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Last Monday, while at the grocery store, I witnessed an exchange between father and daughter that is sorely needed in today’s world. Two girls with long brown ringlets and big brown eyes were sitting in the grocery cart, enjoying a pastry treat. As I approached their cart, I heard their father say to one of them, “You have to be nice to people, even if they’re not nice to you.” I have no idea what prompted this advice, but I watched the two girls go deep in thought as they continued munching on their pastry. ‘Good dad,’ I thought. He’s teaching his kids a simple but powerful life skill. The simple gesture of being nice to people, even if they’re not nice to you, could do wonders for our world.

Like others, I’d never been given that advice growing up. Instead, my role models were either aggressive (attacked) or passive-aggressive (silent treatment) when they were unhappy with someone. Both inflicted hurt on others and only created more harm. Since that was my template, I had to learn how to find my voice in a loving instead of a hateful way. It’s not always easy. It’s uncomfortable and requires much more effort than hanging on to old behaviors. But the benefits are worth the discomfort and struggle.

Benefit # 1 – Personal Growth. It might feel (temporarily) empowering to go off on someone or to remain silent when you’re angry, hurt, or disappointed, but that’s a lose-lose outcome. And there’s no growth in staying the same. There’s also a risk that the relationship will end. Very few relationships last a lifetime, but they could finish in peace instead of turmoil. Unfinished business never feels good and is likely to be endlessly reenacted.

It takes courage to talk about something that’s hurt you. It’s uncomfortable. It could get messy. You’re vulnerable. You might even cry. It’s far easier to be aggressive or passive. Keep the wall up. But when you speak your truth with love, you offer growth for both people. But it’s about you. Finding your words and expressing them will free you from the mental prison that tells you to silently suffer.

Benefit # 2 – Improved Self-Esteem. When you’re hurt or offended, you have a choice. You can be a victim, or you can choose mental health. People who practice good mental health (whether they feel it or not) become mentally healthy.

Problem-solving is suitable for a person’s self-esteem. Resolving conflicts is no different from any other puzzle. Some are harder than others and require too much effort. Both people must want a positive outcome, or the problem remains unsolvable. But when two people put aside all fear and anxiety and work through a conflict, it’s an uplifting, restorative feeling. The burden of resentment is replaced with light-heartedness. Pain is replaced with peace. Blame is replaced with resolution. Darkness is filled with light. All these things are building blocks of good self-esteem.

Benefit # 3 – Authentic Intimacy.Conflict is inherent in all relationships. If you don’t tell someone how you feel, they don’t know you. You are coming from fear instead of love. Suppose you are afraid to show your true self. Your stuffed feelings are bound to build walls. Love can’t find its way through walls. Love seeks love, not fear.

Many of us were never taught how to be nice, especially when mistreated. As a result, we personalize and internalize the wrongdoing of someone else. Or we see things through a limited perception that might only partially be accurate. Two things will happen when we see the other person’s point of view. First, it will be apparent that there’s either no solution or a better understanding and more profound closeness after the conflict is resolved. Honesty and resolution are the superglue for building trust. Without trust, there is no intimacy.

Whether you’re hurt or offended by a store clerk or your closest love, it’s all the same. No matter how you were triggered, there’s ample opportunity to problem-solve with love. And when you’re nice – even when the other person isn’t – it doesn’t mean you get walked on. It only means you will approach the situation with love. A win for you regardless of the outcome.


Dr. Donna Marks has been an author, consultant, public speaker, and psychotherapist for over thirty years. She was licensed as a Mental Health Counselor in 1987 and then certified in Addiction, Gestalt Therapy, Hypnosis, Sex Therapy, and Psychoanalysis. She currently has a concierge psychotherapy practice in Palm Beach, Florida.
She has appeared on numerous podcasts and local television. She is the author of two books, Learn Grow Forgive – A Path to Spiritual Success, and Exit the Maze: One Addiction, One Cause, One Solution (revised), and winner of multiple book awards. Her next book, The Healing Moment: Seven Keys to Turn Messes into Miracles, will be released in 2023.

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    One Comment

    • Avatar photo RustyMae Squires says:

      I just finished my kindle Exit the Maze. I absolutely loved your book. I have so many pages highlighted in 4 colors that i had to order the physical book. I like to write side notes to myself and i cant do that with a kindle. I also ordered copies for my son and his wife as they are both working on exiting their own mazes. I really resonated with your book. I recently retired as a peer counselor from a counseling services that had both mental health and substance use departments. Along with what i learned there and my own self help journey, your book was an elightening and empowering addition to my new lease on life. I am going to read it again. Its been nice to have my son read the book, then he calls me and we talk about it. Thank you

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