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Peter Griffiths Rural Roots Column 2005


The Book The Tyranny of Niceness Unmasks Our Need For Approval

Rural Roots September 25, 2005

Nice can be a very nasty word. To act nice to someone when you don't feel that way is being nasty. To be nice when you don't mean it is to be a hypocrite and liar. To be nice because you are afraid to be anything else, is to allow other people to control you.

This new book by Canadian psychologist Evelyn Sommers, The Tyranny of Niceness, subtitled, Unmasking the Need For Approval an critical book for everyone who wants to be in charge of the own mental health and social destiny.

It points out how people (especially women, but also men as well) are conditioned from childhood, especially women to take on responsibility for other people, by being nice, or saying nothing, when we should be speaking up for ourselves. Yet too many people say nothing, because we want to be seen as nice and not nasty or critical.

But because we don't say anything, others don't know how we really feel. And because we don't say anything, we also discount our real feelings and put ourselves down.

The silence of niceness can occur in many ways. Some people believe they can't say no to a request. Of course they can! But they don't if don't believe they can or have the right to say no.

People know they are overextended, but don't step down or resign from some of their responsibility because it wouldn't be "the nice thing" to do.

After all who else would do that work or chair that committee or do what has to be done.

And what happened to that group may be seen by others or themselves as their fault is they say "no".

Yet, if a person does or takes on something, when it is going to harm them, what good results? They just continue to be unable to say now and to have to act "nice".

If they don't do it and nobody else is willing to do it, what happens? It doesn't get done. But the world likely will not fall apart.

People who need approval often are their own worst enemies. They forget to take care of themselves at a time when this is exactly what they need to do. By turning to approval from others, they choose to allow others to take over and control their own lives.

Sommers' book is the first book I have found about niceness, which points out its deadly power when people choose being nice, over being honest and true to themselves. It was published in 2005 by Hounslow Books, a Member of the Dundurn Group ISBN -101-55002-558-9 at $24.99.

I hope to explore some of Sommer's eye-opening ideas and perspectives in the future.

Return to 2005 Daily Herald Rural Roots Index


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