Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Good Guy Contract

Recently, I read an article by Alex Lickerman and found it to be very interesting. Many articles and books have been written trying to explain negative behavior of a person and underlying reasons for it. But this article was somewhat different, trying to explain the psychology of "Nice People".

Just to introduce, Alex Lickerman is a physician, former Assistant Professor of Medicine and Director of Primary Care, and current Assistant Vice President for Student Health and Counseling Services at the University of Chicago. He is also coming up with a book named "The Undefeated Mind" which will be published by the end of 2012.

Major portion of this article will be directly citing words by Alex, combined with a little bit of my views on it.

Here it goes:

There is a Good Guy contract that we consistently sign with people which we do for our self-esteem. Self-esteem is somewhat we believe to be built on things that are solely internal, but the fact is, a part of it is also dependent on something external - the goodwill of others.

The Contract

The Good Guy contract is as simple:

"I would agree to be nice to you, to advise you, to sacrifice for you, to care about you - and in return you would believe that I am wise, compassionate, excellent as a human being in every way, and finally and most importantly you would like (or love) me."

Its Effect

Once you have this taste of being liked by others, it becomes your ego's addiction. Deep inside, the need to be praised by others as a good human being or believing yourself to be a good person in your own eyes by such external acknowledgements, grows stronger and stronger.

There isn't anything wrong with wanting to be liked. But, you should try to free yourself from the need to be liked. If you stop writing Good Guy contracts with people, you will be freed from the need to try to influence others to like you.

Good Guy or People Pleaser?

Some people feel that they are just very compassionate that they always help people or can't resist from helping others. But the true underlying fact is that true compassion is an action motivated only by desire to add to the happiness of other person and NOT by the imperative to sustain your self-esteem.

Being unable to say 'No', is also a part of good guy contract. It somehow leads to resentment inside but it is rarely expressed because becoming angry at someone would violate the terms of Good Guy contract.

You might think that, "I'm basically a nice person and I never thought of this, being a nice person or trying to be liked by others." If you want to know in which category you fall, try honestly asking yourself these questions:
  • When you disappoint someone, anger them, or cause them in someway to dislike you, does it create some kind of anxiety in your mind?
  • Do you have difficulty enduring even a mild degree of conflict with someone?
  • Do you feel obsessed with manipulating how others feel about you?
  • Are your actions predominantly motivated by how they'll cause others to view you?
If most of your answers were 'Yes', it is an indicator that you fall in the 'People Pleaser' category.

What should be done

First, learn not to make Good Guy contracts with people. Then slowly you have to break the already existing Good Guy contracts with others. Free yourself from this addiction of being liked by others.

But, while doing this, one thing should also be kept in mind. Don't start applying this in your life in a negative way. Don't start being a jerk, saying, "I don't care if others like me or not. I will do what I want to do!"

The right way of saying or understanding this approach is,

"You should practice disappointing people, NOT because you want to do it, but when disappointing someone is genuinely necessary."

Be Yourself doesn't mean that you start being rude to others just because you are being yourself. Whenever I see people acting rude saying, "I am being myself.", then it makes me wonder, "Are you really this much ill-behaved inside?" Being yourself cannot be used as an excuse of Being Rude.

The point is, extreme behavior of both, being nice or being rude, should be avoided.

Being able to say No, sometimes being rude (only when it is appropriate to be rude), and not fearing to disappoint others, will not make you fall out of the Good Guy category, but in fact if applied in balance, will earn more respect for you.

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