Don’t Be a Doormat: 3 Tips for the Confrontation Phobic

Jessica Stillman

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Jessica Stillman for BNET, The CBS Interactive Business Network. To check out an abundance of valuable resources and obtain a free subscription to one or more of the BNET newsletters, please click here.

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Being nice has its rewards — lots of friends, a bustling social life, happy relationships — but even for something that is a self-evident positive like niceness, it’s possible to take a good thing too far. Wanting to make others happy may be admirable, but in its extreme forms niceness turns into a fear of confrontation that can cost you significantly, particularly at work.

Not piping up when others are taking credit for your work or being too bashful to ask for a raise can cost you financially and in terms of simmering frustration. But just knowing you’re too nice isn’t a cure. How can those of us who are conflict adverse make the most of our niceness without being pushovers?

A new book called Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It: 99 Ways to Win the Respect You Deserve, the Success You’ve Earned, and the Life You Want, has, well, 99 tips. Not sure if you want to commit to dozens of pieces of advice before you know what you’re getting into? Lindsey Pollak, a friend of the authors Carol Frohlinger, Lois Frankel, offers to help on her blog, giving three examples of the sorts of tips you’ll find in the book: Realize you have more options than you think. If you’re feeling stuck in a situation minor or major (e.g., you’re not sure how to word a tough email, how to handle a difficult boss or what job to pursue next), Frankel and Frohlinger point out that many people don’t see the many choices that lie before us. Since “we don’t know what we don’t know,” they recommend enlisting a friend or mentor to help you identify alternatives that you didn’t think of on your own.

Pick the right method, time and place for difficult conversations. One of the characteristics I’ve noticed in a lot of Millennials is the lack of experience having tough conversations face-to-face. There are just so many ways to avoid confrontation these days (like breaking up via text!). However, those who get ahead and get what they want are the people who don’t shy away from difficult conversations. How can you become more comfortable with this? The authors advise the simple act of practicing with a trusted friend.

Lead from where you are. Entry-level recruiters and grad school admissions officers frequently tell me that leadership is one of the most important qualities a candidate can possess. This can cause a lot of anxiety, especially for shy people, but, as Frankel and Frohlinger assert, “contrary to popular belief, there aren’t ‘born’ leaders.” Their advice is to learn leadership skills by becoming a student of leadership, such as learning how others have led successfully by observing their behavior and reading great books on the topic. Small leadership acts can lead up to large leadership responsibilities in a shorter time frame than you might think.

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Jessica Stillman is an alumna of the BNET editorial intern program, which taught her everything she knows about blogging. She now lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.


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