Today I want to tell you about Dave. Dave was being pissed on and he wanted it to stop.
Dave was in his early 40’s when he contacted me (Dave’s not his real name BTW). In his coaching application he claimed he wanted to find his true passion and purpose in the world while eliminating the crap that was holding him back. My kinda guy.
But when I talked with Dave, I heard a much sadder story.
Around the office he was exhausted from taking on others’ responsibilities, his kids were drifting away and to top it all off his wife had revealed that she’d been having sex with another man.
Dave was the kind of guy that seemed to have it all together; however, upon closer inspection his life was a mess. Even though he was moving up the ladder in a major company, Dave was actually underneath everyone’s shoes.
He was the classic “nice guy” and he was severely paying the price. Dave was more comfortable being bent over a barrel than he was telling someone just one simple word — “NO”.
The cost? He was at the end of the rope with work. He kept reflexively saying yes to more responsibilities even though he could barely keep his chin above water. His marriage was in shambles, and he was aware that he was setting an example for his children — in his words, a bad example.
Dave was a big fan of The New Man Podcast but listening wasn’t going to be enough. If Dave didn’t take action soon, his life was headed for the shitter.
And the only one to “blame” for this situation? Dave. Dave was responsible for the way he was being treated. And as sad as that may sound, I saw this as really good news.
Why? Because it meant that Dave could now take the reins and teach others how he really wanted to be treated. If we wanted to, Dave could turn his life around.
THE FALSE BELIEF
You see, in Dave’s world, he had a squirrelly belief that if he were to take a stand for what he wanted, it may hurt or upset someone else in some way. He wanted to keep everything nice and neat and safe and he did this by just saying “Yes” to everything.
Sounds a little silly, but many of us do this in some way (I wish I could say I did not). Many of us play small when it comes to our desires because we want to fit in. We want to keep others close to us. We want to make sure we do whatever we can so we don’t upset the balance.
From this limited point of view, individually “owning” what we want threatens our deep desire to keep things safe. The result? We sell ourselves out and become the world’s doormat. In this process of laying it all down for others, we hope that we’ll be taken care of in return (insert loser buzzer sound here).
But think about it — if you’re not going to stand up for what you want — who will?
Dave couldn’t see how he could have things his way without becoming the “inconsiderate jerk”. To him, being the “nice guy”, the “Yes Man” was the only way. He didn’t see the middle way — a way to claim what he wanted while being considerate to others and without having to be an asshole.
THE YES MAN AND THE REAL DAVE
The Yes Man was the guy within Dave’s brain who held this false belief near and dear.
It was obvious that the Yes Man only cared about making others happy and to avoid conflict at any cost. Meanwhile the Real Dave paid that cost with exhaustion and humiliation. In fact, before Dave could even give himself the time to consider what he may want in any given situation, the Yes Man had already spoken up for him. This guy was quick!
So this is where we started our work. We had to two things:
- Intercept the Yes Man. Through presence and awareness practices, Dave was able to see the behaviors he was reflexively doing. Awareness would give him the opportunity to make a better choice.
- Reveal The Real Dave. Who was this guy buried underneath all of the responsibilities, fears and guilt? What did he — The Real Dave — truly care about? What did he — The Real Dave — really want in any given situation?
Asking these questions was monumental for him. He’d never considered them. He’d never allowed himself the opportunity. He was in tears of joy at the possibility of coming out from behind the shadow of a persona that eclipsed his passion and integrity.
Dave’s homework was very simple in that it required him to slow down and decide what he really wanted — even at the most mundane level — in any given situation. No longer was he going to leave this decision up to someone else.
Very quickly, Dave developed the capacity to recognize the reflexive action of the Yes Man and this awareness allowed him to slow things down (remember Neo dodging bullets at the end of The Matrix?) so he could check in with what he truly wanted.
Instead of getting steamrolled by his automated Yes Man, the voice of The Real Dave began to emerge within. The Real Dave began to reveal his preferences. The Real Dave began to gain power.
But it wasn’t going to be enough to just make these distinctions . . . so I pushed him further.
WALKING THE TALK
Dave still had a big challenge. He wanted The Real Dave to be the one who showed up in his work meetings. He wanted The Real Dave to show up at the dinner table. He wanted The Real Dave to ravish his wife.
Dave had to learn how to SPEAK UP and this meant confronting his fear of being a jerk — and consequently losing his job, his wife and everything he cared about. We practiced and practiced and like a new foal Dave emerged has an f’n stallion! (Insert cool stallion sound here)
At work, Dave told his boss that he was full with responsibilities and that he wanted more time available for his wife and family. Did his ass get canned? No. Instead of losing his position he got a promotion.
At home (and with the help of a marriage counselor) Dave found his voice and spoke up for what he wanted. Instead of waiting for someone to come up with a plan, he took the initiative and laid out a vision for their marriage moving forward and invited her into it. Did this cause a shitstorm? No. They’re now rebuilding their marriage with full participation and co-leadership.
The bottom line is that, through our work Dave got the tools he needed to find his balls without having to buy a firearm, a muscle car or one of those barbed-wire arm tattoos. He learned how to access what he wanted, how to speak up and how to do so without being a dick. He confronted the terrifying myth that said if he claimed what he wanted in life that it would end in a firestorm of hurt, anxiety and dread.
He’s more trustworthy to others and most importantly himself.
He reclaimed his dignity his family and his life.
He’s tapping into his passion and finding real meaning in his life.
And from a practical standpoint, who knows how much money he saved by avoiding a messy divorce, alimony and child support.
Is he “cured” from being a Yes Man? No. He’ll most likely always have to practice the fundamentals we laid out. But he’s got the resources he needs to turn these new habits into a way of being that honors who he truly is deep down. The Yes Man no longer owns Dave.
SO WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Are you like Dave? Are you hiding out underneath the shoes of others? Afraid to speak up for what you want because you don’t want to rock the boat or possibly be an asshole?
What is your “nice guy” conditioning going to ultimately cost you? Is it keeping you from finding the right partner? Is it killing your current relationship? Are you stuck in a position at work while others seem to glide past you with promotions?
I want you to imagine what your life would be like if you took full responsibility and gave yourself the opportunity Dave gave himself. What would that be like for you?
I’ve worked with quite a few “Daves”. If this post resonates with you I want you to:
- Click here to send me an email and
- Request a time to discuss working together. Please only contact me if you’re ready to commit and get to work.
I look forward to hearing from you,
PS And, as always, please forward this post to any potential “nice guys” you may know. Don’t hold back. If you and your friends talk about this guy behind his back, if you’ve been wanting to say something but you haven’t been sure how, just do it. Do it out of love and respect. Give this guy a wake up call. Thanks.
PPS For more great information on “The Nice Guy Syndrome” click here to check out my interview with Dr Robert Glover, author of “No More Mr Nice Guy.” Enjoy.