If youíre like most people, you probably consider yourself to be nice most of the time. Then you suddenly find yourself in a situation where an unimaginable monster comes out of you. Perhaps being around screaming children turns you into a beast, or sitting in rush-hour traffic transforms you into a demon your own spouse and family would be shocked to witness.
Letís face it. Youíre going to blow this "be nice" thing, and youíre going to blow it a lot. Why? Welcome to the human race! Thereís no such thing as consistency in peopleís thoughts, moods, behaviors, actions, personalities or characters. Everything moves in cycles. Seasons change. Tides come in and go out. Your nice factor is strong on some days and on other days a million dollars couldnít keep you on track.
How to Fix It When Youíve Blown It
Yes, youíll blow it, and in the process you might do some damage to your relationships. What can you do when you realize youíve blown it? Here are three options:
1. Justify your meanness.
2. Apologize, but make an excuse.
3. Sincerely apologize. No excuse. No blaming. No explanation. No guilt.
Okay, that was a trick question. The first two choices wonít make you a nice person. The correct answer is number three: Sincerely apologize when you blow it. (But you already knew that, didnít you?)
For most people, apologizing doesnít come easily. If thatís true for you, try this simple exercise. Stand up. Take a deep breath. Now, repeat after me: "What I just did or said wasnít very nice, and thatís not who I want to be. Can we please start over?"
Letís Be Clear
Of course, there are times when someone else damages your relationship. I used to believe that if I had a grievance, an opposing opinion or a legitimate complaint with someone, I had to bite my tongue to be perceived as a nice guy. On those rare occasions when I chose to tell the person how I felt or how theyíd wronged me, I felt as though I was attacking them. Iím not the attacking type, so I learned to keep it to myself all locked inside. If you believe in a mind-body connection, as I firmly do, you know that bottling things up and keeping them inside leads to stress, uneasiness and disease.
In marriage, with family, loved ones, new friends and acquaintances, youíre obviously going to have your disagreements and do the wrong thing on occasion. To keep from making yourself unhealthy, and to make sure your relationship with your spouse and family grow and flourish, practice being clear. Here are some guidelines.
* Keep it between the two of you: In high school, youíd get four friends on "your side" by telling them about the horrible thing someone else had done to you. Then youíd go to that person and say, "Youíre an idiot, and they all agree with me!" Donít allow little battles to interrupt your relationship. Be aware of all your words, actions, moods and attitudes, because those around you can easily be placed in awkward and uncomfortable positions trying to keep peace and harmony.
* Always clear privately: If anyone else is there when you share and clear, the person youíre clearing with will feel ganged-up on and attacked and will therefore feel the need to defend themselves. One-on-one feels like communication from a friend and loved one. Two-on-one feels like a firing squad.
* Stick to the facts: Only share with your spouse the actions and words that upset or hurt you. Letís say he or she said something mean or unflattering about you at a party. Simply describe how you felt when you heard those comments.
* Focus on your desired end result: Decide in advance how the best possible outcome would look and feel. Imagine the two of you talking it through, confirming your love and appreciation for each other and end the chat with a hug.
Itís Never Too Late
Perhaps you didnít have a wonderful relationship with a parent or some other significant person in your life, and didnít have a chance to clean things up before that person died. That doesnít mean you canít do the work now.
Journaling and letter writing are two powerful exercises for expressing thoughts, beliefs and intentions of the heart. If one person (you) decides to heal and mend the relationship, the other person doesnít have to participate. In fact, even if the other person decides not to participate, the work you do to make your apologies, forgive that person, forgive yourself and express your love and gratitude can be all that is required to proclaim: "That relationship is healed. I can now move forward with peace, love and resolve."
Winn Claybaugh is the author of Be Nice (Or Else!) and the co-owner of hair care giant Paul Mitchellís school division. Winn has helped thousands of businesses build their brands and create successful working cultures, including Southwest Airlines, Fuddruckers, Entertainment Tonight, Mattel, and others. Visit www.BeNiceOrElse.com to sign up for his free monthly "Be Nice (Or Else!)" newsletter.