If you met me in real life, you’d probably say I’m a friendly person. In general I like to get along with people and will go out of my way to help someone even if I don’t know them very well. But meet me under the right circumstances and I can be a downright prick to you.
It’s not that I go around looking for reasons to be rude or disagreeable to people I meet. In fact it’s the other way around. I’d rather be nice to everyone all the time. But being assertive and disagreeable is often unavoidable and absolutely necessary to get where you want in life.
Don’t Let People Walk All Over You
Let me use a personal story to illustrate my point. A few months ago I made a business call to a woman who suddenly started getting angry and hostile. It seemed to come out of nowhere. I was trying to help her out and explain things to her, but she really didn’t seem to want to listen to me.
So you know what I did? I hung up on her while she was talking in mid-sentence.
She called back a few minutes later and went right back to where she left off. She was still angry and continued making nit-picking comments about things outside of my control. I tried to calm her down, but it wasn’t working. So I hung up on her again.
This time it took about twenty minutes for a third call back. This time things were completely different. All those problems and nit-picking comments were gone as if they never even existed. And to this day we have a great working relationship. She’s actually really friendly now and I’ve never had any other problems with her.
All it took was to tap into my inner jerk and summon the courage to hang up on her two times.
Stand Up For Yourself
As my story illustrates, it’s not that I was looking for a reason to be mean; it’s just that it was a response given the situation that unfolded in front of me. I felt as if she was being completely unfair and unreasonable and I didn’t feel like I should put up with it. Given the ultimate resolution, it appears to be the correct response too. And this isn’t the only time I’ve successfully used the “hang up on the person” tactic before. So what’s going on here?
I could have easily taken the “nice” way out and let her air her grievances and worked hard to make her happy simply to avoid conflict. But ultimately I think this would have created more problems for me than solved them. My goal was to establish an equal respectful relationship and being too nice to her outrageous demands would have undermined that.
And that’s a big problem with being too nice. Just imagine for a moment a typical nice person who is always avoiding conflict and going out of their way to be nice so no one ever gets mad at them. Eventually they end up bending to other people’s demands and abandoning their own goals and dreams.
Tap Into Your Assertive and Disagreeable Side
There’s a scene in an episode of The Simpsons that I think really shows what it means to be too nice. In the episode, Principal Skinner is driving the school bus and stops at a busy intersection. Not wanting to be assertive and cut someone off, he waits for a driver to wave him into the lane. Hours later and he’s still waiting for his chance.
That’s why you need to be assertive and disagreeable at times. Nice people bend over backwards for people hoping that someone will be nice enough to give them what they want. Someone who is assertive and disagreeable decides what they want and goes out to get it. To put it simply, are you going to actively pursue what you want or wait for it to come to you?
There is a natural fear that being too assertive and disagreeable will make you look like a jerk and nobody will like you. Being liked is certainly important, but being respected and pursuing what you want is more important. Nobody respects the person who is too nice and lets you walk all over them.
And there is some proof that being assertive and disagreeable has its advantages. A recent study by the University of Notre Dame found that people in the workplace who were described as disagreeable earned more on average than those considered nice. Money earned by disagreeable men is 18.31% higher than agreeable men and the difference for women is 5.47%.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that jerks always win. Being assertive and disagreeable doesn’t mean you have to be a massive jerk. All it means is that you know what goals you want and won’t give them up simply to avoid conflict.
photo credit: tranchis