Many people mistake being assertive as being selfish or rude. This unfortunately leads to many problems in their lives and prevents them from achieving their goals. One result of this behavior may be that, they bottle up what they are feeling until they snap and cause a conflict between themselves and someone else involved in their lives. Another result of this behavior may be that they may push people away due to their inability to communicate. In addition, their mental and physical health declines due to how frustrated with themselves for not achieving their goals or for causing people to abandon or hurt them.
In his book, “No more Mr. Nice Guy”, Dr. Robert Glover refers to this as, “the nice guy syndrome.” Although this book was primarily written for men, this applies to women too. If you want to achieve true wellness, you must be able to end up where you want be by effectively communicating your goals and desires to everyone involved. This does not mean shouting at those involved or asking for unreasonable requests. Rather it requires a gentle, yet firm way of communicating one’s needs or goals to all party’s involved.
If you want an example of how this can be achieved, look no further than Joko Willink, a former Navy Seal who served at the Battle of Ramadi in Iraq. I am not going to discuss whether I believe we should have went into Iraq or not; this is an apolitical discussion. Yet, he displayed incredible leadership during this long and brutal battle. During his time in the military, Joko often had to work with leaders whom he may not have liked and/or agreed with. Yet, in order to ensure the completion of his task as well as the safety of his men, Joko would have to assert himself. The commander would display a different plan to his bosses and politely explain why his plan was more tactical than the original plan. Oftentimes he was successful and was able to achieve his desired results. Clearly, this is someone who does not suffer from “the nice guy syndrome.”
As a recovering nice guy, the assertive approach has been essential to my development. My whole life, I tried to achieve my goals by being a, “nice guy.” Although it worked as a kid, it did not go as well as I got older. No matter how hard I worked or how much I wanted something, I did not achieve my desired results a number of times. This is not to say I was a failure, however, had I tried a different approach, I would have achieved more success and caused less personal problems for myself. As a result of my nice guy syndrome, my feelings about myself began to get worse and I felt less and less confident as less of my goals were being achieved. It took a toll on my mental health which also weakened my immune system due to the stress that came with it. After sometime I realized the cause of all my troubles and decided to make a change in my life. As a result, I’ve become more successful at work and earned the respect of my boss as well as those around me, have not been sick since February 2020, have been able to communicate more effectively with my girlfriend, and have been feeling much better about myself. I am far from being free of the nice guy syndrome, however, like anything else, persistence will allow me to heal from it so I can keep moving forward and achieve my personal and professional goals to their full potential.