang me on the land line.  Which was the thing I had told them wasn't working.

More tapping, more calming.  Because, you know, it's not nice to be cross with people.

He offered me an engineer in two days' time. 

I was nice.  Persuasion will often get you a call back from a manager.  Who calls you on the landline that isn't working.  Rinse.  Repeat.  Emphasise the need to call on mobile, which is working, as opposed to landline, which isn't. 

​EFT Tapping Helps Clarify and Focus

More EFT tapping, articulating the fury with incompetence, with  having to wait, with my trust in the John Lewis brand being utterly destroyed, with not being heard ... and with the feeling of powerlessness that comes with not being in control. 

I was still annoyed, though.  And as I examined the annoyance while continuing to tap, it became obvious that this annoyance was an indication that something was very wrong.

Did I want special treatment?  Yes, I did.  I wanted the special treatment that usually comes from John Lewis in relation to all their customers.  And this was not an unreasonable expectation.

As women, any objection to not being heard, our expectations not being met and the refusal to accept our powerlessness is seen as "making a fuss", "overreacting", "being a bitch" or "being totally unreasonable".  Not being nice, that's the thing.

Bad. So bad.

being nice thoughs image

The engineer turned up the next day, fixed the landline and broadband and went on his way.

The manager again called - on a landline that was working, this time - offered apologies and a compensation payment.  I agreed it was the very least his company could do.

He then asked if I was happy.  Now, both he and I probably both expected me to comply - to be nice.

"No," I said.  "I am not happy.  I have been three days without broadband, when the switch over should have taken less than two hours.  This is my first impression of John Lewis broadband and Plusnet ... and no, I am not happy with that impression."

"But ... but ... how can we bring this to a happy resolution?"

"You can't.  I'm not happy.  I hope the broadband will continue to work now, but no, I am not happy."

​Words, Actions and Emotions in Alignment

It felt comfortable and right to express how I felt, without the fear of being disliked, dismissed or oppressed.  My tone was calm and kind, ​and my words were an honest expression of my feelings on how this situation had played out.

In order to be seen, heard, to have our needs met and our expectations and values respected, we have to be honest, rather than compliant.  Being honest and "nice" are not mutually exclusive.  It takes practice and efficient tools to overcome millennia of breeding.  The compliant ones survived to breed, the non compliant ones didn't.  It requires training in using the tools and practice to reach for those tools when under stress. 

​The  experience of your words, actions and emotions being in alignment is a structure for life that brings freedom, authenticity and the feeling of being comfortable in your skin,. I'd love to share this structure for achieving peace with you, if you feel we're a good fit.

Would you be happy in ​the above situation?  Would you say you were happy in order to "be nice"?

  • Marie says:

    HA! You already know MY answer! “Oh HELL no!” Well done, Fiona! We truly are soul sisters!

  • Fiona says:

    Hi Marie – thanks for stopping by.

    Yeah – it’s so easy to drop into frustration … and get stuck there. Having an effective personal development tool makes a huge difference. It means we can act from a centred place, rather than react, from adrenalin …

  • Paula Worthington says:

    I loved this Fiona thanks for sharing. I have started line managing a colleague who is downright rude and disrespectful to me and i tried to be nice to her and acknowledge her feelings – still rude and disrespectful. Adrenalin massively impacted on my combination and my stress levels. I am going to state my unhappiness next week and set out my expectations. Will be re reading your post before I next meet with her. Thank you Paula

  • Monica Hess says:

    HA! I would have added (to your answer) that what would make me happy would be if the company would honestly strive to be better and keep this sort of problem from happening to another customer.

  • Fiona says:

    Hi Monica – thanks for dropping by.

    Great suggestion. I made it to the CEO of John Lewis. Who knows how *that* will turn out …

  • Fiona says:

    Hi Paula – thanks for your comment.

    That sounds like a very stressful situation and I’m glad to help. Please drop by again and let us know how it turned out. It may be I can offer a few more suggestions.

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